Saturday, September 15, 2012

Chilean Holiday & History / Comte's Law of the Three Stages & Beyond

I. Back again. I am not sure whether you will see one post per Saturday or not; but as it so happens, I have a free afternoon. This coming week, Chile celebrates perhaps its most important national holiday: Chilean Independence Day, September 18. On this day, in 1810, Chile declared independence from Spain (although the official declaration of independence was not issued until February 12, 1818). What followed-predictably-was 16 years of violence until the last of the royalists surrendered in 1826. September 18 remains a day of festivities, and it so happens that the two surrounding days, the 17th and the 19th, are also caught up in the celebration, with businesses closed and streets and avenues open to parades, food, reenactments, music, and dance. It is a lively time to be in Santiago. The greatest hero of Chilean independence was Bernardo O'Higgins. The son of a former viceroy, O'Higgins took control of pro-independence forces in 1813 and became Chile's second Supreme Director in 1817. In an importance sense, as the first to hold that position after the issuing of Chile's declaration of independence, O'Higgins is Chile's George Washington. A major thoroughfare through downtown Santiago is named for him.

Chile has a history as remarkable (and as stormy) as U.S. history. Its more recent history is of much more interest, of course. On September 11, 1973, forces loyal to Augusto Pinochet stormed the palace then occupied by socialist Salvador Allende, in what is known here as El Golpe. Allende committed suicide rather than be captured. Pinochet assumed absolute power and presided over a military dictatorship until 1990. That year, he held an election, lost, stepped down, and turned the Chilean government back over to civilian rule. The entire era still troubles this nation: Pinochet was a dictator and does what dictators do, which is to rule by force, suppressing free speech and imprisoning and torturing political dissidents. Chileans do not forget the thousands who simply disappeared during the Pinochet years. But Pinochet also oversaw the rebuilding of Chile's economy via the "Chicago Boys," a small group of Chilean economists sent to the University of Chicago to study under Milton Friedman. They returned, armed with classical liberal ideas, and began Chile's transformation into the first world nation it is today.

Pinochet is thus praised by some who see him as having gotten rid of a communist threat and turning the country in a new direction. Chile today is as prosperous as any Latin American country-but its prosperity has come with a price! That era still hangs like a shadow over the aggregate psychology of this country. Perhaps it's just leftists, who are still around. But that might be too simple an explanation. There is a sense in which this has become a very business-oriented nation of workaholics, very risk-averse, who take breaks only on holidays like the one to be celebrated beginning Monday. My observations of the rising Chilean middle class remind me of William Whyte's The Organization Man, a disquieting study of the then-rising U.S. middle class published in the early 1960s. The Chilean middle class appears to consist of organization men in Whyte's sense, with relatively few entrepreneurs. As we now know, the rising of large organizations presages a more and more centralized society-with corporatism possibly the best name for the specific economic model. Under corporatism, corporations and government make policy together under the guise of democratic rule, with elections, etc. Corporations get rich; governments get power. Both are happy with the arrangement, but are the common people satisfied? Do they have many options?

What of spiritual concerns? While there is religiosity here-that of the prevailing Catholicism characteristic of Latin America-it is at least as superficial as much of the religiosity of mainstream Christian denominations in the U.S. Here I am reminded of Harvey Cox's The Secular City (1965) which charted the progressive secularization of the modern world and its "bypassing" of the great questions of theology. Is that the direction Chile is heading? I do not yet know. Chile has its share of large corporations; and globalism definitely has found a place here. David Rockefeller Sr. has come to Chile on numerous occasions. Chile is, of course, one of the partners in the infamous Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), forged over a two-year period behind closed doors by the elites of various nations including the U.S., Mexico, Peru, Australia and China. The TPP has been vehemently criticized as the NAFTA of the Pacific world, and a long term danger to any rising middle class, although Chile's tremendous natural resources offer it some protection from the kind of outsourcing that has decimated the middle class in the U.S. More meditations of this sort in future posts.

II. Last week I discussed three prospective works in progress. One of the key purposes of this blog is to get the central ideas of these works up in one place, lest circumstances beyond my control prevent their completion. I can only hope the ideas are important enough to justify the effort. Is thinking about the future important? Obviously it is! Can this blog contribute to a discussion of where we ought to go as a civilization, whether in Chile, the U.S., or wherever we happen to be? The jury is still out on that one.

