Lakoff vs. Pinker

As intuitive as cognitive linguistics is, which the “strict-father” model relies on, it is not without its critics.  I feel obligated to share its criticisms by other scientists that claim that cognitive linguistics has deviated too far off the path of cognitive science.  Pinker, for example, attacks Lakoff’s approach, that is, approach not substance, to using cognitive linguistics to disparage conservatives.

The problem with this burlesque is not that its targets don’t deserve criticism. It’s that it will backfire with all of its potential audiences. Any of his Lakoff’s allies on the left who think that their opponents are such imbeciles will have their clocks cleaned in their first debate with a Young Republican. The book will be red meat for his foes on the right, who can hold up his distortions as proof of liberals’ insularity and incomprehension. And the people in the center that he really wants to reach will be turned off by his relentless self-congratulation, his unconcealed condescension, and his shameless caricaturing of beliefs with which they might have a modicum of sympathy.

Pinker above is referring to the book “Whose Freedom” by Lakoff.  But Pinker’s critique seems to be about the strict-father model in general, where the dialogue between Lakoff and Pinker can be found here (not easily).  It’s hard to take this review seriously, but not because it’s mediated by a right-wing blogger, but because of the contempt he shows for Lakoff.  I found two valid criticisms.

Opinion on Pinker

What does Pinker think that a model does as it must be a simplification of reality since it has to remove noise and detail in order to balance its descriptive value with its usability.  I wouldn’t describe Lakoff’s model as a caricature, but if we misapply this and say that this is how a real conservative thinks and feels, then the word caricature would be apt because this model is an ideal, not a reality.

But a model is not supposed to say anything about any one individual as it only characterizes some ideal type.  The questions should be: (see below).  In my view, it does these things.

  • does the model make sense out of how the two modes of thought (worldviews) reason differently,
  • why they may take different stances on the key issues,
  • as well as explain where this reasoning comes from and how it works.

Lakoff did not do a good job at talking about the model’s limitations as well as not clarifying the level of explanation that this is supposed to be at.  This is confusing since most models describe the worldviews in terms of evolved adaptations and personality differences, and Lakoff’s model is at the top level since language is the outcome of our intuition and feelings, as it encodes them.

We can’t use this model to say this is how a real conservative would reason and behave because reality is complicated and there is even evidence that we are bi-conceptualizers in that we can switch between the worldviews or modes of thoughts.  We can only say that there is an increased probability that conservatives will endorse and use this mode of reasoning more often than a liberal would.

Defining the Conflict 

Pinker’s criticisms on the discipline don’t seem to hold much water since Lakoff defends his use of the science quite well.  The only criticism that has any merit is Lakoff’s recommendation on how liberals need to approach politics.  He suggests that liberals need to stop focusing on the “facts” since politics is mostly identity-based.  Instead, liberals need to engage in more metaphorical thought, as conservatives do, which would evoke our tribal instincts.  Below, Lakoff describes how Pinker’s views on cognitive science differ.

Pinker, a respected professor at Harvard, has been the most articulate spokesman for the old theory.  In language, it is Noam Chomsky’s claim that language consists in (as Pinker puts it) “an autonomous module of syntactic rules.”   What this means is that language is claimed to be just a matter of abstract symbols, having nothing to do with what the symbols mean, how they are used to communicate, how the brain processes thought and language, or any aspect of human experience, cultural or personal.

Pinker is part of the old school of cognitive science that believes that language is a matter of symbolic manipulation in a highly modular mind, while cognitive linguistics is a branch of, so they claim, the new way of thinking on the mind.  It is new in that it detracts from the school of “Western Philosophy”, requiring that thought is not mind alone but bodily instead.  This idea that thought and reason are bodily allows us to do away with the once contrasting ideas of perception versus conception, and much else.

The new view is that reason is embodied in a nontrivial way. The brain gives rise to thought in the form of conceptual frames, image-schemas, prototypes, conceptual metaphors, and conceptual blends. The process of thinking is not algorithmic symbol manipulation, but rather neural computation, using brain mechanisms.

Invalid Criticisms by Pinker?

(be nice to get expert opinions)

Criticism #1:

Pinker represents the research results on conceptual metaphor as follows: “Conceptual metaphor, according to Lakoff, shows that all thought is based on unconscious physical metaphors …” I have actually argued the opposite.

Pinker misrepresents what Lakoff has always said.  If you read his material, it is clear that facts matter and that literal thought is a part of how we reason although to a lesser extent.  Lakoff also states that the mechanisms that we reason with, namely image-schemas, conceptual frames, and prototype structures, are not metaphorical at all although metaphorical thought relies on them.

Criticism #2:

Having claimed falsely that I believe that all thought is metaphorical, Pinker then chides me by taking the position I have actually advocated: “Thinking cannot trade in metaphors directly.” Just as I have not only said, but have argued empirically.

Pinker even gets the research in his own field of psychology wrong. “Laboratory experiments show that people don’t think about the underlying image when understanding a familiar metaphor, only when they are faced with a new one.” But experiments show exactly the opposite.

By Pinker not getting the empirical evidence behind understanding metaphors right, Lakoff claims that he misunderstands the “most basic result in contemporary metaphor research: Metaphor is a matter of thought, not just language.”  Lakoff then goes on to explain how thought uses metaphor and how it relies on getting the facts about framing correctly.

The same words can be instances of different conceptual metaphors. To take a familiar example: It’s all downhill from here can mean either (1) things will get progressively worse, based on the Good Is Up, Bad Is Down metaphor; or (2) things will be easier from now on, based on the metaphor in which Action is Understood as Motion (as in things are moving right along) and Easy Action is understood in terms of easy (i.e., downhill) motion. 

This example shows that facts, represented as words, matter in that facts must be paired with the correct frame in order to make sense out of the facts.  So if we use the wrong frame, for example, “Good is Up, Bad is Down metaphor”, then we won’t be able to understand if someone is using the “Action is understood as Motion and Easy Action in terms of motion metaphor” frame.

