Article Review: the Quantum Enigma and Islamic Sciences by Waleed El-Ansary Essay

The author tries to raise doubts on the validity of the approach taken by neoclassical economics in ‘The Theory of Choice’. The article criticizes the mono-utility function because it is unable to describe a situation with many rational values with a single end, which is the basic of Islamic Economy theory. Finally the article points to the Quantum Mechanics, to describe the relationship from many to one, and the reason why. Summary of the main points Two assumptions that neoclassical economics do that make the theory of exchange spiritually neutral

  1. It accommodates any instrumentally rational, or internally consistent, set of values or tastes.
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    2. Market exchange is compatible with a variety of ultimate ends. Most economists with religion affiliation accepted it and try to work within these assumptions. According to E. F. Schumacher, the objectives of human work are 1. To provide necessary and useful goods and services. 2. To enable every one of us to use and thereby perfect our gifts like good stewards 3.

    To do so in service to, and in cooperation with, others, so as to liberate ourselves from our inborn egocentricity.

The general body of neoclassical economics opposed this view, arguing that all types of works were homogeneous in terms of the second objective. The third objective was also opposed based on psychological hedonism, leaving only the first objective applicable to economics. The current generation of economist argue that the neoclassical theory can accommodates the spiritual objective of work, but according to the founding fathers, it was not for they explicitly defined the role of psychological hedonism in economic theory.

The neoclassical economists use the “Mono-utility function,” as a tool to analyse preferences & needs. It is an aggregate in which there are no qualitatively different needs and/or wants. In the consideration of the third objective, the mono-utility approach cannot fully differentiate the morality in the case of The Willingness to Ask (WTA) and Willingness to Pay (WTP) situation. Some economists suggest a “lexicographic” or sequential function involving multiple ends to accommodate moral choices, allowing higher priority ends to be fulfilled before lower priority ends.

But it is not feasible because it substitutes a single, spiritual end with a sequence of multiple independent ends. The ‘continuity’ of the mono-utility functions further denies the importance of lexicographic function. What can be considered is the ‘continuity’ is only appropriate for many neutral choices if applied locally rather than globally, such as those involving tastes. Multi-utility relation is important because it is required to describe that “willingness is not inspired by our desires alone, fundamentally it is inspired by the truth, and this is independent of the immediate interests”.

A few historians of economics claimed that the neoclassical replicated physics equations with a mono-utility function in economics equations in an attempt to impose a “unity of analytical tools”. The effort compromises economic analysis. Fortunately, Wolfgang Smith in his book The Quantum Enigma: Finding the Hidden Key, demonstrated that the reduction of quality to quantity does not even apply to the natural world, and also the human realm.

He demonstrated that pre modern scientist makes an equivalent distinction between physical and corporeal, which is crucial for the ontological basis of the multi-utility relation in Islamic economic theory. A mono-utility approach simply cannot accommodate qualitative differences in the corporeal realm, whereas both a lexicographic function and a multi-utility relation based on a hierarchy of spiritual and other needs can.

Thus a public policy based on the neoclassical understanding of preferences & taste, which is put into practise via the usage of mono-utility function will results in the failure of the policy and promotion of psychological hedonism instead of philosophical debate. Instead Islamic understanding of hierarchical levels of reality and integrated all of life around a Sacred Centre, is a better alternative which harmonize preferences, welfare, and choice. Strength The article is very comprehensive in its approach and well researched.

It explores the argument from its fundamental philosophical perspective, and uses the arguments brought forwards by distinguished personality such as E. F. Schumacher and Wolfgang Smith. The arguments that it brings is very abstract and theoretical, yet the author manage to explain it clearly and thoughtfully. The article also tries to argue from a neutral position without resorting too much into Islamist rhetoric, most probably because the audience of the paper is the general academics world.

Weakness There are very little new understandings or theory brought forward by the paper. What the author did was to compile the arguments from several different sources and put it up together in an easy to digest form. There are also a few attacks on the personality of the previous great figures in philosophy & economics which I feel that is inappropriate for paper of this stature. Whatever the arguments should be proven logically and academically rather than resorting to character assassination.

The argument of the paper on the importance of Quantum Theory to the economics also is not well developed. The author only uses one point from the book ‘The Quantum Enigma’, which does not proof that the theory is very relevant to the understanding of economics. Recommendation for further research To move forward is to come up with a mathematical hypothesis which uses the Quantum Theory, lexicographic function and a multi-utility relation based on a hierarchy of spiritual and other needs to demonstrate preferences and taste on a wide spectrum of human behaviour and actions.

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