Sunday, July 12, 2009

Traveling the last mile with William Jones

[Greenspan's confession was seen by many for precisely what it was: a crisis of faith, the faith that unrestricted free markets would always act benevolently. It revealed what a few had been arguing for some time, that the character of neoliberal economics is essentially religious. This is counter-intuitive... Mark Blaug calls neoclassical economics "sick", a "soporific scholasticism" of mathematical formalism where the slogan "No reality, please, we're economists" rules. Equations prove free markets work, but only in a sterile world of mathematical abstraction that relies on ridiculous assumptions such as perfectly competitive markets. It is little surprise then that Jean-Philippe Bouchaud, writing in the journal Nature, calls for a "scientific revolution" in economics.
Once economics loses its status as science, its religious aspects become more obvious. Robert H Nelson has spent his career trying to show that
economics is religious in character. Praying for a revolution in economics
Greenspan's crisis of faith exposes the scientific veneer of economics for what it is, revealing what amounts to a religion Alex Andrews, Saturday 11 July 2009 14.00 BST]

[In his charming essay “Do You Believe in Reality?” in Pandora’s Hope, Latour recounts an encounter with a Brazilian scientist who posed a similar question to him at a private lunch. Voice quivering and hushed, the scientist asked “do you believe in reality?” Latour was flummoxed with the question in that it had never occurred to him that reality was something a person might not believe in, but also because, as he and his science studies colleagues understood it, the entire accomplishment of their research was to account for the realism of the sciences.
read on!While unapologetically affirming his realism in this essay, Latour’s strategy in responding to the troubled scientist is not to explain how we can have access to reality, but rather to analyze how we reached a point where it became possible to even ask this sort of question. In other words, what framework of thought allows such a question to be posed? Latour’s strategy, in short, is to investigate what sort of desire might motivate the epistemological question. What is it that leads philosophers to raise questions of knowledge? After all, in our day to day lives, both in the laboratory and in our ordinary dealings with the world, we seem to get along just fine without sophisticated epistemologies. Lest I be misunderstood, when I suggest that the laboratory scientist gets by just fine without a sophisticated epistemology, the emphasis here is on the word sophisticated. To be sure, the laboratory scientist raises all sorts of issues about the reliability of data, bias, double blind testing, etc., etc., etc.
Yet what we don’t find among the laboratory scientists is a pervasive anxiety that their mind might be thoroughly separated from the world. We do, however, find this pervasive anxiety among philosophers.
The Politics of Epistemology
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects]

[In other words, all human associations are already plunged into endless relations with nonhumans and these relations are necessary for any human relations whatsoever. It is through these endless debates among actors forming collectives– and actors are always both human and nonhuman –that truth comes to be produced. Where philosophical epistemology dreams of a silver bullet that would silence all debate, the object-oriented realist wants to increase the number of debates and uncertainties. Where philosophical epistemology wants to purify the two worlds of one another, formulating either a pure social world or a pure objective world, object-oriented ontology wants to multiply relations and assocations among human and nonhuman actors. Where philosophical epistemology aims at absolute certainty, object-oriented ontology argues for local certainties and the multiplication of uncertainties. The Politics of Epistemology
from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects]

[I would add that thinking critically should also include skepticism that it’s possible to produce clear definitions of fact and opinion that can be used to classify all truth propositions as being distinctly one or the other. I’d consider that na├»ve, “folk” epistemology. Re: Critical thinking?
Kepler on Fri 10 Jul 2009 09:43 AM PDT
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[Given one of our earlier long debates in which you were loath to admit that even the simplest possible observation statement was not a hopelessly indeterminate tangle of linguistic constructions, I’m surprised you’re appealing to such a simple conception of scientific realism (if not scientism) in your definition of fact... It’s the normal kind of skepticism most well educated people tend towards (although not most people associated with IY), and there’s nothing wrong with it. But it’s just as vulnerable to critical analysis of its underlying assumptions as any other – there is no privileged “critical” mental truth-perspective. Re: Critical Thinking?
Kepler on Fri 10 Jul 2009 03:28 PM PDT
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[I do agree about the problems of interactive written debate. The massive information conveyed by facial expressions and vocal tone are absent. When on top of it you've never even met the other person, the picture you infer of them from their intermittent bursts of written words may be highly inaccurate. Re: Critical Thinking?
Kepler on Sat 11 Jul 2009 06:54 AM PDT
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[Although the media has a social function, its really a pretty sterile intellectual environment. Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Re: Critical Thinking?
Tony Clifton on Sat 11 Jul 2009 10:28 AM PDT
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"MOTHER, what are the clouds made of? Why does the rain fall? Where does all the rain water go? What good does it do?"
Little William Jones was always asking questions... "Mother, what makes the wind blow?"
"Read, and you will know, my child."
"Who lives on the other side of the world?"
"Read, and you will know."
"Why is the sky so blue?"
"Read, and you will know."

All said and done, covering the last mile in epistemology will always mean a fascinating intellectual journey the way the little William Jones used to worry about ontological questions. [TNM]

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