Criticism #3:

That is what “reframing” is about — correcting framing that distorts truths and finding framing that allows truth to be seen.But Pinker claims that I say the opposite, that rather than being a realist, he says I am a cognitive relativist: “All this belies Lakoff’s cognitive relativism, in which mathematics, science, and philosophy are beauty contests between rival frames rather than attempts to characterize the nature of reality. It undermines his tips in the political arena as well.   Lakoff tells progressives not to engage conservatives on their own terms, not to present facts or appeal to the truth, and not to pay attention to polls. Instead, they should try to pound new frames and metaphors into voters’ heads. Don’t worry that this is just spin or propaganda…”

But this is a misrepresentation as well, as Lakoff clarifies below.

Here is what I actually say about spin and propaganda (Don’t Think of an Elephant, pp. 100-101): “Spin is the manipulative use of a frame. Spin is used when something embarrassing has happened or has been said, and it’s an attempt to put an innocent frame on it–that is, to make the embarrassing occurrence sound normal or good. Propaganda is another manipulative use of framing. Propaganda is an attempt to get the public to adopt a frame that is not true and is known not to be true, for the purpose of gaining or maintaining political control. The reframing I am suggesting is neither spin nor propaganda. Progressives need to learn to communicate using frames that they really believe, frames that express what their moral views really are. I strongly recommend against any deceptive framing.”

Criticism #4

Pinker: One of the findings of cognitive science that is most important for politics is that frames are mental structures that can be either associated with words (the surface frames) or that structure higher-level organizations of knowledge.

This is about how mental structures are stored in the mind.

Lakoff: Surface frames are associated with phrases like “war on terror” that both activate and depend critically on deep frames. These are the most basic frames that constitute a moral worldview or a political philosophy. Deep frames define one’s overall “common sense.”  Without deep frames there is nothing for surface frames to hang onto. Slogans do not make sense without the appropriate deep frames in place.” (p. 29) The same basic point is made in my other books applying cognitive science to politics. Again, Pinker claims that I say the opposite.

Pinker: Cognitive science has not shown that people absorb frames through sheer repetition. On the contrary, information is retained when it fits into a person’s greater understanding of the subject matter.” But that is exactly what I said! The deep frames characterize the “greater understanding of the subject matter;” the surface frames can be “retained” only when they fit the deep frames. 

Valid Criticisms by Pinker?

(be nice to get expert opinions)

Criticism #1

Pinker: thinking cannot trade in metaphors directly. It must use a more basic currency that captures the abstract concepts shared by the metaphor and its topic–progress toward a shared goal in the case of journeys and relationships, conflict in the case of argument and war–while sloughing off the irrelevant bits.

Mediator: This is an old criticism of conceptual metaphor theory, first voiced (as far as I know) by Greg Murphy in his 1996 paper “On Metaphoric Representation.” There Murphy argues that we need an independent (i.e., non-metaphorical) representation of a concept in order to know which other concepts we can map it to metaphorically, and once we’ve mapped it, what information from the other concepts are relevant for the structuring of the first concept.

This is a valid point as to where do we get the knowledge to map a metaphor from one domain to the other, or even where do we know where to start the metaphor.  For example, how do we know that up is good and down is bad such that we can conclude that “doing evil is falling”?  I would imagine that cognitive linguistics has addressed this, but I have not read enough material to have seen it.  And even if we don’t know the answer just yet, I don’t think this is fatal to metaphor theory, in which Lakoff uses.

Criticism #2

Pinker: Laboratory experiments show that people don’t think about the underlying image when understanding a familiar metaphor, only when they are faced with a new one.

Mediator: Lakoff says, not so, and for the first time, cites actual research by someone other than himself. The problem is, the research he cites doesn’t actually say anything about Pinker’s claim. Raymond Gibbs’ books a.) are out of date and b.) don’t really present any empirical work on dead metaphors, and Boroditsky’s work (which I’ve discussed before) a.) doesn’t license conclusions about conceptual metaphors, and b.) concerns only one fairly unique and highly abstract domain, time. Actual work on metaphor in general has, in fact, shown that conventional metaphors (often called dead metaphors) are interpreted literally, rather than metaphorically, just as Pinker says.

This criticism would make the criticism above an invalid one because this blogger is claiming that Lakoff is wrong.  I don’t have the time to investigate, but it is important to at least observe that a common criticism of cognitive linguistics is that it lacks empirical support.  Also, I know that experts will interpret the evidence in a way that fits their theory, so who is right here?


[1] Greene, Joshua. Moral Tribes. Penguin Publishing Group.

[2] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[3] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics. University of Chicago Press.

[4] Lakoff, George. The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! . Chelsea Green Publishing.

[5] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[6] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.

[7] Lakoff, George. Your Brain’s Politics. Societas.

[8] Tuschman, Avi. Our Political Nature. Prometheus.

Driving Right-Winged Logic

When we break down the logic of conservativism, we will then be able to understand it.  Believe it or not, there is nothing irrational about it, but this doesn’t mean that we need to support it.  What drives its logic is its adherence to a “strict-father” morality and its reliance on folk behaviorism.  Before describing how the model works, we will look at the assumptions that drive its logic.

It is not irrational if we believe that its assumptions are true, but it is dangerous if taken literally to those that are unable to meet its standards since social hierarchy and meritocracy are moral and necessary parts of the system.  In fact, competition, which is the means to hierarchy, is such an essential and inseparable piece of conservative morality that without it it would become incoherent.

Without competition, there is no source of reward for self-discipline, no motivation to become the right kind of person.  It is through competition that we discover who is moral, that is, who has been properly self-disciplined and therefore deserves success, and who is fit enough to survive and even thrive in a difficult world. [2]

This worldview is one mode of thought that is common throughout all cultures although perhaps not in the same exact configuration – a configuration that “appeals to the worst of human instincts, leading people to stereotype, demonize, and punish the Other. [2].”  I am in agreement with Lakoff here, but if I am to be at all honest, then I must admit to using this “hawkish” type of reasoning myself.

If he has not worked hard enough, he is slothful and hence morally weak.  If he is not talented enough, then he ranks lower than others in the natural order…The rich (who are talented enough and who have worked hard enough to become rich) deserve their wealth and the poor (either through lack of industry or talent) deserve their poverty. [2]

Assumptions on Human Behavior

Conservatives’ logic relies on folk behaviorism, which is a model of human behavior that explains learning in terms of rewards and punishments.  Since we do respond to incentives, trade-offs, and consequences, then folk behaviorism seems to be true, but life isn’t all about carrots and sticks as much else can motivate us.  It is, however, an essential piece for making their reasoning work.

