Ktismatics

23 January 2010

Fear of Knowledge

Filed under: Culture, First Lines, Psychology — ktismatics @ 8:06 am

“On October 22, 1996, the New York Times ran an unusual front-page story. Entitled ‘Indian Tribes’ Creationists Thwart Archaeologists,’ it described a conflict that had arisen between two views of where Native American populations originated. According to the standard, extensively-confirmed archaeological account, humans first entered the Americans from Asia, crossing the Bering Strait some 10,000 years ago. By contrast, some Native American creation myths hold that native peoples have lived in the Americas ever since their ancestors first emerged onto the earth from a subterranean world of spirits.”

Is one of these two accounts true, or do they stem from two equally valid ways of knowing? Is the subterranean passage just as real for the traditional Zuni people as the Bering passage is for modern archaoeologists? Is it symptomatic of Western hegemony to impose its totalizing scientific worldview on every culture it encounters?

These are the sorts of questions that philosopher Paul Boghossian explores in Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism, a book recommended to me by someone whom a news reporter might describe as a reliable source. Boghossian systematically explores and critiques what he calls

“the doctrine of Equal Validity: “There are many radically different, yet ‘equally valid’ ways of knowing the world, with science being just one of them.”

Speaking personally, I accept and embrace the fact that there are many ways of knowing the world, including personal observation, interpersonal relationships, literature and film, and direct manipulation of the stuff that comprises the world. But I also privilege science as the closest thing to objective knowledge about the world that’s on offer. Psychology was my field of study in school. I did some training as a therapist, but mostly I learned how to conduct empirical research. Though its subject matter overlaps considerably with sociology and the humanities, the practice of academic psychology has more in common with biology and chemistry. Psychologists do science. Flights of theory and rhetoric are reserved for the superstars and the emeriti; everyone else is expected to stick closely to the data.

Scientists believe that they’re discovering truths about the world. Sure, they’ve heard of Kuhn: they’re aware that biases can affect results and funding and professional status. But human perception is biased too: that’s why you need carefully calibrated observational tools and  measurement instruments and data-analytic techniques. Good technique includes being aware of the biases that might affect your results and either eliminating, controlling, or compensating for them. Someone might come along after you’ve completed your study and identify another bias that you missed. So you try again, tightening up the methods, cleaning up the data, generating results that are just a little bit purer, a little closer to the ideal of objectivity.

I certainly didn’t learn about social constructivism in my graduate education. When eventually I did become exposed to this sort of thinking I regarded it as both insightful and intuitively obvious. Of course worldviews and moralities and tastes aren’t discovered; they’re created by people. And I also thought: that’s why science is so valuable — the method exposes and controls for sociocultural biases as well as perceptual and cognitive ones.

Boghossian, though, contends that the prevailing view in contemporary humanities and social sciences is that

“the truth of a belief is not a matter of how things stand with an ‘independently existing reality;’ and its rationality is not a matter of its approval by ‘transcendent procedures of rational assessment.’ …All knowledge, it is said, is socially dependent because all knowledge is socially constructed.”

Many if not most scientists would agree that they “construct” theories to explain their empirical findings, and that there is a “social” component to establishing consensus within the discipline about whether theory A is better than theory B. But that’s a far cry from saying that scientific knowledge itself is a social construct. Knowledge is discovered. Theories are constructed to explain this knowledge, but the adequacy and general acceptance of a theory always depends on whether that theory accounts adequately for reliable observations of the real world.

Maybe it’s because I trained and worked as a scientist that I find realist ontologies and epistemologies generally more persuasive than social constructivism when it comes to scientific knowledge about the world. Boghossian asserts that analytical philosophers tend also to subscribe to scientific realism, a contention confirmed by a recent survey of Anglophone philosophy departments. Presumably realism strikes a more radical chord among social scientists, humanities scholars, and continental philosophers.

Since part of what I’ve gotten out of blogging is a greater familiarity with just this crowd, I’ve felt more inclined to consider the arguments against realism than is my ordinary inclination. And I don’t deny my naivety regarding much of the sophisticated sociocultural theorizing that identifies systematic bias in the whole scientific enterprise. Still, when I read a book like Boghossian’s, even though it’s a work of philosophy rather than science, I feel like I’m in my element. Here’s the last paragraph:

“The intuitive view is that there is a way things are that is independent of human opinion, and that we are capable of arriving at belief about how things are that is objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective. Difficult as these notions may be, it is a mistake to think that recent philosophy has uncovered powerful reasons for rejecting them.”

It’s nicely done, Boghossian’s book. I’m not going to work through his arguments in favor of scientific realism, most of which I find persuasive. Perhaps the book’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t really explore the extent to which human empirical observations of the real might not correspond with or accurately represent or describe the real itself. For that matter, in my view the book doesn’t adequately describe or debunk the sort of epistemological stance whereby tradition or faith trumps empiricism and reason; e.g., where the Zuni genesis story is deemed true while the anthropologists’ story is false. These gaps are understandable, since Boghossian maintains a sharp focus on critiquing postmodern relativist hermeneutics. And the book is only 130 pages long, so it can’t cover everything.

That said, I still find constructivist theories of knowledge quite exotic when compared with scientific realism. So too with some of the more speculative variants of realism. I think they all have a prominent role to play in contemporary speculative fiction.

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81 Comments »

  1. For that matter, in my view the book doesn’t adequately describe or debunk the sort of epistemological stance whereby tradition or faith trumps empiricism and reason; e.g., where the Zuni genesis story is deemed true while the anthropologists’ story is false.

    Do you mean religious delusion, John?

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 3:08 am

  2. Well that’s another way of putting it, Jacques. I suspect that Boghossian sees no point in addressing the premodern worldview. Still, there is a sort of wrapping around from post to pre. It’s a fairly popular defense of traditional cosmogony that the observable regularities in the universe and the laws of physics may have operated differently before humans arrived on the scene; e.g., the half-life of carbon 14 might have been a lot shorter back then, the speed of light a lot faster, and so on, so that modern attempts to date the big bsng and the evolution of species are way off the mark. To me this would imply that the universe is run by an Evil Genius; to believers it’s the hand of a God who wants to keep arrogant fallen humans from becoming overly self-reliant in their darkened understanding. Meillassoux in After Finitude writes extensively about human interpretation of phenomena that occurred before humans evolved.

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 6:00 am

  3. I suspect that Boghossian sees no point in addressing the premodern worldview.

    Because anthropocentric, ethnocentric wishful thinking barely pretends to be a rational source of knowledge, I should imagine.

    It’s a fairly popular defense of traditional cosmogony that the observable regularities in the universe and the laws of physics may have operated differently before humans arrived on the scene

    If Young Earth Creationists want to furnish the scientific community with an non question-begging account of how negligible but nonetheless discernible alterations to the Planck mass (or whatever) over the course of billions of years lends credibility to Genesis then surely nothing’s stopping them.

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 6:20 am

  4. Premoderns can often muster a sound rational deductive logic for their position, but they want to keep their a prioris separate from empirical verification. God exists, God is omniscient and ever-truthful in his revelations, God revealed that he created the universe, therefore etc. etc. If empirical findings contradict the a prioris, then there must be something wrong with empiricism that can perhaps be explained rationally; e.g., the values of the universal constants have changed since the creation, human observational and inferential powers are often self-deceptive. Of course, believers can also assert that their own interpretations of God’s revelation might be at fault. So, e.g., what we mistakenly regarded as a historical account of the creation is actually a divinely inspired and inerrant poem, intended by God to be read allegorically rather than literally. God created the universe to be sure, but he provided no revelatory account of how and when he did the deed. Hermeneutically speaking, where there’s a will there’s a way.

    There is a common ground, wouldn’t you say Jacques, between young-earth creationists and those “strong correlationists” who assert that empirically-observable phenomena may bear no relation to the essence of a thing in itself?

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 7:07 am

  5. There is a common ground, wouldn’t you say Jacques, between young-earth creationists and those “strong correlationists” who assert that empirically-observable phenomena may bear no relation to the essence of a thing in itself?

    If by that you mean that Young Earth Creationism is necessarily antipathetic to scientific realism then no, because they do at least appreciate that if the Genesis account’s meant to be taken as literally true then there should be scientific evidence showing it to be the case, hence “Creation Science” in its various guises. The problem, for the very reasons you mention, is that YEC’s relationship to science is entirely opportunistic and thus contradictory.

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 7:42 am

  6. I agree about the opportunism. There’s a tendency even among non-religious people to use scientific findings as “proof texts” to support previously held positions. If the findings don’t turn out the way you want them to, then obviously there’s something wrong with the data collection methods or the data analysis.

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 8:19 am

  7. From the second sentence of a presentation by Ernst Laclau, linked at Larval Subjects:

    “Discourse theory is something which is embedded in ‘scientific’ – whatever that means – practice, which is the analysis of text: in the strict, narrow sense of the term it is a set of methodological rules for the analysis of text.”

    This isn’t a bad description of the sort of Biblical exegesis I learned “back there in seminary school.” Some of the postmodern evangelicals contend that a hermeneutic which regards Biblical text as empirical data to be analyzed is already a concession to the hegemony of modern science. Consequently they would disdain creation science as a pact with the devil so to speak.

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 8:47 am

  8. Sure, and one suspects that as Creation Science, Intelligent Design etc., as it comes to seen as an embarrassment even to its institutional and financial backers, will increasingly come to invoke ostensibly methodological, sub-Kuhnian antirealist arguments about “incommensurable paradigms” and how evolutionary biology is merely “normal science” constitutively blind to the revolutionary character of ID.

