Saturday, October 26, 2013

When people argue about what was Hayek's or Marx's true position.

Thinkers can be cherry picked for any position. Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, and the Bible come to mind.

What’s interesting are the arguments Hayek provides, not Hayek as a guru. If his arguments change that may be interesting for biography, but both arguments may have value and ought be employed, perhaps each by different people.

Hence, while Bohr’s atom and quantum ideas and their beautiful pictures and sort-of vague philosophy are powerful, so are Sommerfeld’s demands for equations (which led Schroedinger to look for an equation, Debye asked him for one), and his more phenomenological analysis of spectral data (“number mysticism” it was called by some) led to Heisenberg’s matrix mechanics with its focus on only observable quantities and on combinations of allowed/forbidden atomic transitions. [Keep in mind that Heisenberg did not realize he was doing matrix operations, as such. Only soon after did Jordan inform him that he was speaking linear algebra. Heisenberg had a scheme, not so different from Sommerfeld's playing with numbers albeit more systematic, but its beautiful unification in operators and matrices came afterwards.] Each of Sommerfeld’s two viewpoints can  be quoted out of context to provide cannonfodder for some philosophical argument, but Sommerfeld's authority would seem not to be the point. By the way, S. Seth refers to Sommerfeld's physics of problems, vs. Einstein's physics of principles. Also, Sommerfeld found Bohr's models incredible and fudged, and so he separated out the technical details of the models, from their effects and focused on those effects, what he took to be quantum phenomena.

I would imagine that complex thinkers, with long histories, will have diverse viewpoints. What’s interesting is the quality of their arguments. If you want to use them as icons and gurus, you can, but the problem is that their texts are available to all. You can argue what was Hayek’s true position, but for my money I want to know about the arguments and justifications and evidence for each position. But then of course neither Hayek, Einstein, nor … are icons for me.