People, left to their own devices, tend simply to satisfy their desires.  But, people will make themselves do things they don’t want to do to get rewards; they will refrain from doing things they do want to do to avoid punishment. [2]

Behaviorism as a model for how we learn has largely been replaced by cognitive science as an explanatory tool [6].  And it can’t be true in the absolute sense since it requires that punishment and rewards have absolute meanings, but they don’t since conceptual categories, which rewards and punishments are, are considered to be “fuzzy”, “radial” and vary in the prototype that is used.

Not only can’t we unequivocally define what reward and punishment are for everyone, but we don’t always act according to what the rational actor model predicts, which is not in some objectively defined way that is always in our best interests.  What interferes with us maximizing our rewards and minimizing our punishment is that our reasoning varies over time, situation, and with the individual.

Often, the source of that failure is due to the fact that people use other forms of reasoning that get in the way of a reward-punishment form of “rationality”—prototype-based reasoning, alternate framings, worldview differences—which affect how categories of people and events are understood and even affect judgments of simple probability.

There exists an additional, hidden, assumption that “life is a struggle for survival, and therefore “survival in the world is a matter of competing successfully”. [2].  This means that the world is difficult and that we must become self-disciplined through rewards and punishments which builds character.  We already know, however, from this post that we are making life a struggle for survival.

The Conservative Morality

    1. This contributes a great deal—the strict dichotomy between
    2. good and evil, the internal evils, asceticism, and the immorality of moral weakness.
    1. This contributes notions of the legitimacy and illegitimacy of moral authority, and
    2. transfers the resentment toward meddling parents into resentment against the meddling of other authority figures.
    1. This legitimizes certain traditional hierarchical power relations and, together with Moral Strength,
    2. makes it seem reasonable to think that the rich are either morally or naturally superior to the poor.
    1. This provides a spatial logic of the danger of deviance.
    1. This contributes the idea that there exists an essence called “character,”
    2. that it can be determined by significant past actions, and that it is a reliable indicator of future actions.
    1. This makes moral unity and uniformity a virtue
    2. and suggests the imminent and serious danger of any sign of moral nonunity and nonuniformity. 
    1. This associates our visceral reactions of disgust
    2. and our logic of the corruption of pure substances with the idea that morality must be unified and uniform.
    1. This adds the logic of disease to the logic of immorality
    2. and contributes the idea that contact with immoral people is dangerous 
    3. because the immorality might spread in a rapid and uncontrollable way like an epidemic.
    1. This adds the idea that seeking one’s self-interest is a moral activity
    2. and interfering with the seeking of self-interest is immoral.
    3. The application of this metaphor is limited by its role in the system.
    1. The role of this metaphor in the system is to specify when helping people is moral.


[1] Graham, George, “Behaviorism”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.),

[2] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics. University of Chicago Press.

[3] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[4] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.

[5] Lakoff, George. Your Brain’s Politics. Societas.

[6] Wikipedia contributors. Behaviorism. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 16:59, December 17, 2020, from

Schematic of Reason

[This is my interpretation of the work of George Lakoff from UC Berkeley and Hugo Mercier from the Jean Nicod Institute in Paris.]

To understand an ideology we need to break down its mode of thought.  This mode of thought is not formal logic but rather a series of metaphors that have a central theme that is adhered to that gives it its coherence.  Mechanistically, we all reason the same, by way of intuitive inference, but we do vary in the preference and priority that we give to certain types of reasoning.

The mode of thought that an ideology engages in can be broken down and understood with the help of cognitive linguistics, which is a multidisciplinary approach to understanding human language and cognition.  This post will look at the mechanics behind real reason and claims that reason is mostly post-hoc and metaphorical.  In the end, we will introduce the ideology of conservatism.

Post-Hoc Reasoning

We reason by seeking reasons to justify our beliefs and actions in order to persuade others [10].  This is known as a post-hoc rationalization, which means that we have an intuition first and then support it with reasons.  There exist two kinds of reasoning which is either an explanation or argument but both have a similar structure and only vary in how they relate to their reasons.

We may, for example, feel that it is unfair to let the free-market determine the minimum wage, and then we seek reasons to justify government interference in the market.  In the process of doing so, we are making claims on what is right and wrong, which makes this kind of reasoning a form of moral reasoning.  In fact, most reasoning is a kind of moral reasoning.

  • intuition: feeling a sense of compassion for those that struggle when earning substandard wages
  • justification: Government must establish a minimum wage because we can’t rely on the imperfect market.
  • covertness: Notice that the real reason, which is having compassion, is left out because it is considered irrational.

Conceptual Categories

To understand the mechanism of reason, we have to turn to cognitive science which says that we only understand things in light of what we already know.  In order to do this, our mind creates conceptual categories that are nothing more than metaphors.  These categories have inferential capacity in that they allow us to draw inferences that aid in our understanding of our reality [7].

Primary metaphors are cross-domain mappings, pings, from a source domain (the sensorimotor domain) to a target domain (the domain of subjective experience), preserving inference and sometimes preserving lexical representation. [7]

The quote above is saying that we have a rudimentary intuition about something in the physical domain and then map it to a higher domain with our language.  Take for example the metaphor of “going over your head”, which is a physical experience that is mapped to the target of “failing to understand” something.  Our language is replete with examples of us understanding our reality in this way.

Conservativism as Metaphor

The style of reasoning that conservativism uses is similar to the style we use towards raising a family.  Not surprisingly, conservativism resembles a strict-father upbringing while liberalism resembles a nurturant-parent upbringing.  We can think of each style of raising families as a unique mode of thought that consists of various complex metaphors that have different priorities.

The theme of ‘strict-family’ for conservatives is what drives its logic by prioritizing the various metaphorical concepts.  For example, conservatives place moral strength, which addresses self-discipline and success, at the highest priority, while morality as nurturance is at the lowest priority.  We will explain the details of George Lakoff’s model of conservativism below in the next post.