    Luckily for them, social constructivist scumbags from the field of Science and Technology Studies will be there to lend support, just as the Latourean Steve Fuller did during the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 9:24 am

  9. Oui, c’est ça, although “scumbag” may be a social construct rather than an intrinsic quality.

    “the Latourean Steve Fuller did during the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case.” Was this an argument to support teaching of creationism in parallel with evolution?

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 9:33 am

  10. The Wikipedia entry on the case is as good a source as any: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_Area_School_District

    Fuller’s a pretty vile character, but when it comes to respecting “indigenous forms of knowledge” he’s nothing less than consistent.

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 9:39 am

  11. From wikipedia: “Fuller memorably called for an “affirmative action” program for intelligent design, which did not win much favor with Judge Jones in his final decision.” That is pretty lame. I think that a bit of philosophy of science would be a good addition to classroom science, perhaps using creationism and intelligent design to illustrate the sort of practice that modern empirical science doesn’t engage in.

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 9:48 am

  12. Interesting and ironic that Fuller should think ID’s heuristic assumptions (“context of discovery”) should make it more intellectually respectable because they happen to have been shared by Isaac Newton. In truth, Newton’s (teleological) mechanistic assumptions didn’t survive the discoveries detailed in his Principia!

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 10:24 am

  13. Newton was an alchemist too, but as far as I know that’s not part of the standard curriculum either.

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 10:42 am

  14. Fuller writes: “Alchemy and phrenology are indeed part of the backstory of modern science, and had they enough practitioners or believers today, they would be worth trying to incorporate in the science curriculum to illustrate the context of discovery.” (http://www.michaelberube.com/index.php/weblog/comments/1210/)

    His fellow defense witness Professor Behe “admitted that his broadened definition of science, which encompasses ID, would also embrace astrology” (http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/12/and-a-shout-out.html).

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 11:01 am

  15. These subjects are taught at Hogwarts, are they not? Well there you are then, Jacques. I’ll have a look at the linked material later.

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 11:22 am

  16. As if to prove oxygen starvation at birth is no impediment to high academic office, here’s Professor Steve’s compelling argument for Intelligent Design: link

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 25 January 2010 @ 3:21 pm

  17. Fuller: “blahblahblahblah…” First he says that ID can provide an idealistic motivation for studying science, going beyond the lure of financial gain offered by applied science to the possibility of understanding the mind of the Creator himself. Then he contends that, since science is intelligible by humans, the universe must have been designed with eventual accessibility to human comprehension in mind. Then he says that working scientists like gene-mappers proceed as if the genome had been designed, with specific genes enabling the organism to achieve specific actions. Then he prophesies that Darwinism will fall out of favor in the scientific community and that a more design-based paradigm will succeed it. “At the end of the day” and “as it were,” Fuller presents himself as a true believer in ID.

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    Comment by john doyle — 25 January 2010 @ 7:51 pm

  18. But on the other hand (from a 1996 essay);

    [I]t may well turn out that more effective vehicles for the secularization of science [i.e. more effective than the sociology of science] will be found among the customized knowledges promoted by such New Age movements as homopathic [sic] medicine, parapsychology, dianetics, and (mirabile dictu!) Creation science.

    […]

    As governments continue to let market demand drive science policy […] scientific teams in search of funding will need to adapt their research goals to the interests of potential investors. This, in turn, will bring them closer to the kind of customized knowledge production that is characteristic of New Age movements: that is, they will gradually lose the universalist gloss of knowledge per se and become knowledge for specific constituencies.

    So it’s more a matter of whatever comes to hand for the purposes of diminishing science’s epistemic and political profile — New Age shit, Creationist lies, it doesn’t really matter. And this guy holds a professorship in sociology at one of the UK’s allegedly better universities!

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 26 January 2010 @ 3:22 am

  19. So to string the two quotes together: New Age is similar to Creation Sci in its responsiveness to investment capital — something which Fuller seems to renounce on universalist-glossy grounds in the video. However, there is a consistency in the sense that ID offers an intrinsically pragmatic ontology: things exist in order that the designer’s means might be achieved. In the everyday world the investor stands in for the creator, dictating the ends toward which the scientists should strive.

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    Comment by john doyle — 26 January 2010 @ 1:46 pm

  20. Careful, John, with talk like that he’ll piss on your grave.

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 26 January 2010 @ 3:13 pm

  21. Yikes! I wonder how often the word “asshole” appears in that comment string.

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    Comment by john doyle — 26 January 2010 @ 5:00 pm

  22. Eighteen in all, of which one was a “first class asshole”, one was a “first rate asshole” and one was a “complete fucking asshole”. As a self-styled leftist, Fuller must acknowledge this inequity and distribute them equally among his fellow Science Studies professionals.

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    Comment by Jacques Liverot — 26 January 2010 @ 6:30 pm

  23. Hi, John. This discussion is a favorite playground of mine. Like you, I was educated in the realist tradition and still find it congenial. But I’ve also taken on board a good deal of what some people call postmodern thinking. The result is something that now seems pretty close to American pragmatism, a la William James and Richard Rorty. More to the point for what I’m about to say, I am, by academic training, an anthropologist whose original specialization was Chinese popular religion. My dissertation on the symbolism of popular Daoist magic was based on a year and a half spent playing the sorcerer’s apprentice to a Taiwanese Daoist healer.

    Given this experience, it seems to me that most discussions of truth and/or belief I read are systematically biased by absolutist concepts of both truth and belief with their roots in Southwest Asian monotheism. Both assumed that failure to believe the one and only correct thing results in eternal damnation. In contrast, given polytheistic assumptions, it makes more sense to ask if some gods are more efficacious than others for the kind of problem you have in mind and if one or another ritual is the right way to approach them. The usual attitude is not one of absolute belief or absolute despair but a crude empiricism associated with a search for practical solutions. Science is seen, not as a radical break from religion, but a more reliable approach to finding a way that works. If it fails, try something else. The “discovery” that a lot of what people say is ambiguous and, at best, only partially the case is, like, “Doh.” It would be totally simple-minded to think anything else.

    That said, as I have sometimes speculated that monotheistic absolutism paved the way for modern science by creating the mind set in which scientists are not satisfied with what my dad used to call “good enough for government work.” Absolute, capital-T, Truth has played a vital role as the Holy Grail that people can chase forever. Now we are learning to be happy with closer and closer approximations that asymptotically approach the big-R Reality that is always just beyond our grasp. I can live with that.

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    Comment by John McCreery — 18 March 2010 @ 9:44 pm

    • So objective truth is an ideological/monotheological fiction to be discarded then, John? Presumably then including the very assertion that “objective truth is an ideological/monotheological fiction”.

      Funnily enough on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I’ll often tell people that there’s unassailable objective evidence to the effect that six million Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust, but on Tuesdays and Thursdays I will assert the complete opposite, maintaining that the gas chambers were an Allied fabrication designed to keep down a defeated but proud nation (this being a politically efficacious notion for the neofascist organizations for which I happen to work on a part-time basis, and if it’s politically good enough for them it’s epistemically sound enough for me!). Can’t think why, as a result, no-one can be bothered to take me seriously, but maybe it just goes to show how systematically biased the scholarly community is by absolutist concepts of truth!

      You, Steve Fuller and I should go out for a drink sometime, assuming that Steve isn’t too busy defending an elected school board’s inalienable right to instil nonsense in the children under its care.

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      Comment by dancing Wu Wu master — 19 March 2010 @ 5:00 am

      • Nope, objective truth is not an ideological construct. It is, however, an ideal that can only be approximated, never fully attained. What counts as a close enough approximation depends on context. Courts require “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Scientists accept “consistent with available data and better than any proposed alternative,” where “better” can be more detailed, more comprehensive, or simply more elegant. Aristotle said it best, in Book 1.3 of The Nichomachean Ethics,

        Our discussion will be adequate if it has as much clearness as the subject-matter admits of, for precision is not to be sought for alike in all discussions, any more than in all the products of the crafts. Now fine and just actions, which political science investigates, admit of much variety and fluctuation of opinion, so that they may be thought to exist only by convention, and not by nature. And goods also give rise to a similar fluctuation because they bring harm to many people; for before now men have been undone by reason of their wealth, and others by reason of their courage. We must be content, then, in speaking of such subjects and with such premisses to indicate the truth roughly and in outline, and in speaking about things which are only for the most part true and with premisses of the same kind to reach conclusions that are no better. In the same spirit, therefore, should each type of statement be received; for it is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs.

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        Comment by johnmccreery — 19 March 2010 @ 8:00 am

      • Funnily enough, I read something that was just like such an over-analyzed character as you portray (I know, I know, I’m using ‘portray’ in an off-center way, so it can set a fire if necessary), but surely you do realize that ‘hard won truths’, even when never found on the analyst’s couch, since that’s why one went to begin with (to be sure that the symptoms were all protected and kept intact, cannot possibly supersede practical prejudices at certain times? Such as when you are making sure the symptom is kept uncured indefinitely on the couch. Just because that is temporal doesn’t mean it doesn’t qualify as ‘hard won’ just because it’s unassailably true on certain days of the week and unassailably false on others.