A central theme of all this work will be what Auguste Comte (1798-1857) called the Law of the Three Stages, so I'll spend the remainder of my time here today discussing that, concluding with a theory about its present status. Comte is best known as the founder of the science of sociology and the originator of the philosophical ideology known as positivism. The Law of the Three Stages had emerged in his work in the 1830s, in his Course on Positive Philosophy. Although the Law of the Three Stages figures most prominently into the third of the projected series, it is also the lynchpin that holds everything together. So it would be best to begin with a discussion of it: its origins and postulates, its twentieth century fate, and the question of where we go from here.

What is the Law of the Three Stages? In Comte's hands, it defined the natural trajectory of a civilization, just as Newton's laws governed the trajectory of a falling body or thrown physical object. Comte didn’t invent the idea. One can find similar notions in Vico and Condorcet. But he gave it its clearest exposition. According to Comte, a civilization goes through three stages or conditions (he uses both terms--one could also speak of layers.

The first he calls the "religious or fictitious." The second is the "metaphysical or abstract." The third was the then-emerging "scientific or positive." It is important that these are not historical stages; all three both can and do coexist in Western civilization, albeit uneasily. The first, viewed through Comte's eyes, might be thought of as civilization's childhood; the second, as civilization's adolescence; the third, as its adulthood. Once civilization embraces the third stage, it finally has its feet firmly planted on the ground in this world, not some other, and can stride forward responsibly.

The first stage is the stage of: “God said it; I believe it; and that settles it.” While such sentiments might appeal to many Christians today, they allow little room for thoughtful discussion or discerning examination or philosophical inquiry. Stage One Thinking, as I will call it, is fearful of philosophy, as it might provoke doubt. It thus has little to offer those who are restless and dissatisfied with “mere belief,” but rather want some kind of understanding of what it is they are believing, and what the implications might be. Stage One purports to rely exclusively—or almost exclusively—on revelation from God Himself as its source of truth. Those who can claim to have received revelation, or to speak for past revelations in holy books such as the Bible, assume special prominence within society. Thus in practice Stage One Thinking, unhampered by later stages, easily gives rise to theocratic authority structures. It has as little tolerance for dissent as any dictatorship. The asking of the wrong questions may be handled through excommunication or exile or even execution (witness the fate of Giordano Bruno in response to his suggestion that God had created “other Earths” besides ours).

The second stage is the stage of high metaphysics and system building—philosophy in a grand sense. This stage produced the major classics of Western philosophy from Plato and Aristotle down through Aquinas, from Descartes and Hobbes down to Hume, Kant, and Hegel—and arguably, in the twentieth century, someone such as Whitehead. Stage Two Thinking is the first product of those who seek a comprehensive worldview, or theory of reality and everything in it, including whether or not God exists, who we are and how we came to be, what the moral life consists of in society, and so on. Stage Two Thinking gave rise to the classical arguments for God’s existence (the ontological, the cosmological and the teleological arguments), to the idea of natural rights of human beings, and of the idea of morality as something discoverable—perhaps a product of the relationship between the acting person and the rest of reality. Stage Two Thinking, however, does not treat God’s existence (for example) as a working premise or presupposition but rather as a proposition standing in need of proof. Many Stage Two Thinkers became agnostics or atheists in response to arguments for God’s existence falling short of their targets. They set the stage for the next development.

The third stage began with the scientific and technological revolutions. This was clearly the stage Comte believed was emerging in his lifetime. His vision was of a way of thought which rejected the ideas of either revelation or abstract reason as sources of knowledge or truth. Instead, what counted was empirical verification of our ideas, or their testability, and their success in practice at improving the human material condition. Positivism took its name because its approach to the human condition was optimistic—positive, not negative. Its philosophers had little patience with such notions as original sin, and not much more patience with what they considered to be the air-castle-building of their predecessors. With its feet firmly planted in this world, not some other, Stage Three Thinking looked to human happiness itself in this life for the greatest number as the ultimate good, and Utilitarianism came of age in the writings of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill (the latter clearly respected Comte’s work). Stage Three Thinking embraced meliorism, the idea in moral philosophy that human beings can improve themselves not just technologically but morally, through their own efforts, especially via education. It looked to science, technology and commerce as our salvation and path to the good life, which was to be lived in this world, in Cox's "secular city." Some would develop very mixed feelings about commercial capitalism, and seek to check or control what they believed to be its excesses: the British Fabians and American progressives come to mind. Stage Three has little respect for such notions as natural rights, which they see—without using this vocabulary—as a throwback to Stage Two (the phrase Bentham had used was “nonsense upon stilts”).