  1. MORAL STRENGTH: This defines self-discipline as characterized by the family model and extends it to morality.
  2. MORAL AUTHORITY: This builds on parental authority in the central model and extends it to morality generally.
  3. MORAL ORDER: This legitimizes the Strict Father’s authority, and defines what counts as “natural” and hence legitimate.
  4. MORAL BOUNDARIES: This allows us to apply spatial reasoning to moral structures.
  5. MORAL ESSENCE: This spells out an important part of what is meant by “character” in the family model.
  6. MORAL WHOLENESS: This provides a way to conceptualize the importance of unity, sameness, and stability of morality.
  7. MORAL PURITY: This provides us with a way to conceptualize immorality as portrayed in the family model.
  8. MORAL HEALTH: This allows us to conceptualize the effects of immorality as portrayed in the family model.
  9. MORAL SELF-INTEREST: This provides the crucial link between self-discipline and self-reliance in the family model.
  10. MORALITY AS NURTURANCE: This links nurturance in the family model to helping others in society in general.


[1] Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition. HarperCollins e-books.

[2] Barrett, Lisa Feldman. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. HMH Books.

[3] Burton, Robert Alan. On Being Certain. St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

[4] Damasio, Antonio R.. Descartes’ Error. Penguin Publishing Group.

[5] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[6] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics. University of Chicago Press.

[7] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[8] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.

[9] Lakoff, George. Your Brain’s Politics. Societas.

[10] Mercier, Hugo. The Enigma of Reason. Harvard University Press.

[11] Smith, Justin E. H.. Irrationality. Princeton University Press.

Surviving Libertarianism

I once asked a libertarian his thoughts on what we should do with those that are unable to be productive in our economic system, and he uttered, without hesitation, natural selection.  This response no doubt aroused anger in me, but I too have shared similar sentiments.  When we are thriving and committed to self-interest, then empathy is an empty word until we need it from others.

The libertarian’s comment, however, was a curious one since this system has not worked in his favor, and I would not say that he was thriving but rather surviving. I would like to explore the topic of how anyone, including myself, could be attracted to the ugly in libertarianism by looking at our personality differences and the logic that we use.  Here though I want to talk about social Darwinism.

Artificial Selection 

My understanding of evolutionary theory is that it is about change over time that results in life adapting to its environment.  The idea of “survival of the fittest” is a term coined not by Darwin but by a political theorist named Herbert Spencer.  When seeing how it has been metaphorized, however, I think there is little room to doubt that libertarians are using this because it fits their personality.

Darwinianism was misleadingly metaphorized in terms of “competition,” a competitive struggle for scarce resources in which only the strong and cunning emerge victorious, garnering the goods necessary for life and happiness. [6]

Libertarians, however, are conflating natural with artificial selection.  The mechanism that explains our adaptations is natural selection, which means that some individuals possessed traits that others didn’t that allowed them to reproduce and survive more successfully.  It is artificial selection when we construct our system based on self-interest at the exclusion of other adaptations.

For example, our moral emotions that involve sympathy and empathy evolved to assist with cooperation.  These have a tendency of being looked at as weaknesses within our system since this leads to dependency or even solidarity.  But if we disparage adaptations involved in cooperating, then it is no longer “natural” since we are being influenced by the social norms that we have created.

So-Called Experts

I took a random sample from a search on “capitalism and evolution” and had no difficulty in finding so-called experts on the idea that capitalism is a form of natural selection, but no serious evolutionary biologist believes this.  Below this individual claims that it is moral to weed out the weak and that laziness is a choice, where the former idea is callous and the latter one borders on absurd.

Having gov’t provided safety nets means that even the most destructive, racist, lazy people will receive help automatically. They should face the consequences of their life choices…It may seem harsh to want only the “fit” to survive. I think ignorance, laziness and various other irresponsible attributes/behaviours should die a painful death.

I don’t think that he is irrational because his logic works for his worldview, nor do I think that he is not smart but rather has personality characteristics and past experiences that make him attracted to the idea of “survival of the fittest”.  He seems uninformed on human nature and biology though and should probably stick with teaching Math at his highschool.

Evolution’s Direction

Just because we construct an economic system in which we have to compete to make a living, one in which self-interest triumphs and sympathy is akin to weakness, this does not mean that life is a competitive struggle for survival.  Evolution has no direction, and we have every right to use our moral emotions just as much as our self-interest.  That is, the following is not a law of nature.

The normative implication is that the social order, in every domain, is naturally and optimally governed by principles of competitive self-interest and that anything that interferes with that is unnatural and immoral.  [6]

On the other hand, if our guiding principle in our lives is based on maximizing self-efficacy and self-interest, then life will be a competitive struggle for survival.  If we put productivity and innovation on the higher moral ground at the cost of the well-being of those that can’t keep up, then we are seriously fooling ourselves into believing that we are building a better society.

That said, there are parallels between natural selection and our competitive behavior within free-markets; in fact, natural selection may track economic behavior better than the “invisible hand” [4].  But this explains it at the behavioral level, and we can’t assume that all behaviors are adaptive.  If we want to go further, then we must appeal to evolutionary psychology, in which I am on the fence.


[1] Coyne, Jerry A.. Why Evolution Is True. Penguin Publishing Group.

[2] Frank, Robert H. The Darwin Economy. Princeton University Press.

[3] Frank, Robert H. The Darwin Economy – Why Smith’s Invisible Hand Breaks Down.

[4] Frank, Robert H. The Invisible Hand, Trumped by Darwin?

[5] Gittins, Ross. Darwinian model of economics flawed for firms.

[6] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[7] Meyer, Christopher, and Kirby, Julia.  Runaway Capitalism.  Harvard Business Review.

[8] Ridley, Matt. What Charles Darwin Owes Adam Smith.  Learn Liberty.

[9] Vugt, Van Mark.  Why the Invisible Hand from Biology is Better Than the Invisible Hand from Economics.

[10] Wilson, David Sloan. This View of Life. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Triabalism Is Rational

I started writing for freethought blogs because I thought that my use of reason made me special, and I identified with those that had disdain for God.  I wanted to share this by way of science, but I did not have a real purpose.  Were these the real reasons for binding?  After researching rationality and self-interest, I realized that my self-interest was behind it all, but I needed to justify it first.