        But that’s enough, the obsessiveness if surely ‘objective enough’, if not hard won exactly, in another’s eyes, and we do wish to provide you with commiserations at keeping up the fiction which you can’t resist, even as you do resist Holocause denial, and evidence that people may have really not known that, once logic reared its head, they may as well never have lived, since they knew nothing insubstantial throughout their wasted lives.

        In any case, they were unassailably dead, whether or not they had lived lives of sheerest ignorance.

        Okay, you’re clearly not a writer, so you need not take this as a polemic against your objectively enraged writing.

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        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 19 March 2010 @ 3:52 pm

  24. “absolutist concepts of both truth and belief with their roots in Southwest Asian monotheism.”

    My view is that Biblical Christianity prioritizes belief over truth. As you point out, John, it’s failure to believe aright that results in damnation, not failure to pursue truth. Both Judaism and Christianity conflate objective truth with socially-constructed truth. E.g., in the Garden of Eden the dominance of men over women is built right into the creation of men before women, and the rights of landlords over workers is established by Yahweh and company’s metaphysical, mystified dominance over the man and woman.

    It seems to me that the pragmatic value of discovering truths about the world, as well as the pragmatic value of ignoring truths for the sake of “going along with the flow,” precede both Judaism and Taoism.

    I agree that scientific practitioners often regard what they do in pragmatic and relativistic terms: does this method of discovery work better than that, does this hypothesis better account for the data than that, etc. But this pragmatism is directional and progressive and I suppose modernistic: more true is valued above “more different.” “Closer and closer approximations that asymptotically approach the big-R Reality” is a pretty good description of scientific realism as I’ve experienced it.

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    Comment by john doyle — 19 March 2010 @ 7:47 am

    • There is a wonderful moment in The Birth of the Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals in which Nietzche compares a scientist and a metaphysician to two men watching Salome perform the dance of the seven veils. The scientist is content to be tantalized as one veil after another is slowly lifted. The metaphysician is the boor in back shouting, “Take it all off! Now!”

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      Comment by johnmccreery — 19 March 2010 @ 8:05 am

  25. So presumably, even if the mystical bullshitter and/or practitioner of an Iron Age mythos are strangers to even the most rudimentary kinds of logical and evidentiary probity, we have no right to criticize their bizarre notions (notwithstanding the fact — to use your terminology — that they also aspire to “truth with a capital-‘T'”), because the kind of truth that lies beyond the cultural vagaries of opinion and pragmatically useful prejudice is always going to be hard won?

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    Comment by dancing Wu Wu master — 19 March 2010 @ 9:10 am

    • “because the kind of truth that lies beyond the cultural vagaries of opinion and pragmatically useful prejudice is always going to be hard won?”

      Yes.

      If you are going to do this acidic sort of phrasing, the OF COURSE the ‘hard won’ kind of truth beyond the cultural vagaries of opinion and pragmatically useful prejudice’, you have ‘no right to criticize their bizarre notions’, because you do not do it properly. as I was saying in my previous remark of loathing, there was a lawyer who advised his father-in-law on many issues of great social and political weight that he wouldn’t have known to tend to otherwise. Once his father-in-law became passionate and took action where before he had not cared a whit, the father-in-law got all the credit. The son-in-law didn’t think that this was at all fair, because it shouldn’t matter to the public his own devotion or not to causes such as Japanese internment in WWII (the son-in-law didn’t give a shit, but it didn’t look good for the firm, and the father-in-law hadn’t gotten it through his thick skull). Somehow, the father-in-law always got the hosannas, even though it hadn’t been his brainchild, and why, the son-in-law had NO idea how the public figured out why.

      This, of course, is what much analysis is for: It is to ensure that the ‘fear of knowledge’ is protected from the analysand’s own fear of it, who then sometimes mistakenly thinks of it as invisible to the public. But the public picks it up immediately, because the ‘cure’ is to make sure that the rage is never cured. If the ‘rage is never cured’, then the ‘fear of knowledge’, at least in one domain and in one individual, has been withdrawn from scrutiny. The analysand has been allowed to keep a modern and sophisticated version of the ‘primitive pre-logos’ life, which much btw, also not have even been even lived, it may have itself been fictional, seen the subject believed only fictions, they are given reality only by the smart logos man of the future, in which all their hopes and prayers had been surely fixed and merely misappropriated when they thought they were up to monotheism or even polytheism. Of course, in that form, the ‘primitive knowledge-fear’ was not yet in a diseased form. Modern science provides us with means to keep this fear of knowledge while superficially spouting only the most scintillating of sophistries (except, as noted, when the charm gambit doesn’t take: In that case, the word ‘scintillating’ does not come to mind.)

      “and if it’s politically good enough for them it’s epistemically sound enough for me!)”.

      Doubtful, you sound as though you are truly suffering from ‘the way the world works’, it’s much like the way religious organizations still can’t reason their way out of why drugs should be legalized, but they definitely know how to prevent them from being so done.

      “Can’t think why, as a result, no-one can be bothered to take me seriously, but maybe it just goes to show how systematically biased the scholarly community is by absolutist concepts of truth!”

      That doesn’t make any sense, so one assumes you are just ‘going crazy’, although it might just be what the lowbrows call ‘people skills deficiency’. All of your entries read like this, and it hasn’t occurred to you that you have to be more than ‘just factual’. That’s supposed to be enough, isn’t it? Well, someone I used to want to meet was very honest that he wasn’t ‘very social’, and that he ‘really didn’t think I’d be very impressed’. Well, funnily enough, that was almost more than I could take, given that he had a nice square jaw, wasn’t too fat, and had dappled dark-blonde hair. But he was right, I wouldn’t have been, and he may have quite the same difficulty you do in not realizing that ‘objective truth’ and ‘facts’, even if they incontrovertibly ARE such, are NOT ENOUGH.

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      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 19 March 2010 @ 4:15 pm

      • But we do understand how Steve Fuller’s position must sting. Not that we ‘objectively’ think he ought to have any power (and probably has little, it’s a minor school unless it gets pumped up with a little meth weekend here and there, otherwise suffers from Oxbridge-itis just like some who Think Infinitely (oh christ, and does she!), but then it really didn’t seem like Governor Scharzenegger would work out at first, did it? Why no, we could have never guessed he’d be a more than competent leader of the most populous and one of the most important states in the U.S. But he did, and without having to deploy ‘just-folks grammar’ and ‘backwoods anti-gay-marriage between-a-man-and-a-woman’ talk (which immediately made you think of him and Laura in bed, unfortunately), despite having come from an indisputably Brahmin Eastern family.

        Not that most of what you say is not worth paying attention to at some level, Wu Wu, it’s just that you say all of it in such a repulsive way that one hardly even wonders why you bother. Is it because you think an omission of one of your pedantries will lead to falling off the edge of the world (it’s flat, you know…and don’t argue with me, I KNOW…)

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        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 19 March 2010 @ 4:31 pm

    • Nope. You’ve built an argument on the basis of two utterly implausible constructions: (1) “the mystical bullshitter and/or practitioner of an Iron Age mythos are strangers to even the most rudimentary kinds of logical and evidentiary probity” and (2) “the kind of truth that lies beyond the cultural vagaries of opinion and pragmatically useful prejudice.”

      One of the first and most valuable findings of ethnographic research is that there are no peoples who spend all their time wandering around in a mystical haze. The base form of human thinking is a mix of crude empiricism, practical heuristics, and speculation to cover the gaps. Elementary kinds of logical and evidential probity are always present. The Trobriand gardener described by Malinowski in Coral Gardens and Their Magic is well aware that soil quality and preparation and the depth and spacing of what he plants affect his crop. He is also aware of factors, e.g. rainfall, over which he has no technical control and, being only human, he wants to know why his rivals gardens flourish while his don’t. The magic that is also part of his gardening practice provides what are, to him, plausible answers and, Malinowski observes, also has visible aesthetic effects that improve the Trobriand landscape and make gardening more fun. As I read Malinowski I find myself thinking that the Trobriand gardener’s magic is to his gardening what cheerleaders and the marching band are to a football game.

      On the other hand, one the dancing master posits a Truth that is Real in some sense that goes beyond community standards. I invite him to show me some. I will concede that mathematicians come close in fully formalized systems where the truth in question is an artifact of the axioms and the rules by which theorems are generated.

      Personally, however, I see no need to fall deeper into metaphysical quagmires. I am perfectly aware that scientific communities have rules that, in the best cases, ensure that experiments can be repeated by those who have no ax to grind concerning their outcome and that the results of research conducted in this way have dramatically improved our lives. I can agree with Pierre Bourdieu that it is possible to acknowledge that science is the product of certain places and certain moments in human history and, nonetheless, to find it worth defending, based on its results.

      Let’s think of this for a moment in the way that Noam Chomsky does in his first book on grammatical structures (the name, I’m afraid, has escaped me). Scientific method has, he says, been conceived as a Discovery or a Decision procedures. It is, however, an Evaluation procedure. To see the difference, approach the problem as an engineer would. Treat scientific method as a black box and examine inputs and outputs.

      In a Discovery procedure, evidence goes in, Truth comes out. We acquire this view of science in elementary school and have it reinforced by set piece experiments in chemistry and physics labs. There is, however, massive evidence, both ethnographic and historical, that science doesn’t really work this way.

      In a Decision procedure, there are two inputs, evidence and a theory, instead of one. The output is now a decision, Right or Wrong. But this, too, is not how actual science works.