To make a long and complicated story short, Stage Three had begun to manifest its dark side not long after the start of the twentieth century. Comte had believed the third stage to be a path to Utopia. History has shown otherwise. Kierkegaard (arguing from within his own unique Christian perspective), Nietzsche, and the Existentialists took one kind of avoidance versus Stage Three. Philosophers such as Walter T. Stace (1886-1967) began to ponder a kind of darkness that falls across the philosophical landscape once a comprehensive naturalism is embraced. See his essay "Man Against Darkness" (1948), or its predecessor "A Free Man's Worship" by Stage Three thinker Bertrand Russell (1902).

A multitude of other circumstances served to throw cold water on the idea of Stage Three as the path to Utopia. To make a long story short: not only had we failed to transcend war with science, technology and commerce, but our wars became increasingly destructive; there was abundant evidence of our basic inhumanity to our fellows—the genocide of the Nazis and Stalinists surely bespoke a capacity for evil that flew in the face of the prevailing meliorism of Stage Three.

On the scholarly front, the positivist conception of science had broken down by mid-century. Thomas S. Kuhn completed the destruction of this view of science in his widely read The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). The positivist conception of science had held that the empirical methods of science delivered Truth, and that no other methods delivered Truth. While this latter idea made—still makes—a great deal of sense within the various scientific disciplines, Kuhn showed that a mature science is always governed by a body of presuppositions that, for a time, are taken as above scientific scrutiny: he used the term paradigm for what he had in mind (Ludwig Wittgenstein had first used the term to speak of governing usages in language). More ominously, thinkers who examined science in Kuhn’s wake—sociologists of science, for example—drew attention to authority structures within scientific communities and began to analyze science from a perspective taking seriously the idea that power and domination structures can masquerade as claims to truth, rationality, and objectivity. We had arrived on the shores of postmodernity, inspired by increasing unease with modernity coming from multiple directions.

By the time we arrived at the postmodernist upheaval in the humanities, it should have become clear that Stage Three Thinking had run its course. It had been devastatingly criticized and eclipsed. If we entered Stage Three in the early to mid 1800s, we probably left it sometime during the mid-1900s. Thinkers ranging from Kuhn and his colleague Paul Feyerabend on our shores, the latter, with his provocative Against Method: Outlines of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge (1975) to Continental philosophers such as Michel Foucault had subjected its assumptions to devastating criticism.

Moreover, in a much broader sense: the increasing societal uncertainty, anxiety, and escapism that began to characterize public life in advanced civilizations beginning around 1970 (possibly earlier) also indicated one of the weaknesses of Stage Three Thinking: in the last analysis, Utilitarianism fails as a theory of social ethics. We do not know how to pursue “the greatest good for the greatest number” without shafting or harming someone. Consider: the infamous Tuskegee Experiment is very much aligned with the utilitarian spirit. It illustrates very concretely the objection to Utilitarianism charging that the serving "the greatest good for the greatest number" is quite compatible with sacrificing the interests of some to better serve the rest.

More reason for thinking we had left Stage Three behind was the increasing flight into dangerous economic fantasies that began around this time. The belief that institutions in civilization from government to acting persons can live beyond their means indefinitely is an exemplar of an unrealism that had become firmly entrenched in public life by the time the twentieth century drew to a close.

I would argue that sometime around 1970—the exact date is not important—we entered a fourth stage, a Stage Four, that Comte couldn't have envisioned. If Stage Three was “scientific and positive”—optimistic—Stage Four is skeptical and negative. Stage Four Thinking purports to have exposed as illusory the pretenses of objectivity, rationality, and acquisition of Truth that characterized all the earlier stages: Stage Three as well as Stage Two.

Here is the question: what does Stage Four Thinking put in place of those notions its sees itself as having eliminated? The surprising answer: almost nothing. With Richard Rorty—having become the most visible and widely read Stage Four philosopher on U.S. soil—we have “social hope” to cling to. While cashing out what Rorty means by this is necessary down the road, I believe we will have to conclude that once we’ve embraced his criticisms of foundationalism—the idea that knowledge, morality, etc., have foundations which it is the special providence of philosophy to discover—“social hope” becomes whatever we make of it and there becomes little to choose from between what had been the U.S. vision of the “American dream” and that of the Nazis who saw Utopia at hand once they had eradicated the Jews.

