Hume, Hayek & Hanson

When asked to summarize my position on one foot a la Hillel or Rand, I choose neither a phrase nor a saying, but rather 3 alliterative names.   Hume, Hayek, and Hanson.

Hume is the greatest of the philosophers.  All of philosophy can be properly understood as philosophy before Hume and philosophy after Hume.    Before Hume, the question, roughly, was “What is true?”  Since Hume, the question has been “How do you know what is true?”  All of continental philosophy is a response to Kant’s attempt at a response to Hume.   All of Anglo-American philosophy is an acknowledgement that Hume is roughly correct, and how to get around it.

Hayek is the great thinker among the economists.     It took me forever to actually read Hayek, but for 10 years, every other time I encountered a new, impressive position, I noticed that the author credited Hayek for much of the thinking.   Eventually I read the master.    Hayek is best known for the notion that evolutionary systems create information that did not and could not exist without the intermediate interactions.   His most famous line, specifically, is a proof that an omniscient God doing planning could not successfully compete against the market for the goal of satisfying human wants.    The market is better than God could be.   Taking that even ten percent seriously can change what a person believes about everything.

Hanson shows the way to asking better questions.   The joke is:  “Contrarian?  No, meta-contrarian.”  But Hanson is one of the great thinkers of our era.   Not so much because I agree with all his conclusions (I accept most of them).   More because Hanson asks better questions than anyone.    He asks what is true.  He asks how to find out.  He asks how to design systems to find out.  And then he asks why no one cares?  And what do they care about instead?  And how to design systems that make the world better while satisfying decisionmakers.     And he does that about every question I’ve seen him ponder.  Hanson’s brilliance is: “Your question isn’t good enough”.

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