      In an Evaluation procedures, there are at least three inputs, evidence at at least two competing theories. The output is a judgment that, given the evidence in hand, one theory is superior to the other. I should say “desired output” since in numerous famous cases (E.g., the question whether light is particles or waves) the evidence supports both theories. This is the way in which scientific progress actually occurs. Copernicus doesn’t replace Ptolemy; he shifts the center of what is still a system of perfect circles that still requires epicycles to account for the retrograde motion of planets from the Earth to the Sun. His solution is a somewhat simpler, mathematically more elegant system. Then Kepler comes along and substitutes ellipses for perfect circles; the system becomes more elegant still. Newton develops the law of gravity, which accounts for the ellipses. There remains, however, this odd apparent perturbation in the behavior of the planet Mercury. Einstein takes care of that with relativity and the postulate that the speed of light is a universal constant. Old theories aren’t thrown away. They are reconstructed and improved—so that, given the evidence in hand, the new theory looks like an improvement over the old one. But is any of these theories the last Word, Truth with a capital T. Not according to any serious physicist I know.

      Like

      Comment by John McCreery — 19 March 2010 @ 4:53 pm

      • On the other hand, one the dancing master posits a Truth that is Real in some sense that goes beyond community standards. I invite him to show me some. I will concede that mathematicians come close in fully formalized systems where the truth in question is an artifact of the axioms and the rules by which theorems are generated.

        Damn right, when I was in charge, unGerman science was removed forthwith from the university curriculum! Some historians might argue that German’s predilection for cultural relativism/constructivism subsequently tipped the balance in favour of catastrophic military defeat, but in any case it’s heartening to see India’s Hindu nationalist government transferring funds away from training in rootless, cosmopolitan science and medicine and into Vedic science instead! As anyone will tell you, their astrologers truly are world class.

        Now if you’ll excuse me I have Jews to liquidate and a Brahmin to consult.

        Like

        Comment by Hitler, A. — 20 March 2010 @ 4:47 am

      • I can see A.’s point. Leaving the capital T behind, are there small-t truths that aren’t just a matter of community agreement? In John McC’s example of the solar system, community is augmented by elegance, which is a formal aesthetic standard. But many complex and clunky theories do come to dominate simpler and more elegant ones within the scientific community, and many unpopular theories eventually prevail while others fall into oblivion.

        Call me old-fashioned, but I’d say that a scientific theory achieves acceptance among scientists to the extent that it best accounts for the material evidence provided by the world itself. Capital-T Truth is an idealist’s position; incremental improvements on smatt-t truths is the way science moves forward. To emphasize the smallness of the t is potentially to argue that any truth statement is equivalent to any other if it’s sufficiently elegant and achieves enough popularity — that there is no real truth-value improvement of a heliocentric solar system over a terracentric one, or evolutionary theory over new-earth creationism, or the “theory” that Nazis systematically exterminated Jews versus not. That’s the whole thrust of the Fear of Knowledge book: to recognize that there justifications for truth statements based on the real world. Or again to quote the last paragraph of the book:

        “The intuitive view is that there is a way things are that is independent of human opinion, and that we are capable of arriving at belief about how things are that is objectively reasonable, binding on anyone capable of appreciating the relevant evidence regardless of their social or cultural perspective.”

        I’d assert that most empirical scientists believe that they’re practicing a more disciplined and rigorous version of naive realism. Is it snowing right now? Look out the window and see. Consensus might come into play if I have something wrong with my eyes, but consensus is relevant to the extent that it confirms something in the world outside of our little intersubjective circle. As often as not, social consensus obstructs incremental improvement in small-t scientific truth practices, because tradition and politics and bias get in the way of seeing the world for what it is.

        Like

        Comment by john doyle — 20 March 2010 @ 9:02 am

  26. “Theories are constructed to explain this knowledge, but the adequacy and general acceptance of a theory always depends on whether that theory accounts adequately for reliable observations of the real world.”

    On the other hand, people seem to have the capacity to explain all the evidence as working in favor of their particular theories. Evidence is always subject to interpretation, no?

    Like

    Comment by Erdman — 19 March 2010 @ 10:52 am

  27. That’s how science works: by iterating between observation and explanation, the weaker theories are winnowed out and replaced by stronger theories. If two interpretations are offered, is there a way to pit them against each other by looking at the world? Do the two theories generate different predictions about what will be observed? This is what scientists do, over and over again, using well-documented and replicable methods that don’t depend on the subjective intuitions of the theorist or the observer.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 19 March 2010 @ 1:38 pm

    • “Well-documented and replicable methods”: Yes. “Don’t depend on the subjective intuitions of the theorist or the observer”: How do you know? The only empirical test I know is that a scholarly community agrees with the judgment that one theory is demonstrably superior to another.

      Also, if the relationships in question are simple enough, it may be possible to design experiments that are both well-documented and replicable. These, however, turn out to be relatively rare cases. I am persuaded by general systems theorists (see, for example, An Introduction to General Systems Thinking (Silver Anniversary Edition) (Paperback)~ Gerald M. Weinberg (Author)) that the world, like Gaul, can be divided into three parts. In one, the smallest part, simple mechanical explanations that lend themselves to classical experimentation work. In another, possibly larger part, probabilistic methods can be used to test the likelihood of error by comparing the theorist’s proposition to the null hypothesis that the data represent a random outcome. In what appears to be by far the largest part, we are in the domain of complexity, where neither simple mechanical explanations nor probabilistic methods yield adequate explanations and neither classical experiments nor statistical analysis based on properly random samples is possible.

      In the domain of complexity the usual human response is to tell stories and to test one story against another using methods that are usually neither well-documented nor replicable. The better documented cases allow both fictional detectives (Sherlock Holmes or Hercule Poirot, for example) and actual lawyers to build cases that judges and juries accept as true “beyond a reasonable doubt.” But to say in these cases that subjective judgments have been excluded is always problematic. Move on to things like narrative history and literary criticism and the notion of pure objectivity is risible.

      But reverting to where we started, what the sociologist of science or the anthropologist who studies magic observe is not the presence or absence of standards for evidence and inferential probity. What we find, instead, is a wide range of standards embraced by different communities with different interests and axes to grind. Some communities, those toward what we see as the harder end of the natural sciences, are distinguished by impressive results that have, no question about it, changed the world in significant ways. The pursuit of Truth with a capital T has, I believe, played a part in that success. But to recognize that requires neither the belief that any such Thing actually exists or, if it does, that any being less than an omniscient deity knows it.

      Like

      Comment by John McCreery — 20 March 2010 @ 11:43 pm

      • “In what appears to be by far the largest part, we are in the domain of complexity, where neither simple mechanical explanations nor probabilistic methods yield adequate explanations and neither classical experiments nor statistical analysis based on properly random samples is possible.”

        This is a question of choosing the right tool for the job, isn’t it? I agree that complex phenomena often demand complex investigative methods, complex data analyses, and complex theoretical constructs to account for the findings. That said, much scientific practice involves breaking up complexity into simpler components that are more tractable to systematic investigation. Eventually lab-based understandings have to be re-extrapolated back into real-world context, but the working assumption is that the big complex picture is comprised of many smaller and simpler pictures interacting with each other. The systems theorist will assert that the larger structures determine the components rather than vice versa, so that the lab-based simplification assumptions are just wrong. Partly it’s two different ways of telling stories I suppose, but I would expect that empirical criteria would still be relevant in evaluating the knowledge generated by a systems-theoretic description or model of some particular aspect of the world.

        Don’t get me wrong: I like a good story as much as the next guy. I also believe that narrative often beats science when it comes to providing a compelling interpretation of an event or a generating a motive to take action. The traditional story about how the Indians originally came up from under the ground may have served the culture well, and may have been more inspiring than the evolved-from-apes story. The evolutionary story pivoted on one of those legendary pardadigm shifts, but the big picture we have now has been assembled piece by piece in small increments, like most complex scientific stories.

        Regarding big-T Truth, the complexity of this blog’s comment structure doesn’t assure the correspondence of spatial and temporal sequence in following the thread. In my last response to comment #25 I said that I didn’t think big-T idealism was critical or even particularly relevant in scientific practice. I just took a walk and I can report to you that, during that walk, it was not snowing and the sun was shining. Is this small-t truth because it’s a trivial local observation, or is it big-T Truth because it’s a 100% accurate description of the world at a given place and time? Or is it just a story I’m telling you?

        Like

        Comment by john doyle — 21 March 2010 @ 8:57 am

      • The other thing that comes to mind is Carl’s recent post on Dead Voles about the Texas Board of Ed debates. Were the US’s incursions into Cuba, the Philippines, etc. best described as “expansionism” or “imperialism”? Was McCarthyism “justified” by the discovery of “communist infiltrators” into the federal government? One can regard these alternatives to teaching US history as different and equivalent ways of telling the story, such that the local TX majority gets to decide which story it likes better. Or is there some reliable and valid way of evaluating the relative accuracy, let alone the Truth, of these alternative stories that goes beyond local community standards? Or does it just come down to TX local culture versus multiculti standards: you say tomato, I say tomahto?

        Like

        Comment by john doyle — 21 March 2010 @ 9:27 am

  28. “but in any case it’s heartening to see India’s Hindu nationalist government transferring funds away from training in rootless, cosmopolitan science and medicine and into Vedic science instead!”

    What would I do without you, A., despite your desire to become a lecturer at a small college in London when the incumbent can’t publish ‘enough’? Because I was hoping I’d get a chance to report my last night’s dream, which has been the 6th or 7th in a series that has been occurring since I’ve been recovering from various mental inflammations, that has minor somatic effects for about a week.

