What Kuehn Said


The post he points to is a great example of "rationalism in morality," or "fatal conceitism": if I don't see the reason for some social institution or custom right now, then... contempt!

Well, some established practices really are useless. But sometimes we declare them vestigial, cut them out, and then discover they served an important role. The right attitude to approach these matters with is humility, not contempt.


  1. Pretty ballsy to defend atavism by citing The Fatal Conceit.

    1. Pretty damned fatally conceited to think that your lack of a normal human emotion means those who do have it are primitive!

    2. I don't know why you conflate "treating strangers the same" with no emotion.

      Go to any buy local website and you'll find paragraphs of text that could have been lifted directly from the people Hayek was criticizing. This is the result of the human psyche - it isn't an evolved institution.

    3. "I don't know why you conflate "treating strangers the same" with no emotion. "

      Hmm... did I say "no emotion" somewhere? Lookin, lookin... nope, I didn't.

      If you tell your romantic partner that you treat strangers the same as them, they will doubtlessly tell you that you lack an emotion. That is not the same as having *no* emotion.

      "This is the result of the human psyche - it isn't an evolved institution."

      This would be a very telling point, if...

      1) We could neatly separate what is from the psyche and what is from institutions. But they are only distinct notionally, and in reality make a seamless whole.

      2) The human psyche wasn't involved in the same evolutionary process as institutions. But it was.

    4. 1) Then The Fatal Conceit is a dead research program. If we can't distinguish between instinct and tradition, then it breaks everything Hayek claims.

      2) Assuming that the human psyche was developed via group selection. It wasn't.

    5. "If we can't distinguish between instinct and tradition..."

      See: "they are... distinct notionally." You are trying to *separate* what can only be *distinguished*.

      "Assuming that the human psyche was developed via group selection."

      Whoa! So Hayek thought that only group selection is adaptive, while individual selection produces only atavisms?! And anyway, why in the world would group selection *not* influence the psyches of the members of the group.

    6. You know this - "atavism" is in reference to things that were suitable for early human history but not the modern liberal order. Our instincts (nature) are honed to that. Traditions often help us overcome what would lead us to reject the modern liberal order since it goes against our instincts and our capability for reason.

      Mainstream evolutionary psych says that group selection might plausibly lead to cultural evolution (tradition), but not biological evolution (instinct).

      I am not being as radical as you make me out to be. This is straight out of The Fatal Conceit, which I've read very closely and repeatedly over the last year so I can understand the commonalities and differences between what I say and what Hayek said. The only big difference is the group selection thing, which Hayek did believe played a role in human biological evolution. I don't.

      The modern extension to Hayek on this particular point is Rubin's "Folk Economics." All I'm doing in talking about local is applying the same EXACT logic found in both Hayek and Rubin regarding politics to private markets. If you want to argue that saying local is wrong is the fatal conceit, then so is saying that protectionism is wrong. If you don't believe me, look up Rubin's paper and any buy local website out there.


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