There are thinkers who have made peace with Stage Four Thinking. They believe that there is no reason to formulate the problems in such stark or extreme terms. They see Stage Four as containing new possibilities, perhaps foreshadowed by Nietzsche’s vision of the “overman” as creating and standing on his own values instead of embracing those created by others in the past. They look to the possibility of experimentation within a world not based on rules taken as rooted in foundations, but rather tailored to fit situations and societal specifics and subject to change as circumstances change. Certain species of entrepreneurship might fit the bill as capable of thriving within a Stage Four environment—in which, e.g., a city embraces an ever-widening array of cultures and lifestyles, made manifest in music, art, food and drink, social gatherings, and in doubtless other forms: the Stage Four “secular city” is, in this sense, a quite different place than the Stage Three “secular city” in its openness and diversity, where the only “value” is a demand for universal tolerance of that which is different. One can find happiness in the Stage Four environment—if one avoids looking at the “big picture.”

Nietzsche warned about the “advent of nihilism” as a consequence of the “revaluation of all values” which saw them as human creations—inventions, and not discoveries or revelations. In an important sense, Stage Three was nihilistic. Ultimately, its vision of morality as a product exclusively of the human desire for happiness or pleasure left civilization morally at sea. Since Stage Four essentially agrees with Stage Three in seeing morality as a human creation, here is the $50,000 question: is Stage Four just as nihilistic? Where do we go from here?

This stage will be our civilization's undoing if we cannot transcend it: by moving to a fifth stage, or Stage Five. (I am assuming here that the movement through stages or levels is unidirectional. I don't believe we can go back, say, to Stage Two, or that we would want to.)

How to characterize this fifth stage is a huge problem. Let's say it will be Christian but not in the sense of Stage One; it will be metaphysical and encouraging of such notions as the rights of acting persons, but not necessarily in the sense of Stage Two; it will respect science as the most important achievement within its domain, but not see science & technology as capable of solving all human problems, as was common in Stage Three. It will likewise refuse also to see commerce or the marketplace as able to solve all human problems, although these activities can solve many human problems if allowed by governments (and corporations demanding special privileges) to function. Stage Five will attempt to find merit in the potential for creativity opened up by the rule-challenging stance available in in Stage Four (Brian Eno comes to mind), but must not lose itself in Stage Four's nihilism. It will draw on all of these, but be more than just a fusion of the best of the first four stages.

This characterization is, of course, very incomplete. This is purposeful; I do not want to specify too much in advance. We want here to specify just enough to have a productive conversation going in the right direction, in the spirit of the British cybernetics pioneer Stafford Beer, who wrote this phenomenal passage when distinguishing algorithms from heuristics and the reasons and circumstances when the latter need to be pursued. Algorithms have precise rules; heuristics do not. "To think in terms of heuristics," Beer wrote, "is at once a way of coping with proliferating variety. Instead of trying to organize it in full detail, you organize it only somewhat; you then ride on the dynamics of the system in the direction you want to go" (Brain of the Firm, 1973, p. 53). Thus is the status of Stage Five Thinking at this time. (Note: I owe this quotation, and similar ones, to my having paid attention to experimental composer Brian Eno's remarks in interviews over the years going back to the 1970s. Credit where it is due.)