    To wit, I both dreamed of strange cocksuckings in New Orleans which were not expecially fulfilling, and in which I was only a voyeur, which were followed by a phone conversation with my old highly -feminist yoga teacher from the 80s, who was schooled in the Vedas, the Uphanishads, was a professional Indian dancer of Bharatya Natyam (which she danced in the Texan style), believed in reincarnation, and told me I might consult a reincarnationist about something, with the caveat that he had been rumoured to be drinking too much in his recent career. She also tried to torture me at the one ashram I went to, so I punished her by talking to her husband about architectural detail on the Woolworth Tower, which he worked in until the company went out of business (as a connoisseur of this sort of thing, what we were discussing was the phenomenal way, in these modern times, in which the Woolworth Company had kept its headquarters in its original office…his wife gave me a deep look of suspicion–as I said, the public knows these things–because she thought that since she’d conceded that a ‘small angel’ protected Pumpkin Hollow Farm in the Berkshires and a ‘large angel’ protected New York City (or, in Cambridge whorebag parlance, a ‘raw=thah lahge angel’), that I ought to be satisfied. BUT…surely that was reason that the Woolworth Tower, only a block from the 9/11 attacks, went totally untouched by the terrorists, who had yet to realize that New York was at that point losing the ‘culture wars’ to L.A..

    But, I digress. In the dream, this venomous ball-buster told me that not only ‘do I have to admit, QoB, that I have gone from believing in the sanctity of Bosnian Muslims and have defected to the pro-Serb side’, but also, ‘I recommend that you get a circumcision’. I thanked her politely, apologized for the fact that a bad phone connection’s noise was making me have to ask her to repeat all these things several times, and then quietly said goodbye and god bless… She and her husband have an octagonal house which is very expensive and somehow tacky at the same time, and they have tried to eliminate cities and their parasites much like Pol Pot tried to eliminate me and Arpege. Her ‘guru’, a witch-looking creature I saw at the Theosophical Society a few days after the nightmare days at the ashram, told her to become a nurse at the ashram and give up her dance career, but she had already told me that ‘all ballet is totally mechanical and unspiritual’…except, perhaps, for Suzanne Farrell…I’m sure that helps you except the misappropriation of funds that India and other waking giants are now indulging in. But she hadn’t realized that I wouldn’t look str8 at the witch-looking guru, who was trying to give me the ‘evil eye’, and by then we were already back on the Upper East Side…I simply saw her as Lot’s Wife, and within months, was back with the Balanchinians again, although it did take perhaps 21 years to fully recover from the ashram experience, and the landlord deleted them from their apartment (which was in this building) in 1995. They had originally stolen it, which goes along with people who claimed to have been married in Vedic rituals, but had, in fact, not been able to go legal, because the first wife would not grant a divorce.

    Of secondary note, Mr. Hitler, this selfsame yoga teacher was made hysterical by my performance of the Boulez Second Sonata, she went around screaming ‘well, i know it’s not supposed to be enlightening, so I think I get it’.

    But the old witch-lady guru, who lied to prospective victime that they were going to ‘an artistic retreat’ and then treated them to a ‘labor reeducation camp’, which was accepted by the ones with less spine (even though this yoga teacher hailed from Boston), perished in 1999, or as the yogis say, ‘she left her physical body’. The old dame herself had put out a book about ‘angels and faeries’, and my dread yoga teacher told me she had seen them in the woods of the ashram. I asked her what colour they were, and she said ‘cerise’. But this was just the ‘faeries’, and does not account for the angels.

    Like

    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 20 March 2010 @ 11:02 am

    • My attention is distracted from dream analysis at present, but I believe there’s some rich ore to be mined here. I shall return.

      Like

      Comment by john doyle — 20 March 2010 @ 5:37 pm

    • Venomous ball-buster = Dejan.
      Circumcision = castration.
      Octagonal house = stop sign = warning against going to Dejan’s “house.”
      Her husband = “the other” at Dejan’s “house.”
      “eliminate me and Arpege” = eliminate/castrate you and Arpege.
      “witch-looking creature” = Dejan, who claims to be a witch.
      Much conflation between dreamstate and memory reports = recent turmoils remind you of certain bewitching yet oppressive times in your past.

      Like

      Comment by john doyle — 20 March 2010 @ 7:29 pm

      • Your generosity is always apparent, and now it’s even getting HOT, because the guts are showing more.

        “Octagonal house = stop sign = warning against going to Dejan’s “house.”
        Her husband = “the other” at Dejan’s “house.””

        First they should be put together.

        Then: Octagonal house = stop sign = warning against going to Dejan’s “house.”

        Maybe, but why would ‘octagonal’ be a stop sign? btw, the house also had only octagonal windows as well, and despite the expensiveness, did not seem particularly clean. It IS interesting that, when I went to live with Diane, whom the yoga teacher loathed because of her beauty (although her meanness was not such a great plus even so), she tried to tell me that Diane was a kind of ‘vampire’. That’s true, and God knows better value than she herself was as such. But there was little need for a stop sign to Dejan’s house at this point (he just goes on to the next ‘thingy’), although you might not have picked that up with a ‘material enough’ sign.

        “Her husband = “the other” at Dejan’s “house.””

        The two have only slight resemblance, as ‘the other at Dejan’s house’ does superlative work as long as I don’t do any at all, just hold down the lounge lizard position; the ashram-husband was extremely stupid and I only talked about the Woolworth Tower with him to piss his wife off, although I was genuinely interested in the building. He once showed a mild sense of humour when, before I knew he was a salesman for Woolworth’s, another neighbour asked me where he could get some nice wineglasses, and specifically if he should try Woolworth’s, and I said ‘Oh no, they sell coarse things’ and the ashram-Woolworth man laughed ‘Coarse things! Coarse things!’. After all, Dejan’s babysitter has specified himself as ‘hero, not criminal’ on at least one occasion. And, as Dejan has noted within the last 12 hours, he would be better off marrying a male-hormone-carrying woman than he would a man, so it looks like he’s accepted the reality of the victory of the Boulez. I mean, man, you should have seen this bitch going on about it, she who did this ‘whirling dervish’ dance to a Perfume New Age Bookstore recording called ‘Himalayan Waves’, or something Himalayan in any case. She was on the street, 4 years before I went to the ashram, writhing in pain from having heard this masterpiece, and it was more like “I mean it’s not SUPPOSED to be enlightening”, meaning she actually heard an intellectual truth in the music, and from here on in, it was the Bhagavad-Gita or bust. She had not in any way meant that she approved of its ‘not being enlightening’. She was trying to figure out a way of complimenting my playing while disapproving of all it represented. At the early-morning yoga class (I thought it would be SO much lovelier in the country, at one with Krishna’s universe, unlike on E. 53rd St., with the requisite old-lady farter), not everybody had come in at 5:30 a.m., I had, of course, because I hadn’t slept at all the night before, due to fear of having to get up at 5 a.m., so she said ‘and here are our guests. Welcome them…’ I nearly died. And one of these was the husband himself. We had to do ‘Om’ chanting at one point, and my memory of the way he pronounced it is straight out of Steve Martin–he pronounced it in pure American, like in ‘HOME’, hadn’t learned from the faeries that it was just this rounded thing, which you can use for good fellatio perhaps best of all. The way he said it, it might as well have been ‘back-in-boule’, as in ‘All of Me’.

        She had told me that I would love the ‘Rose’s Cabin’ I was to stay in, because of its view of the waterfall (admittedly this waa a very lovely waterfall, and I got under it…in my Balboa Bikini from International Male. She saw me in this, with my old Cassette Player playing Bowie on ‘Putting Out Fire With Gasoline’, and became furious, even though I was not late to the ‘karma-yoga’ painting I had to do, i.e., “i’m going to be very hard on you, QoB…” There was a Lesbian couple there with matching hairdos, and their sexual preference (listening, Anodyne?) was championed while faggotry was thought an abomination. It turned out that the ‘witch’ was a Lesbian as well as the other founders of this particular chapter of the Theosophical Society.

        Then this big opossum-like creature Dave plopped in at my ‘Rose’s Cabin’ front porch, where I was reading Joan Didion’s essay on the old Getty Villa (recently renovated, but I haven’t been there, the one I mentioned is closer in, the Villa is at Malibu) and some Robbe-Grillet. He just walked in without asking or knocking. After that, I told them that I’d have to stay in the central building the rest of the time, that I ‘had gotten spooked when he talked about the faeries in the blessed woods’. Once safely ensconced there, I played with my ass a lot and jerked off all I wanted. They had REFUSED to let Diane come with me, trying to break us up. The husband said ‘No, I don’t think we’d be inn-erested in that, we just waunt yo’ good energy’.

        Many other grotesque vulgarities on their part ensued throughout, and I was startled that I got back to Manhattan, driven by the ashram-husband. The ashram-yogi-teacher-wife had wanted to take piano lessons with me, but wouldn’t cut her nails, so I told her to forget it. A few days after I got back, Diane came down and we were laughing about something as we passed him, giving him his peremptory due, in his parked car, and he heard me say to Diane, who was in a state of hilarity ‘and he was just so incredibly smelly’, and then we walked over to the Hudson. When we got there, Diane said ‘Oh, I just LOVE the ocean!’ and I said ‘That’s not an ocean! That’s a river! You said that just to annoy me!’