I was reluctant to embrace all of the blog’s principles, namely “an appreciation of human diversity and equality” because I didn’t “get it” until I experienced subordination first-hand.  Christopher Boehm, an anthropologist who studies social hierarchies, articulates what this purpose may be.  I first reasoned that tribalism (i) was divisive and irrational, and I now reason that it is rational and just.

…egalitarianism is in effect a bizarre type of political hierarchy: the weak combine forces to actively dominate the strong.  My thesis is that they must continue such domination if they are to remain autonomous and equal. [2]

Reasons for Tribalism

I was self-righteous and naive because of rationality and so reason itself was a roadblock for me to want to be political.  Rationality, at least my rationality, was that if we are ideologues and don’t use critical thinking skills to look at each issue and stay clear of our biases and in-groups, then we will never build a juster society.  But I was mistaken, in a big way.

We are not rational, and passion guides our moral reasoning – that is, what we decide to be right or wrong is anchored in our feelings and directs us.  And morality evolved to suppress self-interest in one another to allow for cooperation to take place, see below.  That is its function, and this is not a philosophical position but rather a scientific fact.

Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and innate tedencies that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible. [5]

Our culture sets standards that must be met in order to advance in the hierarchy.  But some based on biology or bad luck will not be able to achieve the status they want and become subordinated.  So the anthropologist above is saying that biology justifies everything that liberals use to become more equal, e.g., economic equality, affirmative action, gender equality, and so forth.

The idea of people living morally as political equals is a beautiful one, but in an important sense it seems to go against human nature—a nature that leads, quite naturally, to interpersonal domination and to the formation of social dominance hierarchies, with alpha individuals presiding over them. [2]

We Were Egalitarian

But before twelve thousand years ago, humans basically were egalitarian (Knauft 1991). They lived in what might be called societies of equals, with minimal political centralization and no social classes. Everyone participated in group decisions, and outside the family there were no dominators. [2]

I don’t get the impression that all evolutionary biologists believe that we lived as egalitarian tribes for most (95%) of our existence since they have a Hobbesian view of what it means to be human – that is, morality is but a thin veneer that keeps our savage-like self-interest in line.  But anthropologists certainly have a lot of evidence and reasoning to show that we did.

Far from being admired as “clever opportunists,” selfish individuals looking to exploit the generosity of other foragers are viewed as pitiful and potentially dangerous, likely to be nudged off the nearest cliff. Such an individual would be lucky to survive for long in a real-world foraging society, much less flourish. [12]

But egalitarianism is not what we think it is.  Yes, it says that in some respects people are thought to be equal and should have equal opportunities (not outcomes).  But this is a normative statement and by no means is what we actually observe.  On the other hand, real egalitarianism is about domination and that is what freethought blogs does very effectively that I used to be against.

Equality Is a Fight

My thesis, however, is that egalitarianism does not result from the mere absence of hierarchy, as is commonly assumed. Rather, egalitarianism involves a very special type of hierarchy, a curious type that is based on antihierarchical feelings. [2]

This is a very intuitive thesis and is something that we all have experienced through the emotions of envy and resentment when we are not included in certain groups or are treated unfairly.  It is so obvious that we have to be reminded of its truth.  The problem is that conservatives and libertarians will immediately say that we are not playing fair.

The argument here is that egalitarian societies constitute a very special type of hierarchy, one in which the rank and file avoid being subordinated by vigilantly keeping alpha-type group members under their collective thumbs. [2]

We must keep power in check so that the “strong” won’t weed out the “weak” as this anonymous conservative says below.  This conservative’s reasoning embellishes the folk idea that life is a competitive struggle for survival, while conveniently – since well-positioned people have little use for empathy – ignoring the role of compassion and altruism because he can.

The least immoral path is to honor each man’s freedom, limit governmental intervention, and let each man bear the burden of responsibility for himself.   Combined with personal charity, awarded by the productive to those who they feel are worthy, such a scheme would produce society where everyone was committed to the success of our nation, and sloth was unrewarded, beyond a bare subsistence level of support to those who are worthy in some regard.


(i) Tribalism is defined here as the antagonistic nature of inter-group behavior between the major ideologies of conservatism and liberalism.  Bi-partisanship is largely a myth because these two world-views don’t reason the same about morality and will always be in conflict.


[1] Anonymous. The Evolutionary Psychology Behind Politics. Federalist Publications.

[2] Boehm, Christopher. Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior. Harvard University

[3] Deaton, Angus. The Great Escape. Princeton University Press.

[4] Greene, Joshua. Moral Tribes. Penguin Publishing Group.

[5] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[6] Kling, Arnold. The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides. Cato Institute.

[7] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics. University of Chicago Press.

[8] Lakoff, George. The ALL NEW Don’t Think of an Elephant! . Chelsea Green Publishing.

[9] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[10] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.

[11] Lakoff, George. Your Brain’s Politics. Societas.

[12] Ryan, Christopher. Civilized to Death: The Price of Progress. Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster.

[13] Tuschman, Avi. Our Political Nature. Prometheus.

[14] Waal, Frans de. The Age of Empathy. Random House LLC

[15] Westen, Drew. The Political Brain. PublicAffairs.


Reasoning with Homo Economicus

The worship of reason is itself an illustration of one of the most long-lived delusions in Western history: the rationalist delusion. It’s the idea that reasoning is our most noble attribute, one that makes us like the gods (for Plato) or that brings us beyond the “delusion” of believing in gods (for the New Atheists). [5, 9]

Beliefs exist because of a need to feel certain and to influence others [5]. The drive for truth can be there, but falling prey to self-righteousness is too easy.  From Plato to Descartes, rationalism promised a superior morality because reason was thought to be free of emotion, pure and transcendent, and separated us from animals.  But rationalists were wrong on all accounts.

Passion Drives Reason

Given Hume’s concerns on the limits of reasoning, he believed that philosophers who tried to reason their way to moral truth without looking at human nature were no better than theologians looking for moral truth in texts. [5]

David Hume knocked down the idol of rationalism with his insight that passion is the driving force behind reason.  In fact, it was insightful enough to get the attention of the rationalist philosopher Kant, who said “Hume woke me from my intellectual stupor”.  Hume was saying that our reasoning is a post hoc rationalization – that is, we make an intuition first and then we justify it.

