Last updated: July 28, 2019
Topic: LawIntelligence
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As I was considering on what major to take for
university, I was told by my Asian parents that it would be better for me to
earn a degree in economics rather than psychology. They said that economics is
an older discipline and would generate a higher quality of knowledge compared
to psychology. Well,  “quality” of
knowledge can never be accurately measured, but it can be indicated in relative
ways. For my parents, higher quality means greater monetary value.  But for me, it can be indicated by its
validity, reliability, and acceptability.  It is true that economics is older than
psychology, but it does not mean that one produces higher quality than the
other. Even though they both belong to human sciences and have the same
approaches, yet these academic disciplines have different outcomes in learning—
as a scholar would tend to use and develop more on their faith in economics,
while more on emotion in psychology. Hence, their historical duration cannot
accurately represent the quality of knowledge that they produce, as they cannot
be equally compared. Nevertheless, reason that develops through time does play
an important role in the progression of the knowledge that is produced by each.

Time allows one’s reason to develop, as more hypothesis to be tested, that
leads to new theories to be discovered and previous theories to be falsified as
well. Thus, the quality of knowledge produced by an academic discipline is not
directly proportional to the duration of historical development of that

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         If we look at economics from the
standpoint of evidentialism, economics would be considered as an irrational
academic discipline because it utilizes faith that would be based on
insufficient evidence. Over time, economics as a discipline has become less
reliable due to the production of unsound faith that has been ineffectively applied.

Today, economists predict economic events that are likely to occur in the future.

They make suggestions on how economies ought to be constructed or can be
improved. In doing so, economists are often unable to perform controlled
experiments because the data that they collect is a result of many variables
changing at the same time, which may be incomplete, immeasurable, and even
unreliable. As a result, hypothesis made by economics are made not based on
proper evidences and cannot simply be refuted through the course of time. Even
if it is invalid, it would be considered as truth and is used to build
theories. With that, even through the course of time, it would not be possible
to test whether an economic theory is valid or reliable due to lack of
sufficient evidence, hence the quality of knowledge produced by the discipline does
not necessarily increase over time. As an example, as a result of the 2008
financial crisis, many university economics departments received a notable
increase in students because they wanted to find out more about the crisis and
what could be done to prevent another one. (BBC News, 2016). Nevertheless, they
were disappointed because the discipline did not mention anything about the crisis.

It concentrated on economic models that ignored the booms and busts that they
had actually experienced themselves.  Students
claimed that the concepts taught were too theoretical and far-off from the
reality. Therefore, the discipline did not enhance the students’ faith towards
a particular economic principle, simply because the models and theories
explained has become irrelevant and needs to be adjusted according to the
recent economic events. This means that, throughout history, particular events
will occur in such a way that causes an academic discipline to undergo some
changes in order to adjust to the latest phenomena and maintain its reliability
and validity.  Hence, over time, the quality
of an academic discipline will not progress in a directly proportional way with
the duration of its historical development. 

Nevertheless, it is important to note that, from a
standpoint of compatabilism, faith is rational because faith and reason are
compatible with one another. This is supported by rational faith theory, which
states that knowledge that is obtained by faith can be supported by valid
evidences and argument based on previous simple experiences. Therefore, a
theory that is formed by faith still holds a certain level of truth that is
valid and considered as acceptable in the society. In economics, there still are
some fundamental economic theories that has stood through the course of time and
they are very unlikely to be falsified due to the fact that it is built upon
common sense, such as the law of supply and demand and opportunity costs. These
laws have universal validity in a sense that they have been successfully tested
over time.  Even though some theories may
seem to be irrelevant, economics has helped people to understand principles,
which can be used to describe and explain the modern economy. That is why,
economics, as a whole discipline, is still widely acceptable by the society. We
can see that from the fact that, today, economics is often regarded as an
important discipline as it continue to occupy a separate section of the
newspaper, a part of the television news, and regularly announced in the

Similarly, if we look at psychology from the
perspective of James-Lange theory in which emotions are considered to arise
from the conscious mind’s perception of the physiological condition, psychology
would also be considered as an irrational academic discipline because it relies
on observing people’s emotions that are often subjected to distorted perception
and biased reasoning. Over time, psychology as a discipline has been considered
as less reliable due to the utilization of emotions that are often too generalized
and cannot be objectively observed. Today, psychologists use the scientific
method to study the human behavior, which concerns on consciousness,
intelligence, memory, learning, and perception. In doing so, they are prone to
bias and applying the law of large numbers, which leads to many laws generated
in a probabilistic nature, and hence, inaccuracy. Consider the Myers-Briggs
Type Indicator as an example. According to Roman Kzrnaric, a philosopher,
retaking the personality test after a five week period will most likely obtain
a new personality result. (Medical Daily, 2017).  Hence, the results cannot be accurately
replicated. Without the certainty of having constant results, a method cannot
be considered as valid and reliable.  Furthermore,
after 30 years of research, Wharton organizational psychologist Adam Grant was
able to show that a person can be both a thinker and a feeler. In fact, most
thoughtful people also spend much time feeling emotion (Business Insider, 2014).

With that, it can be said that, throughout history, the knowledge that is
produced by an academic discipline may be exposed to its weaknesses and limitations,
which may influence our perception of its reliability and validity, leading to
more questions to be addressed.

Nevertheless, it is important to consider that,
from the standpoint of holism, although emotions of individuals are
unpredictable, the law of large numbers has enabled us to sometimes make
accurate predictions. William James, a famous experimental psychologist in the 19th
century, stated that “truths emerge from facts.. but.. the ‘facts ‘ themselves
are not true, they simply are”. (The Psychology Book, pg. 43)  He claimed that as psychology progresses,
“truths” are continually tested out against each other, which causes our
conscious beliefs that make up our emotions to keep changing. At the same time,
“old truths” are also modified and sometimes replaced by “new truths”. Yet,
this does not mean that the old truths are completely invalid. In his point of
view, there is an initial discovery in psychology that is fundamental and holds
the basis for every future psychological experiments conducted. He claimed “there
is but one indefectibly certain truth… the truth that the present phenomenon of
consciousness exists.”

The view that Williams James had about
consciousness did not just came out of the blue. In fact, in the mid 17th
century, Rene Descrates was one of the first philosphers that attempted to describe
consciousness. However, the first person accredited with the modern concept of
consciousness as an ongoing passage of individual perceptions is John Locke.

Later on,  in the 18th
century, Immanuel Kant proposed the concept of “unity of consciousness”, and
this influenced William James view on consciousness. William James’ view
shifted the focus of psychology as a discipline from questioning whether the
body and mind are separate entities to examining mental processes of the human
mind. As a result, today, psychology is generally accepted because it has
beneficially contributed to society, in terms of allowing mental illnesses to
be diagnosed and treated. With that, the duration of historical development has
allowed more experts to contribute to an academic discipline, which leads to
the progression in quality of knowledge produced.

conclusion, it is true that as an academic discipline develops over
time, there is a progression in the quality of knowledge produced. This can be
represented as a positive trend between time and quality of knowledge. Time
allows the reliability and variability of knowledge to be evaluated as more
discoveries are found through the contribution of more experts. This trend
should be represented in an exponential growth due to pragmatic shifts that
leads to more questions and uncertainty of the previous knowledge. Other than
that, the longer an academic discipline has been around, the easier for people
to accept it as truth.  This is because,
as time progresses, academic disciplines would be adjusted to the society’s
recent matters so that it can contribute to the society in a beneficial way. Hence,
the quality of knowledge produced by an academic displine is not neccesarily
directly proportional to the duration of that discipline.