        The ashram husband was from Denver, although he bears no resemblance to you at all, which is one of the reasons I had to insist upon the excellence of ‘Bonfire’. That business of ‘killing the city man’ is NO MYTH!

        My poor sister and friends had to hear ‘The Tale of the Ashram’ a thousand times over the next years, but ‘dejan’s house’ is probably not too much like the octagonal one, insofar as at least, they know what’s going on in theirs.

        The ashram-wife didn’t realize that I did not like her luxurious house any more than I liked that horrible cabin, but rather that at least the central headquarters, despite being manned by other Lesbians that went to work later for Mother Teresa, had lockable doors, and although they knew I played with my ass and prick, they could not prove it…materially…

        I so fooled them at the ashram, that on the way back in the car to Manhattan with the ‘husband’, he said ‘well, we waunt ya up there. We waunt you to be a part of us’. Had he not realized that, when I was packing my huge suitcases, that once he blew the horn at me to ‘hurry up’ and then dropped me with them in front of a Burger King around the corner, that surely the ‘party was over?’ The ashram-wife told me that ‘I don’t visit people’.

        Further note to A. regarding Brahmin anti-semitism, it goes more often like this example I once heard in a Park Avenue apartment: “Oh yes, Mrs. Gimbel [of the other big dept. store vs. Macy’s for many years: ‘Nobody but nobody undersells Gimbel’s]. No. I don’t know ‘er. I’ve met ‘er and spok’ng to ‘er…but I don’t KNOW her…” Everybody should have an Aunt-Luce, godmother to Artichoke and Anchovy.

        But I get the gist of part of it, John: I should stay in New York NO MATTER WHAT! After all, some one did actually write ‘we were just broke up that you didn’t join us’, and in that way there was an echo of the long-lost ashram husband, who gave in to the Lesbians, when he used to have a brief weekly safe haven during the week. He actually even enjoyed the Kiri TeKanawa cassette of English folksong I gave him, but it made the wife FURIOUS again! But it was an intern who wrote that ‘broke up’, so the ‘other’ may simply require long stretches of time to get all of the traces of the Ashram-husband species out of him just as you have!

        Like

        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 20 March 2010 @ 9:40 pm

  29. John, you filthy stinking fucking kike, might you be slyly suggesting, notwithstanding his claim not to have a theory of truth, that Rorty — erstwhile Pope of anglophone humanities PoMo — to the end of philosophically denigrating metaphysical theories of truth ironically wound up presupposing an alethiology that is nonetheless expressly “absolutist”; which is to say that even from the standpoint of an exclusively semantic theory of truth that truth is nevertheless something quite beyond human decision, opinion, or the desire that it be otherwise?

    If so, I think you might have under-appreciated the inner truth and greatness of the humanities graduate Herrenvolk, acknowledge your status as an enemy of the social studies Reich, and prepare to have your entire extended family hanged by the neck from piano wire for my sexual pleasure.

    Best wishes,

    A.

    Like

    Comment by Hitler, A. — 20 March 2010 @ 2:47 pm

    • I’m guessing that I’m the John in question, and that you, A., are responding to my last reply to comment #25. The threads get tangled sometimes. If so, then my response is yes to “truth is nevertheless something quite beyond human decision, opinion, or the desire that it be otherwise.” I also happen to believe the evidence that you’re dead, which should severely limit your ability to follow through on your promises toward me and mine.

      Like

      Comment by john doyle — 20 March 2010 @ 5:31 pm

      • I also happen to believe the evidence that you’re dead, which should severely limit your ability to follow through on your promises toward me and mine.

        Well if Nazi occulture teaches us anything, it’s a profound respect for indigenous forms of knowledge. Himmler (or Bruno Latour, as he’s perhaps better known) referred me to his Daoist healer, and apart from the occasional stiffness I’ve been right as rain ever since! Apparently he’s over a thousand years old, which followers put down to a regimen of gentle swordplay and coitus conservatus. Incredible, isn’t it?

        Now if you’ll excuse me I have homosexual prisoners to crucify and man coming round to sort out my Chi.

        Like

        Comment by Hitler, A. — 21 March 2010 @ 7:13 am

    • piano wire

      btw, while not interested in weekly corporate suck-blog reporting, despite the charm of unpaidness, I could definitely be coaxed to do enormous amounts of Cole Porter, Gershwin, Sondheim and all the usual fun things for a thousand dollars a week for at least 6 months, I mean, you gotta admit that’s not much for somebody who does not like foreign countries, especially non-Western ones (I mean I really don’t get off on ‘booming-economy-sensation’ when walking down a gook street). (I’m assuming this message could be gotten through to the Human Resources people through Steve Fuller, if no other way, even though I doubt you know any of the important people personally…). There was something very appealing about $1000 weekly salary and 5 USD haircuts, and by the time of my arrival, the cleansed sewage Wesson Oil problem might have been solved.

      Job must require that I wear dinner jacket and have a decadent men’s club atmosphere, somewhat like the Lotus Club in New York, or could even be a parvenu Claridge’s for people who couldn’t make it like Charles did with the Flyte family…While I would require an apartment consisting largely of other Caucasians, I wouldn’t need an ‘ai’ to look after children or pets…and so the occasional colonial would be okay, but no apartment sharing. The charm of an overpopulated country can only be enjoyed if one has one’s own wasted space. If there are any ‘otels like the Pierre who require world-weary cabaret playing, and the occasionaly ‘talked-song’ (meaning I cannot really sing terribly well), I would be interested as well, although this looms large only in the distant future of early 2011, after the book is properly fattened with Swiss cheese.

      Do not assume this means I will tolerate any living accommodations or salary requirements other than those specified. These are non-negotiable. I am not like adorable traxus, who misses that ‘booming economy sensation’ in the streets, but cannot really do ‘Night and Day’ to the taste of corrupt English men’s clubs, although I believe he did take piano lessons once upon a time…oh yes, one thing I have NO tolerance for is a requirement for ‘light classics’, which is sometimes expected of Malibu cocktail pianists, and often includes Saint-Saens ‘The Swan’ and Mozart’s ‘Turkish March’.

      I always told Diane that a job search must be a thing of joy and beauty, to which she required in a menopausal way that that was an appalling requirement, and that it’s supposed to be ‘miserable’. All the more reason you must never again confuse her with ‘The People’s Princess’, since I replied ‘YOU have a slave mentality!’

      Oh, but a job search conducted so hand-in-glove that it is presented in a cryptic resume some one full year before its execution is even required! Such wonder!

      Croyez, monsieur, de mes sentiments distingues,

      Butch S.

      Like

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 20 March 2010 @ 5:43 pm

      • Oh yes, as the hours pass, I see I was selling myself short, so that a realistic estimate should be $2000 per week, plus apartment provided, and maximum 2 1/2 months. That will provide novelty for the English trash and security for me both at home and abroad! After all, if you sublet your place too long here, they notice your absence, and threaten eviction…more than should be asked even if there is no other…and I do remember thinking that
        ‘—-‘s’ was a slip. I happen to like it like that, ‘the love for the other’s love’. Oh yes, very nice touch, that was. All I had to do was prove my essential Brahminism for all the mockery to stop!

        Like

        Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 20 March 2010 @ 10:53 pm

  30. “truth is nevertheless something quite beyond human decision, opinion, or the desire that it be otherwise?”

    Does that mean it cannot even be alluded to by human agents, including CIA operatives? I mean the first two parts…as for the third part, ‘the desire that it be otherwise’, is that indicative of an across-the-board castration complex (by whatever)? or just an analysand’s castration complex that his analyst sells him in form of maintenance in lieu of finishing his dissertation for him? (btw, I don’t think Brahmins, at least the ones I know, say ‘kike’ very freely, if at all.)

    Like

    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 20 March 2010 @ 5:09 pm

  31. “Now if you’ll excuse me I have homosexual prisoners to crucify and man coming round to sort out my Chi.”

    Will you crucify crudely? Because one homosexual just told an attractive Lesbian that he believed in both ‘love thy neighbor’ and ‘turn the other cheek’, but she something about how he couldn’t just, like, CHOOSE these attitudes in this fucked-up society (I think she meant ‘fucked-up society’. She might mean that you just are automatically forced to turn the other cheek by that SOCIETY! in that case, you could have crucified him anyway, but his alacrity will make it all the easier. With her, it will be more difficult, because she is a specialist at impressive contradictions, and is only part-homosexual.

    We have shortened our l-l-l-loathsome m-m-m-memoirs, because you have not paid up. If you have not sent your payment, will you please do so immediately, so that we do not have to ask for a deposit equal to two months billing?

    Like

    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 21 March 2010 @ 9:41 am

    • Actually, what I meant was that Christianity is a historical and material reality, first and foremost, rather than a set of airy precepts the meaning of which you get to personally determine at whim. So despite what the rhetoric might be surrounding Christian values, and however humanitarian some Christians may be, what’s important to look at in evaluating the political potential of Christianity is the actual actions of Christians throughout history.