We may, for example, feel compassion towards those who work for minimum wage but then justify our intuition with a reason such as it being exploitation.  But this flies right in the face of the rational actor model because if our reasoning is anchored in emotion that gives it its direction, then rationality, which is to be emotionless, is not a good description of what it is to be human.

 The rational actor model does not define real rationality. It does not characterize the way people really think, though it is sometimes used as an ideal for how people should think.  [7]

Morality of Self-Interest

Rationality almost always has a moral dimension.  The idea that human rationality is purely mechanical, disengaged, and separable from moral issues is a myth, a myth that is harmful when we live our lives according to it. [7]

The link between rationality and morality may not be obvious, but once we remember that morality is about what we see to be right or wrong and good or bad, all based on some standard, then it shows itself.  Morality, moreover, is usually present when we reason since we justify our reasoning with reasons, and justification itself is an act of determining what is right or wrong.

Think about how much of our reasoning is about morality: it’s better to be strong than to be weak, better to be in control than out of control or dominated by others [7].  What all moral reasoning has in common is that it is about our well-being.  But it is also about others’ well-being, and a consensus that says that we should avoid and prevent harm to others serves our interests too.

That is, morality evolved to put limits on self-interest, and its effects are felt when we realize that many will not have our best interests in mind.  But the folk theory of the “invisible hand” says that self-interest creates wealth for all, so let us equate wealth with well-being and, wallah, we have the pursuit of self-interest as being a moral act that would make us irrational to not follow.

For those who believe in the morality of self-interest, it can never be a moral criticism that one is trying to maximize one’s self-interest, as long as one is not interfering with anyone else’s self-interest.  [7]

Related Posts

Conception of Homo Economicus“: rational man was conceived by way of deductive reasoning and a few “self-evident” truths.

Destruction of Homo Economicus“: rationality from the Enlightenment leads to self-interest and there is no universal reason.

“Reasoning with Homo Economicus: rationality is a form of self-righteousness and passions are what drives reason.

“Resurrection of Homo Economicus: the “invisible hand” promises wealth creation but costs go beyond typical externalities.


[1] Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition. HarperCollins e-books.

[2] Barrett, Lisa Feldman. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. HMH Books.

[3] Burton, Robert Alan. On Being Certain. St. Martin’s Publishing Group.

[4] Damasio, Antonio R.. Descartes’ Error. Penguin Publishing Group.

[5] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[6] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics. University of Chicago Press.

[7] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[8] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.

[9] Mercier, Hugo. The Enigma of Reason. Harvard University Press.

[10] Smith, Justin E. H.. Irrationality. Princeton University Press.

Reasons to Revere Reason

I came across this uplifting speech by Steven Pinker while researching the Enlightenment; however, I was really motivated to find evidence that “reason” was driven by passion and used to manipulate, deceive, justify self-interest, and help foster positive delusions about ourselves.  I found all of that but also found Pinker’s speech which shows that reason can be driven for good.

Pinker’s answer to the student’s question below will resonate if we have an appreciation for the beauty of life and a respect for human dignity.  Perhaps this can remind us of the importance of gratitude and empathy because self-righteousness and cynicism can be seductive.  Yes, I am aware of Steven Pinker’s controversial opinions, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The student asks Steven Pinker: “Why should I live?”

The student’s ingenious tone made it clear that she was neither suicidal nor sarcastic but genuinely curious about how to find meaning and purpose if traditional religious beliefs about an immortal soul are undermined by our best science.

In the very act of asking that question, you are seeking reasons for your convictions, and so you are committed to reason as the means to discover and justify what is important to you. And there are so many reasons to live!

As a sentient being, you have the potential to flourish. You can refine your faculty of reason itself by learning and debating. You can seek explanations of the natural world through science, and insight into the human condition through the arts and humanities. You can make the most of your capacity for pleasure and satisfaction, which allowed your ancestors to thrive and thereby allowed you to exist. You can appreciate the beauty and richness of the natural and cultural world. As the heir to billions of years of life perpetuating itself, you can perpetuate life in turn. You have been endowed with a sense of sympathy—the ability to like, love, respect, help, and show kindness—and you can enjoy the gift of mutual benevolence with friends, family, and colleagues.

And because reason tells you that none of this is particular to you, you have the responsibility to provide to others what you expect for yourself. You can foster the welfare of other sentient beings by enhancing life, health, knowledge, freedom, abundance, safety, beauty, and peace. History shows that when we sympathize with others and apply our ingenuity to improving the human condition, we can make progress in doing so, and you can help to continue that progress. [1]


[1] Pinker, Steven. Enlightenment Now. Penguin Publishing Group.

Destruction of Homo Economicus

Homo economicus is from rational choice theory (i) that says humans maximize their self-interest in a consistent and rational way, much like how software solves an optimization problem.  To be sure, this model does not map well to how a real mind works.  In fact, look at how a cognitive scientist discusses how reasoning does not resemble anything like that of an algorithm.

We’ve learned a centuries old theory of rationality that says that thought is conscious (when it is mostly unconscious), that it works by logic (it actually works by embodied primitives, frames, conceptual metaphor, and integration), that all people have the same logic (which is supposed to be what makes us rational animals). [7]

Here I would like to ridicule the idea of homo economicus being an accurate characterization of how we make decisions because it is not only wrong from a neuroscience point of view (ii), but it also elevates rationality.  And a worldview that embodies rationality, with roots going back to Descartes, leads to championing the idea of self-interest by way of logical necessity (iii).

It is often seen as natural for people to act so as to maximize their self-interest (or profit) and unnatural for them not to. Those who profit most are therefore seen as doing what comes naturally, and those who profit much less are seen as irrational, unnatural, lesser beings who don’t deserve much no matter how hard they work. [9]

Presumption of Reason 

The Enlightenment advocated reason and empiricism as a way to obtain objective truth about our world and gave us arguments to challenge any authority that used dogma to their advantage.  It also applied empiricism to achieve economic progress to improve upon our welfare as well as gave rise to humanism which is the idea that humans have value and agency not to be trodden upon.

