Bringing back the human heart to its place in the center

Bringing back the human heart to its place in the center

The main problem with conventional economics is not that it is exclusively materialistic or quantitative. Rather, the deepest problem with conventional economics is that is exclusively intelectual. Thus leaving aside our heart, with its legitimate feelings and emotions. This goes back to descartes of course and beyond (to go deeper i invite you to check out my guest blog The intellect alone is not enough.


Maybe we need more clarity as to what teaching would look like that did engage emotions.

Don't mistake politics for emotions. So much of the politics required in pluralistic economics is mistaken for 'moral values.' Everyone has moral values, and they tend to be very similar. How they are communicated is politics. Pluralism needs political transparency, not emotions

For the wellebing of all life, human and otherwise, in the planet. Really talking about our children.

One thing is to fight for pluralism in economics. Another one to make it dependent on feelings and emotions.

I think this is a point experience on a Masters has been anti-academic. It just seems you are taught 'what is'. There is little room for critical enquiry. To pursure the depth of issues of heart & head!

"...The problem with modern mainstream neoclassical economics is ... that it is built on fallacious and dishonest definitions and absurd and dishonest axioms..." etc. Please, I encourage you to read my paper, which seriously and with integrity addresess this point, which is actually wrong even from the point of view of economic theory. That's why we need to go deeper in our critique. Deeepr meanning beyond reasons

No. The problem with modern mainstream neoclassical economics is not that it is divorced from emotions -- all genuine empirical science is divorced from emotions -- but that it is built on fallacious and dishonest definitions and absurd and dishonest axioms rather than on empirical observation. I.e., the problem is that it is already TOO emotional: it is based not on fact but on what wealthy, privileged interests WANT the rest of us to believe on faith and thus be WILLING to acquiesce in.

I just think that this would be a very restrictive criterion if it´s included as a pre-condition on what masters can be considered pluralistic. On the other hand, conventional economics doesn´t work precisely because feelings and emotions (ideology) predominate in it over any other rational consideration. We have to make explicit the role they play in any human decision (including research) in order to narrow their influence.

'Scientific neutrality' has been the cover for political bias in economics for sometime. Maybe we have to acknowledge there can be no such thing in social science.

There were in the past two social systems that brought the social conduct into a complete slavery by displacing rationality by emotions: Nazism and Communism. We should learn from our past mistakes.

My experience is that many people want to study economics initially because of an emotional reaction to the impacts from how we organise our economies. This could be a response to ecological destruction (as in my case), poverty, inequality, power abuse etc. It would seem that good teaching should respond to that rather than teaching economics as if it was an intellectual puzzle unrelated to real issues that should matter.

As a social science, study of the economy has to engage with values and hence emotions which are closely linked to them. Does not this distinguish it from a natural science? We are interested in what is right, for the public good, fair and so on. When we say the study of the economy needs to be scientific, what do we mean? It can't be a natural science precisely because it is a social science. So surely we must be interested in more than factual truth or falsity which rarely are also agreed on.

When a new subject of a scientific nature is begun, there must be an emotional response at first and the stages of its development must employ emotion to inspire the people involved. But after the subject becomes more experimental and/or analytical the level of emotion should be balanced with cold logic!

Yes, a lot of socio-economic decisions are taken under emotions. But there is the methodology of economics and its criteria of rationality and empirical realism (i.e. facts). Emotions are also quantifiable facts and thus liable to logical economic analysis. No problem here. However, while emancipating economics from scientistic pseudo-normativism, we should not condescend into the other extreme by including emotions (or even lies?) into the methodology on equal standing with the logic.

Romer suggests that economists can usefully take into consideration decision mechanisms into two broad categories: those based on thoughts and those based on feelings.

One way to answer the concern raised by Henry that "we need more clarity as to what teaching would look like that did engage emotions." is to teach how the OECD establishes the eight subjective and three material metrics of individual wellbeing in national economies. Refer to: I have used these metrics to evaluate the quality of organisational and macro governance at:

The proposition is that the intellect is not enough. this does not mean it should be discarded. It does not suggest we should base factual (vs ethical) truth and falsity on feelings and emotions. However isn't it sometimes our emotional response to a situation that gives us a clue to how to at least begin interpreting it? Can't it also give us a sense as to which facts could matter and are hence worth investigating in terms of truth and falsity?