      Christianity divorced from a historical materialist analysis is simply self-help. (Not that there’s anything wrong with self-help. But it’s important to recognize it for what it is…)

      Like

      Comment by anodyne lite — 22 March 2010 @ 4:02 pm

      • Hi Anodyne. Thanks for clarifying the enigma. It’s probably not the time and place to pursue this topic, but then again…

        The historical and material reality of Christianity has often been determined personally at whim, and has frequently taken the form of individual self-help of various forms. Max Weber made a good case that this individualized form of Christianity helped shape capitalism over the last 500 years. The moral majority types are a very recent phenomenon on the American political scene: until recently the fundamentalists regarded all politics as the work of the devil. But then there’s MLKJr’s Christianity, and Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s liberation theology, and any number of variants — “in my Father’s house are many mansions,” said Jesus. And of course in Eastern Europe we have the traditional link between the Orthodox Church and the Czar, side by side with the more Deleuzian variant that Dejan espouses.

        Like

        Comment by john doyle — 22 March 2010 @ 5:24 pm

      • Good points, all!

        It would be a very interesting discussion to have in less melodramatic (?) circumstances.

        Like

        Comment by anodyne lite — 23 March 2010 @ 12:56 pm

  32. With her, it will be more difficult, because she is a specialist at impressive contradictions, and is only part-homosexual.

    Whatever she is she’s working for Xanadu, apparently, and you sunk so low in your depravity that you’re COLLABORATING. Why don’t you just go ahead and cut it off and start rubbing it against Anodyne’s, will certainly get you further than raw chicken videos.

    Like

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 21 March 2010 @ 10:15 am

  33. Is this conversation getting offensive yet? Do I need to take corrective editorial action? I’m no longer completely clear about what’s under discussion, since it so remotely connects to me and to the topic at hand.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 21 March 2010 @ 11:02 am

  34. It probably is, but you never discipline A. Hitler all that much, no matter what he calls himself, and anyway his writing has become much less loathsome. I only find Dejan’s offensive, but then that’s just because I’m not going to get my concentration interrupted just because he’s jealous of something that isn’t even there, even if I once thought it was. As for what I wrote, it’s offensive I wrote so lengthily on your blog, but it was a long riff on your dream analysis, combined with A. Hitler’s other fal-flung behaviours on various ‘sites that suck’ blogs, which I’ve decided to let him get away with, even though he’s not being all that impressive. I don’t mind helping him work out his primitive fear of knowledge, and he’s certainly paying the wrong person! His shrink thinks it’s just find that he purchase license to indulge his offensive, socially-deficient qualities, whereas I have given him ample reason why it won’t hurt too much to correct these…as for Dejan, he’s your patient, I am through with him, but don’t care what he writes here: For one thing, it’s none of my business, for another I hate everything he writes everywhere–his writing makes it clear that he could never make it through a day of basic training in the armed services.

    Like

    Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 21 March 2010 @ 12:20 pm

    • In other words, Dejan thinks continuing to talk about the Nick Land business will get a rise out of me, but I’m not ashamed of it, I did like him, but it’s over. On the other hand, I did like what ‘NB’ wrote, as I said last night, whether or not it was a slip: He said a version of not ‘your love for the other’, but rather ‘your love for the other’s love’. That’s quite perfect, isn’t it? I doubt he meant it consciously, but if it was a slip, he can’t really argue it, and it’s possibly true that I misread thinking that I’d be entertaining him by telling him about Hadrian–which, or course, backfired on me, but only hurt Hadrian, it seems. For that, I have only myself to blame, as I should not have been using his difficulties to entertain someone who was hardly a ‘catch’ anyway.

      Like

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 21 March 2010 @ 12:27 pm

  35. That said, much scientific practice involves breaking up complexity into simpler components that are more tractable to systematic investigation. Eventually lab-based understandings have to be re-extrapolated back into real-world context, but the working assumption is that the big complex picture is comprised of many smaller and simpler pictures interacting with each other.

    Technically speaking, what you have just described is a a complicated system, one in which, if you have all of the smaller parts and you assemble them correctly, you achieve a predictable effect. Scientists who study complexity call complex systems complex precisely because they do not have this property. Examples include the human brain and immune system, the stock market, the Worldwide Web, the weather, and marching columns of army ants. In all these examples the interaction of similar elements in sufficiently large numbers results in a system such that it is in principle impossible to predict long-term behavior due to extreme sensitivity to initial conditions (See Melanie Mitchel (2009) Complexity: A Guided Tour for the evidence that backs up this rough summary of recent work in the field).

    The result of living in a world in which complex systems like those mentioned above are legion is that we are all pretty much in the situation of the Thanksgiving turkey used as an example by Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan. Every morning the turkey wakes up and the farmer brings food and feeds him. After a while, he can point to hundreds of days of perfectly consistent data to persuade himself that this is the way the world works. Then, the day before Thanksgiving, the farmer turns up with an ax.

    Does this mean that science is impossible? Of course not. Does it mean that science will never produce anything but partial understandings? Yes, it does. When you think about the big T in “Truth,” don’t forget the little one in “turkey.”

    Like

    Comment by John McCreery — 21 March 2010 @ 3:08 pm

    • I’m sorry but this is just drivel. What has the issue of the problem of induction (as illustrated by your turkey example) got to do with the practical difficulties of predicting outcomes in systems governed by deterministic chaos? And why — except for the purposes of setting up a straw man — do you associate the objective stance with implicit claims to either certainty or even full-blown omniscience? Believe it or not, those concepts are analytically quite distinct!

      Fritjof Capra clearly has a lot to answer for.

      Like

      Comment by dretske — 21 March 2010 @ 4:51 pm

      • Fritjof Capra is fluent in German, English, French, and Italian. I bet that’s more than Deepak Chopra can speak.

        Thank cod the Health Care Bill has been shoved up Republican ass. I don’t care if it’s imperfect. The U.S. is finally governing itself, and Pelosi is hot stuff. The stories about people getting their insurance (not those who don’t have any at all) when they got sick was just too fucking much. Obama has a real victory in this. Sorry off-topic, I know, but things aren’t as vile as they were, admit it. this may even be as important as truth with a capital ‘T’ (except for those not going fot the Kurzweil disk-life: I just finally took his tedious daily Newsletter off my email, and what a fucking relief), and definitely isn’t turkey with a small ‘t’. What a fuckin’ hoot of a discussion.

        Like

        Comment by quantity of butchness — 21 March 2010 @ 6:40 pm

  36. In other words, Dejan thinks continuing to talk about the Nick Land business will get a rise out of me, but I’m not ashamed of it, I did like him, but it’s over

    It’s not over, you see, because Nick Land is in fact Anodyne Lite. I wanted to tell you, but I didn’t want to hurt you, so I let you believe that it was all your paranoia.

    Like

    Comment by the voice of parodic reason — 21 March 2010 @ 5:57 pm

  37. I have to confess that I’ve not even followed Obama’s push to get the healthcare bill signed. Now that it seems imminent I need to see what’s survived the battles; how great are the distances between status quo and reform and Reform. Many of the state legislatures, being generally more conservative than the feds, are pushing bills that would exempt them from the reforms, so the battlefield will get more decentralized now.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 22 March 2010 @ 9:19 am

  38. I wonder if dretske could elaborate a bit on what constitutes “an objective stance.” If the claim amounts to nothing more than the existence of an external world from which evidence can be taken, we have nothing to quarrel about.

    Re the turkey and complexity: If the problem of induction demonstrates in a basic way that capital-T Truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, is beyond human grasp, the arguments from general systems and complexity science improve our understanding of why that is so. If we narrow our vision sufficiently and are not barking bad, we can agree on small truths — thus the success of experimental method in the rich but narrow band of reality to which it applies. But the cosmic issues that people usually have in mind when they run on about “Truth” in art, religion, politics, haute couture or haute cuisine? No way, Jose.

    Like

    Comment by John McCreery — 23 March 2010 @ 7:24 pm

    • Expounding on (what you take to be) scientific realism, and yet you clearly haven’t the foggiest notion of what the problem of induction (and therefore, presumably, any other core issue from epistemology or the philosophy of science) actually is: since all physical science — including said “sciences of complexity” — presuppose a concept of physical causality, how exactly would said “sciences of complexity” serve to elucidate the problem of induction more than any other species of scientific inquiry?

      You might have a certain talent for meeting the word count, but you haven’t a clue about the concepts or issues at hand.

      Like

      Comment by dretske — 23 March 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  39. Gee, I sure would like to know how you justify your conclusions. Muttering “presuppose physical causality” is, dear friend, teaching your granny to suck eggs. Bear in mind that you are talking to someone with a B.A. in philosophy (mostly logic and philosophy of science), a Ph.D. in anthropology, a fair string of publications, and a successful business career. If you have solved the problem of induction and can demonstrate absolute truths, please explain; I am all ears. Otherwise, endless and baseless ad hominem is tiresome, Oh, hell. Shut the fuck up.

    Like

    Comment by John McCreery — 23 March 2010 @ 9:14 pm

    • “Bear in mind that you are talking to someone with a B.A. in philosophy (mostly logic and philosophy of science), a Ph.D. in anthropology, a fair string of publications, and a successful business career.”

      LOL! Is your successful business career as a philosopher or is it on the same level to which you recently reduced haute couture and haute cuisine?

      Mikhail just told me he thinks Cicero may have composed, John. Did you see his post on philosophers who composed? It’s really good. But I don’t see why if he’s been deemed a ‘troll’ by such as Harman, he doesn’t go for their musical jugular, because Harman probably likes ‘The Sound of Music’ as much as Zizek.