The Enlightenment also thought that reason is what makes us human and rational, but they framed everything in terms of logic.  As a result, “reason” is thought of as a faculty that gives “truth” in accordance with the rules of logic.  There is, however, no universal reason or logic.  To be sure, the reason I mean here is the kind made from our minds that is unrelated to logic in a program.

The view on reason is that it is conscious, universal, logical, unemotional, and value-neutral.  But it is not any of those things, and believing so is irrational.  For example, when others argue against us, we think they must be either mistaken (in need of the facts), irrational (needing a lesson in logic), or immoral (need to feel how we do) [7].  Worldviews must have their own logic then (v).

 If the people are made aware of the facts and figures, they should naturally reason to the right conclusion. Voters should vote their interests; they should calculate which policies and programs are in their best interests, and vote for the candidates who advocate those policies and programs.  But people aren’t rational, so this doesn’t happen. [9]

Rationality of Self-Interest

Yet versions of the rational actor model (i) have contributed to the arms race (via game theory (iv) and Mutually Assured Destruction) and global warming (via the externalization of pollution costs). It is that form of “rationality” that has most threatened our ability to survive and thrive.

The rational actor model (i) is in line with the eighteenth-century-view of mind which saw reason as primarily serving to achieve personal goals. Therefore it was seen as irrational to be against your self-interest.  If our culture expects us to behave in ways that serve our interests, then how do we know how much of our selfish behavior is influenced by biology or from social norms?

From the selfish gene perspective, the rational actor of course makes sense.  But this mode of thought is so engrained – the narrative of the rational actor – that altruism was called reciprocal-altruism.  Whether or not evolutionists are correct (they probably are), is not the point but speculation as to how metaphors and language construct our realities and guide theory is.

Although there is considerable literature documenting biological altruism, the most popular evolutionary account of altruism as a form of self-interest is reciprocal altruism—the trading of favors: it is in my interest to serve your interests in a society where that is the norm.

The “invisible hand” made seeking a profit into a moral act since it maximizes the profit for all (vi).  We find this attractive – that is, making the proverbial pie bigger – because it reduces the guilt we feel from being selfish.  But this is a good thing because it says that we have empathy and that there is more to human nature than self-interest.


i) Rational choice theory is synonymous with the rational actor model.

ii) Rational choice theory does find application to many optimizing problems.  But it has been used incorrectly by ideologues to explain how we make decisions and reason.

iii) If we adopt a worldview that uses the rational actor model, then we get trapped in narratives that place emphasis on self-interest.

iv) When there is more than one actor, limited resources, competition for benefits, and strategies for acting given the actions and strategies of others, then we are in the realm of game theory.

v) Disagreement happens because different worldviews have their own logic and rationality.  This means that objective truth has a frame of reference.

vi) It doesn’t matter what Adam Smith said only how it is remembered in simple and absolute terms and by way of metaphor.

Related Posts

Conception of Homo Economicus“: rational man was conceived by way of deductive reasoning and a few “self-evident” truths.

Destruction of Homo Economicus“: rationality from the Enlightenment leads to self-interest and there is no universal reason.

“Reasoning with Homo Economicus: teaching the self-righteous human self-awareness and that passions drive reason.

“Resurrection of Homo Economicus: the “invisible hand” promises wealth creation but costs go beyond typical externalities.


[1] Ariely, Dan. Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition. HarperCollins e-books.

[2] Barrett, Lisa Feldman. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. HMH Books.

[3] Damasio, Antonio R.. Descartes’ Error. Penguin Publishing Group.

[4] Foster, Peter. Why We Bite the Invisible Hand: The Psychology of Anti-Capitalism . Pleasaunce Press.

[5] Haidt, Jonathan. The Righteous Mind . Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[6] Kennedy, Gavin. Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth. Econ Journal Watch 6(2): 239–263.

[7] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics . University of Chicago Press.

[8] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[9] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.

[10] Madrick, Jeff. Seven Bad Ideas. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

[11] Mercier, Hugo. The Enigma of Reason. Harvard University Press.

[12] Pinker, Steven. Enlightenment Now. Penguin Publishing Group.

[13] Smith, Justin E. H.. Irrationality. Princeton University Press.

[14] Wikipedia on Rational Choice Theory.

Conception of Homo Economicus

We need to look at how economics, as portrayed in political discourse by way of simple narratives (i), is a fairy tale much like religion is.  To be fair, the field of economics is a science (ii) – assumptions are stated and predictions are made – but once ideas become repackaged as absolutes for use as rhetoric, as the “invisible hand” (v), then we must put them in their place, right next to religion.

Admittedly there is an aesthetic to economics – in its coherence and logic  – and I get why many economists are attracted to it.  But after looking at how deductive and assumption-laden neoclassical economics is, especially when presented formally, it is indeed a miracle that homo economicus (iii) survives at all.  Here, we will look at how its axioms create the rational man.

Types of Reasoning

It will be helpful to review the different types of reasoning we engage in before going any further.  When we make observations from our natural world to form more general conclusions, then we are reasoning inductively, and when we base our conclusions on reasoning alone without observation, then we are reasoning deductively.

In other words, deductive reasoning is to a philosopher as inductive reasoning is to a scientist.  In reality, we use both types of reasoning (iv) but a distinction is that deduction can work with claims that are not true but still be valid, as illustrated below.

  • All people are rational. [premise]
  • Jon is a person. [premise]
  • Therefore Jon is rational. [conclusion]

People can be rational, but if we know Jon, who can be irrational, then this conclusion can’t be true.  But it is still logically valid – that is, the conclusion follows from the premises.  This is how neoclassical economics works because they start with assumptions and then deduce models from it.  In fact, its appeal was because it claimed to be “completely axiomatized” akin to mathematics (see comment #2).

Axioms of Economics

Below are the three assumptions that the entire field is built upon, often referred to as axioms.  The first assumption says that “we have rational preferences” which means we can assign value to specific items or services.  More specifically, rational choice theory says that we pick outcomes that provide us with the greatest benefits and satisfaction given the choices available.

  1. we have rational preferences
  2. we maximize our utility
  3. we all have perfect information

The second assumption is that we “maximize our utility” or self-interest, which equates to rational choice theory defined above.  Note that as long as we consistently rank what choices are important, then the goals, which are based on our preferences and desires, can be anything per rational choice theory.