Reference: Romer, P. (2000) Thinking and Feeling The American Economic Review Vol. 90, No. 2, Papers and Proceedings of the (May, 2000), pp. 439-443

This could be very dangerous. First, distinguish whose emotions we are discussing! Behavioural economics shows that the agent's emotions are very important, e.g. loss aversion. But that is totally different from saying we should engage our emotions, or those of our students. That way, our whole initiative could easily dismissed as partisan wishful thinking. Disaster. But we should teach economics in relation to values - of humanity and environmental concern - and use this to engage the students.

(VIctor) To me the heart in the center is a must for pluralism to be pluralistic. Otherwise there is at least one voice (in this case mine) not being heard. If minorities voices are not even heard, how can we call that pluralist?

The whole basis of the new economic paradigm is it is based on human experience. It can not succeed (in my view) without including the heart as well as the rational. In this case, pluralism requires, at its core, the disciplines of economics (defined in monetary terms) along with psychology, philosophy (to establish the purpose of society against which its success can be assessed/measured), politics, legal structures and culture. Add insights from other academic disciplines for the full picture.

Perhaps we are not talking about a superior ability to reason and get excited through consciously separated neural processes, but about the faculty that a person has to block their emotions and passions, to control themselves to make "optimal" decisions and consistent with their personal interests, with a specific objective. That institutionalized economic man as a great advance of modern thought and the European enlightenment of Descartes, Montesquieu and Steuart (among others).

It is amazing to observe, if we look closely, how much of our conversation right here is essentially emotional. Can you see it? Nothing wrong with it! For example, there is in some expressions a strong emotion of righteousness, like permitting our emotions was THE deepest mistake we could possibly make. Can't you see it already happens? Better be honest and transparent about what already happens anyways.

I agree that feelings have important influence over our approach to economic topics. But, it should not be the role of economics to base analysis on emotions, as if to counter against objective science. There seems to be an implicit perspective in this idea that economic pluralism should cover all that is important to humans. That would be too much for economics to cover. Religion, psychology, public policy, and other fields that examine emotions have their own importance, beyond economics.

The Homo Economicus promoted the disconnection between reason and emotion, or what would be known as mind and body (Nussbaum, 2003), however, and without ignoring its influence, the classical model of economics, although it did not attempt to create such a distinction, if it "normalized" a style of direction in which the "gut feellings" in any investment tried to hide any glimmer of emotion and feeling in the decision-making process.

I understand why intelectuals (like myself, PhD economist U of Chicago) look down on feelings and emotions, what could I tell you to grab your attention so you would listen, and perhaps realize I'm talking about something else... The thing for me is to remember why are we really interested in pluralism. For one thing, we are interested in it because we want our voice to be heard; perhaps we want other voices to be heard too... But more deeply and more simply, why do we need that?

If we decide what is true or what is false based on feelings and emotions, how can we call that science?

Somatic indicators such as guilt, shame, remorse, are key to rational decision-making. The lack of paying attention to them causes Alexithymia and generates the dispathetic behavior. For the sake of economics science, there is a need of an extinction of Homo Economicus. Perhaps it fulfilled an important role as a result of the Enlightenment era. Homo Economicus brought good and bad genes. The Homo Sapiens has now needs to explore other broader, empathetic and social frontiers.

The latest Nobel Prize wrote about importance of both feelings and thinking in the decision making processess: "The picture of human behavior that emerges is one that is more symmetric in its treatment of thoughts and feelings. It recognizes that the information-processing systems in the brain that generate both thoughts and feelings are dynamic and complex."

Simply because conventional economics is not working, and this has really catrastophic consequences for the health and beauty of life. Consequences that first and foremost we feel. Those who are willing to take this issue seriously, i believe, reach the conclusion that logic and intellect alone cannot provide the real solutions.

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