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  1. After reading this, I sit and wonder what value philosophy can actually add to explaining our circumstances or forecasting the future. I am still not sure, but I do see a bit more clearly why the market prices philosophy less than other more practical things like engineering or even economics. A few other bothersome points should be discussed further with regard to the presumed facts about Chile. Steven has only been in Chile for a few months and yet has made some rather sweeping conclusions about economic life in Chile. Doing so is scientifically dangerous since it rests premises on few observations. For instance, Steve knows three workaholics in Chile: John, Richard and Ken. However, all of them are Americans living in Chile and it can hardly be concluded from their actions that Chileans tend to be workaholics. In fact, I would say that the opposite is true, and I have lived in Chile for the better part of 16 years. Chileans have many more vacation days than people elsewhere in the world, including the 5 day independence day holiday this year that Steven wrote about in this post. How many other countries do you know that get a five day weekend for independence day? Steve also see corporatism in Chile, with a few elites plus government running the country. I think that may well be true but Steve is mistaken to point that fact out as if Chile is in some way different than other countries. My thinking is that the USA, Canada, Europe and most other places are all ruled by elites as well, even if not as visible. So what's the point of emphasizing Chile's structure? It is no different. Rockefeller has been to Chile a couple of times but who cares? He has also been to other countries and many more times than he has been to Chile. Indeed, the fact that Rockefeller visits so seldom and that the elites are so clearly seen seem to be point sin Chile's favor compared to most other nice places to live in the world rather than negatives as Steve seems to presume. Insofar as The Free Trade agreements go, sure there are things that one can be wary about in all of them. But Chile does not have a manufacturing economy like the USA's and thus (in case you believed his gibberish) no reason to worry about Pat Buchanan's job loss fear doctrine or Ross Perot's for that matter. Chile wants to sell its natural resources and doing so will create jobs here not take them away. So if Steve wants to criticize Chilean free trade agreements he has to do it through other means and point out other flaws. He also should learn to read Spanish and stop getting (flawed) information from English language sources that try to cut Chile down for policies that the writers do not understand well. Then, maybe he could read the free trade agreement in question itself and see if there is any sinister regulation or pact inside it that should make the hair on the back of our necks stand up. Thus, I would suggest that being more informed about Chile and its public policy first and then making comments about it, up to the fifth dimension, would be a wise course. There is no reason to add to the plethora of false or misleading information published on the net and in the media about Chile.

    1. I having to post this reply in pieces, as the attempt to post was rejected by the Google system as too long. But here goes:

      I am rather sorry that my four initial paragraphs--asides, really, not contributions to my main topic--provoked such a reaction, which was really directed only to the third and the second half of the fourth. I am hardly wedded to what I said offhandedly about workaholics in Chile; if that turns out to be wrong, I will stand corrected and move on. I mentioned one so-called free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partership (TPP). For starters, the text is unavailable online (at least as of yesterday); it would hardly help to learn Spanish to read something that (1) isn't available to interested members of the public online, in whatever language, or (2) isn't being written in Spanish in any event because its primary architects are not Spanish speakers and probably couldn't care less. Given that my past research has taught me to look at past agreements as instruments of power which have brought about only harm to vulnerable groups, I get suspicious by reflex when reading how this thing has been put together for two years now, behind closed doors. What are its authors hiding? If you go back and read what I actually wrote, though, I took no position on whether the TPP will help or harm Chile. No one outside the power loop knows for sure, and I never said otherwise; contrary to what the above comment implies, I specifically mentioned Chile's natural resources as likely to work to the country's advantage although I would not be surprised if there are strings attached.

    2. But never mind all that. John's denigration of philosophy, as inferred from these few scattered remarks that were unrelated to my main topic, concerns me far more. Perhaps I should thank him, though, for affording me the opportunity to clarify my position on why I think philosophy is important to civilization.

      That philosophy is less popular than a lot of other endeavors I do not deny; that it is difficult to earn an honest living as a philosopher I also do not deny. That philosophy teaching jobs pay significantly less than those of engineering and economics I also would not deny. But do we attribute this to its "marketplace value," whatever that would amount to in corporatist societies whose marketplaces have been bent to service specific groups and interests (in universities the money is allocated through bureaucracies, not decided in any marketplace)?

    3. One of the major reasons philosophy is unpopular is that by its nature it encourages people to think. If presented correctly, it gives them tools to reach correct answers for themselves. Now many people are inherently lazy mentally and don't want to think, but not all, by any means, and probably not as many as those in power would want. Those in power (whether the power is political or corporate) do not like philosophy because sooner or later, a thinking people--trained to think in the right way--will reach those correct answers, and realize that here and there they conflict with "official" agendas. They will turn its attention to them and begin working to disrupt the power scheme. Historically, the first important victim of this tendency was, of course, Socrates. Socrates didn't die of starvation because he couldn't survive in the marketplace. On the contrary, left to his own devices, he'd gained a substantial following, and this had begun to scare those in power or who identified with power. Socrates was brought to trial, faced the famous accusation of "corrupting the youth," and then executed. Today we have myriad philosophical schools that have made their accommodations with power, resulting in a micro-specialized discipline that is only a shadow of its ancestor. That much of the output of these schools is worthless I also wouldn't deny. Today, also, all of us are sufficiently inundated with "busywork" that it is difficult even for those of us who identify ourselves as philosophers to practice it. Philosophy does have a job to do, however, believe it or not! This job has to do with identifying and evaluating prevailing worldviews, and supplying critiques of power. Some of us therefore prefer the ancestor, and want to create situations for ourselves that will enable us to revive it. (Whether I am able to do so here will form a big part of whether I remain in Chile or choose to go elsewhere. That will be a personal decision.)

