Summing it all

Who’d have guessed it was Irving Fisher who summarized it all?

Of all the great mysteries the greatest to me is the mystery of history. Science explains the conditional, what would happen under different circumstances, but it does not explain the actual, what does and did happen. When and how was the great machine we call the Universe set going and why was it prearranged in the particular way it was, so that out of it must have come all that did come out and will come out down to the minutest details…. Whatever its meaning, of one thing I am convinced: That it is for us to approve and not to disapprove….. What we call mistakes are deviations from our provisional programs…. And so let be all the illness and disappointments with which my cup of Fate has been filled, and so let come what will come!

Quoted in Dorothy Ross (1991), The Origins of American Social Science, p.185

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2 thoughts on “Summing it all

  1. Cups of fate and machine called Universe… The great machine builder had a design for us, a program…
    It does make up a comfortable worldview of order and stability.

  2. It reminds me of a fellow graduate student in History of Economic Thought who asked about one of my working papers: “What’s your working hypothesis ?”. I tried to tell him that I was mainly interested in history and that history does not need a set of hypotheses. All that I got in return were accusing eyes wide open. Next time, I’ll just answer : “Go read Irving Fisher”. Thank you, Floris.

    “When and how was the great machine we call the Universe set going and why was it prearranged in the particular way it was, so that out of it must have come all that did come out and will come out down to the minutest details…”. That sounds a lot like Kant to me. This is an early 19th century statement and not a very (post)modern one, indeed.

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