Saturday, June 11, 2011

Epistemology, Tragedy, and Economic Theory

What epistemology is proper for understanding literature? Empiricism says that we gain knowledge through the senses. This is true, to an extent, but it's not absolutely true. Literature is a great example of how this could not possibly be true in all or even most cases. Where does the knowledge created by literature come from? And what does it speak to us? As with praxeology, it is founded in a prioristic knowledge. How can we know the internal workings of characters? From empirical observation? Of course not. It comes from how we interpret our observations, and we base our interpretations on our own a prioristic knowledge. Thus literature is an example of a priorism -- one may even say it is the most obvious art of a prioristic knowledge (with the visual arts as the art of empricism, perhaps).

Perhaps it would be more accurate to argue that music is the art of pure a priorism, visual arts the arts of empiricism, and literature -- particularly plays and opera -- as balanced between the two. If this sounds remarkably like Nietzsche's theory of tragedy, perhaps that should not be surprising.

What might this insight say about epistemology? Or about the proper balance in economics? Consider that music is considered in Medieval education as the practice of mathematics, while architecture (which we can consider representative of all visual art) is the practice of geometry. Contemporary economics, including economic geometry/spatial economics is dominated by this branch -- the quadrivium. Austrian economics is dominated rather by the trivium, by grammar, logic, and rhetoric. Thus the language arts can be seen to be both between pure a prioristic knowledge and empiricism and as separated from these two math-based epistemologies. It seems that those who can combine them will create the highest form of economics. It seems that Nietzsche's insights into what creates tragedy, for him the highest form of literature, is equally applicable to understanding what will make for the best form of economics as well.

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