      Like

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 23 March 2010 @ 11:32 pm

  40. Bear in mind that you are talking to someone with a B.A. in philosophy (mostly logic and philosophy of science

    And yet you’re blissfully unaware of the fact that when you object to someone “posit[ing] a Truth that is Real in some sense that goes beyond community standards,” and that you “invite [them] to show [you] some”, you’re upholding the notion that truth claims are inherently culturally relative, with all of the fatal paradoxes that position entails!

    a fair string of publications, and a successful business career

    And a bigger dick to boot, I presume. Are you entirely sure you aren’t Graham Harman?

    I genuinely hate to admit it, but Butch has the measure of you!

    Like

    Comment by dretske — 24 March 2010 @ 4:17 am

  41. It’s a bad sign when I wake up, see that there are three new comments on the blog, and think to myself “oh shit, what now?”

    The book about flagellation edited by Harman has arrived at the library, but there’s a blizzard going on so I doubt I’ll pick it up today. Perhaps I’ll finish Bertrand Russell’s Problems of Philosophy. Yesterday, coincidentally enough, I read his chapter on induction: succinct and lucid. I’ve also been gradually rereading Lolita, which Erdman recently posted on at his blog. What else? A less-than-promising novella by Terrence Holt, the mentor of Junot Diaz, whose Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was quite good.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 March 2010 @ 6:25 am

  42. On my morning walk I helped push some lady’s car out of a snowbank. Now maybe I’m ready for this.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 March 2010 @ 7:52 am

    • Didn’t somebody already say something on this thread, some parody of ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. In your case, it’s been taken to its logical conclusion: self-flagellation composed of Julie Andrews movies while improvising rhapsodies about Harman and Zizek, one’s comrades in Alpine Schlock. Zizek just seems sooooo ‘junior high’ sometimes.

      Like

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 24 March 2010 @ 11:14 am

  43. Sounds like a nice day, JohnD., except for the troll ptsd. Hear that dretske? Time to decide if you want to talk or you just want to pee on stuff. We will know the answer by your next comment and arrange our attention to you accordingly. Sweet Capra reference, by the way. No good idea survives vulgarization for the masses without significant signal degradation.

    Beyond the amusing rhetorical bluster, I don’t suppose anyone here actually has any trouble with the problem of induction, the problem of deduction, or the following problems of relativism/conventionalism. Induction creates unwarranted inferences of continuity, check. Deduction creates conceptual procrustean beds, check. Relativism eats its own tail, check. Conventionalism cannot escape its own horizons, check.

    Meanwhile, science does its thing and makes lights go on (but they might not the next time) and predicts hurricanes (not very well, but better than moss) and jiggers agriculture and health care to support increasingly large populations of humans with increasingly long lifespans (perhaps a net bad). Science which leaves the theodicies of Truth behind and therefore does not need to worry about inductive, deductive, relativist or conventionalist paradoxes, because it’s just about whether shit works or not, and at what robustness of reliability.

    It’s not like there’s a better option. We put our money down on a bad one and go.

    Like

    Comment by Carl — 24 March 2010 @ 8:44 am

  44. Hi Carl. Knowing your personal history in the troll wars and the Gramscian anarchism of the Voles, I infer tongue in cheek as you pronounce your opening remarks.

    “it’s just about whether shit works or not”

    I agree, if you go beyond making the lights work when you flip on the switch to making the theory of light work when you try to account for phenomena.

    As for systems theory, I think we’re all happy with any sort of methodological or theoretical advances that make science work better. Implying that systems theory constitutes a radical new way of discovering truths about complex phenomena inaccessible to reductionistic science seems hyperbolic. Science is robust and, as you observe, pragmatic: if it works, use it; if it doesn’t, throw it out. The question is: work how? Work to achieve community consensus or theoretical elegance? Work to get the trains running on time? Work to understand the complexities of reality?

    Oh, and did I mention that I have a minor in Systems Engineering?

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 March 2010 @ 9:25 am

    • Lol John, quite right, and did you like the royal ‘we’? I prefer the direct approach; diplomacy is plan B if plan A doesn’t work.

      I suppose it’s possible that the lights come on over and over when we flip the switch because we’ve finally found a perfect functional nexus of gods and invoking rituals. But aren’t gods best for explaining when expected things don’t happen? The challenge for the chaos/nonlinear sciences is to do better than Fortune, Fate or divine caprice at orienting us pragmatically toward situations that are neither random nor reducible to linear causality and prediction (at least within the current and foreseeable limits of our ability to compute variables and their interactions).

      Work how, and for what, seem like good questions. Did I mention that my first graduate research paper was on the Rand systems theorists of the Cold War, the ones (like Herman Kahn) Kubrick plays with in “Dr. Strangelove?”

      Like

      Comment by Carl — 24 March 2010 @ 12:23 pm

  45. Just because something hasn’t previously been predicted doesn’t mean that it’s unpredictable or non-deterministic. When Prigogine talks about emergent properties of a chemical reaction, he doesn’t mean that those properties came out of the blue but that they’re different from the properties of the components involved in the reaction. These emergent properties are fully determined by the initial conditions of the experiment, even if they couldn’t have been anticipated before the experiment was actually conducted.

    Rand systems theorists — I was recently involved in a discussion about Alain Enthoven: he’s an influential healthcare theorist who was one of the Rand military intelligence guys during the Vietnam era. I think it’s funny that “Rand” stands for “R and D.”

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 March 2010 @ 4:27 pm

  46. Just dropping in to say, John, it’s good to know you. Best wishes to you and your novel-writing daughter. But going around these old, familiar circles no longer seems productive to me. I’ll be happy to chat privately if you like. Bye for now.

    Like

    Comment by John McCreery — 24 March 2010 @ 5:23 pm

  47. Good to know you too, John, and thanks for your participation. I’ll see you around.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 24 March 2010 @ 5:44 pm

  48. John McC introduced his first comment on this thread thusly: “This discussion is a favorite playground of mine.” He signed off with this: “But going around these old, familiar circles no longer seems productive to me.”

    What happened in between? When does running around on the playground turn into an old familiar circle? When does play turn into an obstacle to productivity? Is production linear rather than circular? These are some of the thoughts that were going around in my head when I woke up this morning.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 25 March 2010 @ 4:38 am

  49. John D, John McC here. I couldn’t work out this morning how to turn off the email notifications from this list. As a result, your message wound up in my mailbox. Since you ask a thoughtful question, it deserves a thoughtful reply. My favorite playground is a place where I meet new people, make new friends, and sharpen my wits by debating interesting questions. Too often, alas, and this was one of those cases, I run into bullies with fixed opinions, who substitute invective and ad hominem attacks for rational conversation. I do not hope to change their habits. I can, however, avoid them.

    It is one of the bully’s favorite habits to assume that they know what someone is trying to say and to instantly dismiss it as nonsense. A conversation along the lines of, “Are you meaning to say X? If so, have you considered Y?” is a conversation worth having. Alas, I did not find it here. I am not, of course, talking about John D. I would be more than happy to continue our conversations, just not at a bar populated by others encountered here.

    Once again. Best wishes.

    Like

    Comment by John McCreery — 25 March 2010 @ 5:22 am

  50. Thanks, John. There are others who refuse to patronize this bar, or at least refuse to join in the conversation, for the same reasons you outline. Some have told me so, though none has done so publicly before you. Some who feel that they’re being bullied by people who push fixed opinions are the very ones whom others deem to be guilty of the same offenses. Some work/play best in a context of competitive hostility; others, in convivial collaboration.

    At Dead Voles the protocol is laissez-faire anarchism: anyone can say anything to anybody. At Ktismatics anyone can say anything about others’ writings and ideas, but personal attacks are discouraged/deleted. Other bars delete comments and/or ban commenters who for whatever reason don’t fit in with the atmosphere the barkeep is trying to maintain. Some people seem able to carry on good conversations at the bar while ignoring the people with whom they don’t get along; others either cannot or would rather not. And of course there are those who come around just to watch the fights. That’s just the nature of the online bar scene: if you don’t like this one, you can go to the one down the street. Or you can try again later and see if the atmosphere is more to your liking.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 25 March 2010 @ 6:08 am

    • At Dead Voles the protocol is laissez-faire anarchism: anyone can say anything to anybody. At Ktismatics anyone can say anything about others’ writings and ideas, but personal attacks are discouraged/deleted.

      There does seem to be a contradiction here, if this be the case, since John M. works at the ‘anarchism-mongering’ Dead Voles…

      Loved your immediate adoption of the bar scene. Of course, we’ve heard it before, but not ‘playground’. Bars are more immoral but less criminal, as only the latter encourage misbehaving with youngsters…Here, it’s just assumed you’re above the age of consent, so non-consensual rape among majors is about the only serious crime that might ensue.

      I can’t believe you actually had a blizzard out there. It’s early spring and delightfully so here, cool but not cold (as Deneuve says about her persona), and shoots of green and pink. I think ‘April is the cruellest month’ (I know it’s not, but this year it’s already like April early) is all for permanent melancholics and masochists. It’s only the cruellest because you don’t get to make it stay. Of course, it’s also very juvenile to like April the best, but of course I fit that category with oiled ease.

      Like

      Comment by Quantity of Butchness — 25 March 2010 @ 9:29 am

  51. “Bars are more immoral but less criminal, as only the latter encourage misbehaving with youngsters”

    LOL. But yes, the university and many businesses were closed due to the blizzard. The day before it was 70 degrees and sunny. March is the snowiest month in this part of Colorado, and also on the ski mountains.

    Like

    Comment by john doyle — 25 March 2010 @ 9:45 am


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