File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9803, message 14

Date: Mon, 09 Mar 1998 16:17:14 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Re: BHA: Realist Methods

I have firstly an elaboration of my objection to simple 
correllation and regression in response to Doug / Howard:

>The crucial difference between our use of 
>correlations and positivism's is that for us, the statistical 
>relations are just evidence for an explanation and not the 
>explanation itself.

> even mere correlation is often a good, first
> piece of evidence as to whether, for example, banks are redlining,
> whether people who have lost welfare coverage are doing worse, or
> whether international inequality is a consequence of capitalist
> penetration.

Everyone on the list would agree with these statements. This maybe
why the point I suggested concerning simple correlation and regression
appears both peculiar and incorrect. However, unless I am missing 
something, then Bhaskar is committed to the view that empirical 
regularities are vary rare - requiring all the unlikely conditions of 
a closure. This would also be something on which everyone on the list 
would agree. But the original two statements strongly suggest that 
empirical regularities in the form of clear simple correlations - the 
architypal 'constant conjunction' ? - are quite frequent. Hence they 
contradict the claim that the social world is open - so if one is a 
Bhaskarian then a there appears to be a problem? I think this point 
is a particular case of the relatively familiar suggestion that 
fundamental RB concepts (open / closed systems, actualism etc.) are 
not precisely defined leading to some problems. Or am I simply 
barking up the wrong tree? Given the absoultely fundamental nature of 
the concepts at stake it seems at least to be a point worth clearing 
up. For example how are we to define open / closed systems if we 
allow empirical regularities to occur in both?

On minor econometric detail: 

> Actually, there is no real
> ontological difference between what is presupposed by, say, chi-square on
> the one hand and zero-order regression or correlation on the other.  Each
> is measuring covariation between two variables -- event regularities. Thus,
> if regression is to be ruled out on that basis, so, too, should chi-square.

As I understand it a multiple regression co-effecient does not 
measure the relation between two 'actual' variables. Rather the 
co-efficient is equivalent to a simple regression of the dependent 
variable against a 'non-actual variable'. This non-actual variable is 
the variation in the relevant independent variable 
*once all other independent variables have been controlled for*. But 
maybe I have misunderstood your meaning Doug?

Hans E raises perhaps the most fundamental 'caveat' - the 
stochastic nature of independent variables. I don't know how 
damaging the problem is - on Hans E's authority it seems to be more 
a fundamental objection rather than a mere caveat. Though this would 
be an objection with which positivists are equally at home.


Andrew Brown,
School of Economics,
Middlesex University,

tel 0181 362 5512

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