“Perfect information” means everyone has access to the same information on pricing and that we know our utility.  In conclusion, we have explained how the model for a rational actor works, known as homo economicusas it’s just a summary of the axioms.  To be succinct, it is a man that is consistently rational, self-interested, and who pursues his subjectively-defined ends optimally [6].


i) I am referring to the simplified version used for political discourse purposes, which are a series of myths and narratives; for example, “government intervention is always bad” and the market is “infinitely wise”.

ii) If assumptions are explicit and neoclassical economics attempts to make predictions, then it at least deserves to be in the category of science.  The question should always be how well does it do its job and not framed in absolute terms.

iiI) Homo economicus is a model for how man makes decisions regarding his needs and wants.  The exact definition is a human agent who is consistently rational, narrowly self-interested, and who pursues their subjectively-defined ends optimally.  [6]

iv) Actually, we reason neither deductively nor inductively but through inference.  In fact, deduction and induction are human inventions that just so happen to have utility.  There is no such thing as “universal logic.”

v) I have argued that the “invisible hand” is more of a rhetorical device to promote neoliberalism policies than it is an economic insight.  I don’t want to, however, give the impression that it has no value because economists have given it utility.

It can refer to the increased or created utility for both the buyer and seller after a voluntary exchange of goods or services as well as driving competition amongst firms to meet our needs for lower prices, which results in commoditization [2].


[1] Barrett, Lisa Feldman. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain. HMH Books.

[2] Frank, Robert H.. The Darwin Economy (p. 27). Princeton University Press.

[3] Kennedy, Gavin. Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth. Econ Journal Watch 6(2): 239–263.

[4] Lakoff, George. Moral Politics . University of Chicago Press.

[5] Lakoff, George. Philosophy In The Flesh.

[6] Lakoff, George. The Political Mind. Penguin Publishing Group.


Redacting the “Invisible Hand”

For those that still have their doubts, I have provided the details on how Adam Smith’s idea of the “invisible hand” was redacted and used in Paul Samuelson’s book titled “Economics” which was the beginning of neoclassical economics.

Although Adam Smith did not say that those that act selfishly always benefit society, this does not mean the neoclassical interpretation doesn’t have some value, which we will explore in the next post.  As a preview, it’s insightful but not magical.

Paul Samuelson’s Concoction 

Adam Smith only mentions the “invisible hand” once within the “Wealth of Nations”, and it can be found below verbatim.  The non-blue, bold portion is what was cherry-picked and used by Paul Samuelson.

But the annual revenue of every society is always precisely equal to the exchangeable value of the whole annual produce of its industry, or rather is precisely the same thing with that exchangeable value. As every individual, therefore, endeavours as much as he can both to employ his capital in the support of domestic industry, and so to direct that industry that its produce may be of the greatest value, every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was not part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good. It is an affectation, indeed, not very common among merchants, and very few words need be employed in dissuading them from it. [Book IV, Chapter II, paragraph IX of The Wealth of Nations.]

The bold above in the original text was redacted to form the excerpt below and was inserted in the textbook “Economics” by Paul A. Samuelson – the book that made economics a science.  It appears that the role of self-interest was exalted but at the cost of excluding the sentiment of sympathy.

If we look at the italics in blue from the original, then we see what was omitted, namely the idea of domestic preference, or a “home bias”, which is an expression of compassion and camaraderie.  Smith claims that England’s sympathy towards domestic interests – home bias – would trump any losses from not investing abroad.

Every individual endeavors to employ his capital so that its produce may be of greatest value. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own security, only his own gain. And he is in this led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention.  By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. [Economics by Paul Samuelson]

Now let’s read Paul Samuelson’s take on the “invisible hand” which can also be found in his textbook “Economics”.  This stands in stark contrast to what Adam Smith said and this could be what started the generalization that selfish behavior always leads to good outcomes and that government interference is always bad, or as Samuelson says “injurious”.

“The Wealth of Nations” (1776) , represents the beginning of modern economics or political economy-even he was so thrilled by the recognition of an order in the economic system that he proclaimed the mystical principle of the “invisible hand”: that each individual in pursuing his own selfish good was led, as if by an invisible hand, to achieve the best good of all, so that any interference with free competition by government was almost certain to be injurious[Economics by Paul Samuelson]


[1] Chomsky, Noam.

[2] Foster, Peter.  Biting the Invisible Hand: An Interview with Peter Foster.

[3] Foster, Peter. Why We Bite the Invisible Hand: The Psychology of Anti-Capitalism . Pleasaunce Press.

[4] Frank, Robert H.. The Darwin Economy. Princeton University Press.

[5] Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom . University of Chicago Press.

[6] Friedman, Milton. Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. HMH Books.

[7] Goodwin. Harris. Nelson.  Microeconomics in Context.  Fourth Edition.

[8] Kennedy, Gavin. Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand: From Metaphor to Myth. Econ Journal Watch 6(2): 239–263.

[9] Kennedy, Gavin. “A Reply to Daniel Klein on Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand”. Econ Journal Watch 6(3): 374–388.

[10] Klein, Daniel B. In “Adam Smith’s Invisible Hands: Comment on Gavin Kennedy”. Econ Journal Watch 6(2): 264–279.

[11] Klein, Daniel B. Economists Misplaced Faith in the Invisible Hand.

[12] Lucas, Brandon, Klein, Daniel B. In a Word or Two, Placed in the Middle: the Invisible Hand in Smith’s Tomes. George Mason University Department of Economics Research Paper No. 09-02

[13] Meeropol, Micheal. Another Distortion of Adam Smith: The Case of the “Invisible Hand”.  Research Gate.

[14] Optiz, Edman. Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand.

[15] Samuels, Warren J. Erasing the Invisible Hand . Cambridge University Press.

[16] Schlefer, Jonathan.  There Is No Invisible Hand.  Harvard Business Review.

[17] Schlefer, Jonathan.  Today’s Most Mischievous Misquotation.  Adam Smith did not mean what he is often made to say.  The Atlantic.

[18] Skousen, Mark. Adam Smith Reveals His (Invisible) Hand.  Foundation for Economic Education.

[19] Ullmann-Margalit, Edna.  The Invisible Hand and the Cunning of Reason.  The Johns Hopkins University Press.