  2. Let's look at the matter another way. John is an economist. Most economists see their subject as foundational, or basic; all the real problems boil down sooner or later to matters of economics. Physicists, of course, do the same thing, seeing physics as the core intellectual discipline (read Stephen Hawking's The Grand Design). A lot of practitioners of other disciplines see their disciplines the same way. Maybe this disciplinary loyalty, which often leads to fallacious special pleading, is human nature. I don't know. Philosophers are the same, but there is a crucial difference: philosophers can turn to the actual history of ideas to back up the claim, while other disciplines cannot. Physics branched off from philosophy when it acquired its first (if you will) Kuhnian paradigm. Economics, too, has its roots in philosophy. Adam Smith, surely a core founding father of the subject, considered himself a moral philosopher in the sense that phrase was used in 18th century England. Today this has been largely forgotten. Most every educated person thus knows the main arguments and areas of reference in The Wealth of Nations, but few people know his The Theory of Moral Sentiments written 17 years earlier--or that Smith considered this earlier work the more important of the two. Perhaps Smith realized that the role a moral view of the universe plays in civilization generally, which obviously includes its marketplace (guiding what is considered valuable and worth purchasing, and hence worth producing), is a necessary condition for the latter's functioning normally and its participants' flourishing. Today's economists have completely severed their discipline from its philosophical roots, and the result is a Ben Bernanke and widely accepted economic statistics (on unemployment, inflation, etc., etc., especially in the U.S. and Europe) that amount to lies, reported by a complicit media and believed by a gullible public. Heck, even John Maynard Keynes saw the roots of his discipline in inductive logic, to which he also contributed. To be sure, a philosophy will continue to exercise influence in the marketplace whether recognized as such by the economists or not; it may be something as primitive as Hedonism-Brings-Happiness, and you get the orgy, literally, of porn on the Internet--for example. I would argue that this is what happens when materialism takes over a civilization, especially in combination with poor education and a range-of-the-moment time horizon. The question then becomes: do we work to take charge of this influence with a philosophical evaluation and critique, or do we leave the whole thing to chance? While it may, of course, seem akin to peeing in the wind, I much prefer the philosophical evaluation and critique!

    1. Exceptions to the idea that economics has its roots in philosophy are the more comprehensive thinkers among the Austrians, whom I believe John identifies with. It should be significant, therefore, that Carl Menger begins Principles of Economics with a detailed discussion of causality as a fundamental premise--a philosophical claim, not an economic one. Ludwig von Mises spent the first 100 pages of Human Action discussing not markets or wages or prices but logic and epistemology--working out the necessary logical and epistemological foundations for what was to come. I find much of the utilitarianism to be found in a good many Austrians rather dubious, but that's a topic for another day as this has gotten considerably longer than I originally intended.

      If these remarks do not help make a case for the objective importance of philosophy in civilization, I cannot imagine what would. It would be interesting to see John's comments on my development of the Law of the Three Stages in light of the breakdown of Stage Three during the 20th century--or insights into where he believes we should go from here (we refers not just to Chile but Western civilization generally). That's if he read those paragraphs, which after all were not intended as add-ons to four offhanded paragraphs about Chile. If he's not interested in what they say, then the best thing would be to just say so. No hard feelings.

  3. Steve, Yeah I was mainly responding to the parts about Chile, which seemed to have several errors or questionable directions. I do see the value of logical reasoning in science and I am indeed misesian in this sense. Sure philosophy does help us think, especially for Adam Smith and other historic figures in the field. Yes, I am a slave to my discipline. I think all things boil down to either economic issues or theology. Mises was right to use the action axiom, a priori settled, that all people act purposefully to remove uneasiness, using means such as money to attain their desired ends. I see no exceptions to this principle in life. I just did not get much out of the stages deal that you are so fond of. I see no predictive power in it and not even much in terms of explanatory power. Maybe I missed something. Sorry if my remark or swipe (looking back at it) was taken as gratuitous. I certainly appreciate you and your work, so long as you stay out of the field of economics!!! :-) And if you do choose to enter it then by all means get your data and facts right. Remember Mises also wrote *Theory and History*, showing the role of history and data in evaluating theories. We DO back up our ideas with history.