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Quotation of the Day…

Posted By Don Boudreaux On August 31, 2013 @ 7:33 am In Civil Society,Complexity & Emergence,Cooperation,History,Science | Comments Disabled

… is from page 484 of Will & Ariel Durant’s 1963 book, The Age of Louis XIV [1]:

In commercial countries like Holland, and even in Catholic Venice, the necessities of trade compelled tolerance of the diverse religions of merchants from alien lands.

Of course, it’s child’s play to construct theories to show that the above history – a history of market forces driving self-interested people, through incentives, to behave more tolerantly toward ‘different’ others – can’t possibly have happened [2].  But it’s possible also to construct theories to explain quite plausibly just why the above history did indeed happen.

And that’s how we go about improving our knowledge and understanding of the world: we tell stories (fancied-up they’re called ‘theories’) and, based upon what we know of the world from our experience, from our introspection into our human nature, from our conversations with others, from our careful-as-is-humanly-possible study of history, and from our assessment of how well the essentials of a proffered story generalize across different scenarios (both real and hypothetical) and how consistent these essentials are with those of other theories that we find compelling, we either reject, accept, or accept with non-essential modification the proffered story.

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[1] The Age of Louis XIV: http://www.amazon.com/Age-Louis-XIV-Story-Civilization/dp/0207942277/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315784196&sr=1-1

[2] can’t possibly have happened: http://cafehayek.com/2013/08/stiglitz-caricatures-becker.html

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