Tuesday 22 March 2011

My method - same at Wittgenstein's


I have said some mean things about Wittgenstein, but am forced to admit that my method in this blog has been much the same as his.


From Culture and Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein (translated by Peter Winch)

"If I am thinking about a topic just for myself and not with a view to writing a book, I jump all round it; that is the only way of thinking that comes naturally to me.

"Forcing my thoughts into an ordered sequence is a torment for me. Is it even worth attempting now?

"I squander an unspeakable amount of effort making an arrangement of my thoughts which may have no value at all."

[from 1937]


"Each of the sentences I write is trying to say the whole thing, i.e. the same thing over and over again; it is as though they were all simply views of one object seen from different angles."


"One is constructive and picks up one stone after another, the other keeps taking hold of the same thing."

[From 1930]


This has not always been the case - most of my earlier writings have been theses of essay length; especially my scientific and polemical writings.

But I have been forced into this business of jumping-all-around political correctness, because I can't seem to 'get' it into a thesis.

Is this the nature of the subject (it is large: the entire world view of mainstream modern intellectual life in the West), or is it simply because I have not yet understood it?

At the moment, I am still not sure.

I shall just have to keep picking-up one piece after another until clarity strikes, or I am struck-down, or I get fed-up of the whole business...



The Crow said...

You may not yet have understood it, because there is - in fact - nothing to understand.
A sane man is never able to understand an insane man.
He may see insanity, recognize it as such, but never understand it.

You excel at reporting insanity.
That, in itself, is worthwhile.

a Finn said...

I have similar problem, and a couple of days ago I wrote about it. It seems that it is hard for me to limit my thoughts, to the extent that it is not easy for me to write e.g. a blog. It is easier to comment because the topic is prelimited, but I still often jump to other topics. Information barriers seem to me to be arbitrary and artificial. No wonder then that stifling PC barriers couldn't hold me. Perhaps the state apparatchiks reading this should study this, so that they can better manipulate and lie to people like me.

PC is a kaleidoscopic illusion, but the underlying principles producing the illusions are, without the countless functional details, simple. I am reading now about the birth of the cities. How did the first cities were born? Were they natural consequences of man's sociality and perhaps long accumulation of people to a certain place? Was it the pull of the marketplaces? Advantageous natural resources? Easily defended geographic places? Junctions of rivers and natural roads? Etc.

Well, no. Those had of course some varying influence, but the overriding principle was the coercive power of the military ruler, who created stable hierarchies, who made laws and rules, and enforced them, who taxed and appropriated wealth and land. People hated cities. Cities were filthy, disease-ridden and unmoral places, full of people they didn't want to be in contact with, especially in constant contact. People lived in reciprocal and trustworthy kinship communities/ villages. They had marketplaces and suitable division of labor. They already lived in propitious geographical places, whatever the particular combinations of advantages in each place were. They didn't want to be dominated, taxed, exploited and killed at will by some despot or tyrant. They didn't want to worship false idols, created by the rulers. Etc.

So the naked power principle was already there at the very beginning. PC is just the latest fashionable clothes the power is wearing.

Ephesians 2:1-2

(1) And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, (2) in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.


This is just our temporary home:


a Finn said...


The same more clearly: The rulers of the first cities had to coerce people to live in them.

Bruce Charlton said...

@A Finn "PC is a kaleidoscopic illusion, but the underlying principles producing the illusions are, without the countless functional details, simple."

I agree, but the simple principles have unfolded slowly, and with some reversals - until the latter decades when they have suddenly entered the new phase of PC where there have been apparent reversals of what seemed to be basic prinicples of modernity/ progressivism/ Liberalism - e.g previously dominant goals of equality of opportunity and equality of treatment have been abandoned in favour of group preferences (e.g. 'affirmative action') that are apparently intended to be permanent. The defense of 'freedom' and the open society have been abandoned and instead there is active promotion of (some of the) least-liberal and most intolerant groups.

So apparently-new things keep emerging from the basic principles.

a Finn said...

@ Charlton

I think those reversals are just a consequence of power's viewpoint shifting from national-centric to international-centric. And many of it's policies are very old in new forms:


I made a small extension to your clever silly -theory, concerning social sciences.


* People in social sciences compete with their IQ. In the hard sciences the requirements are fairly exact, but not so in the social sciences. Superficially this would seem to reduce it's competitiveness, because there are more possible niches of excellence. But counter to this, if a social scientist wants to show his superiority, he must produce considerably more complexity than his competitors, because small differences would not be visible at all. (He must also produce pseudo-mystic elements by adding unclear new words, strings of words and chapters; 10% of the content according to Foucault, if a social scientist wants to be taken seriously in France, 20% according to Bourdieu, but let's leave this aside).

* Thus, people in social sciences try to advertize their high IQ by producing maximum complexity they can, with a sound inner logic in their theories.

* But, by doing this, they are, so to speak, "in the end of their tether" of intelligence, and so they can't adequately analyze and predict the complex and countless interactions of factors in their theories; positive and negative externalities, and other comparable unintended consequences; sudden changes; sub- and/or suprafactors related to and implied by the factors in their theories, which produce substantial consequences; long term consequences of small or bigger factors inside or outside their theory; etc., and various combinations of these.

* These are of course hard to analyze and predict in and of themselves, but unnecessary complexity in social theories produced by IQ advertizing makes analyzing and prediction harder.

* This creates a tendency among social scientists to approach the state of advanced fairy tale teller. This creates a propensity for social theories to confound unnecessarily both social scientists and outsiders. This exacerbates the inclination to use the theories as self serving vehicles for social scientists. If the theory don't function properly or at all, but they have mystifying complexity cover to prevent others from seeing what entails from the theory, this increases the tendency to maximize the utility fast, as long as the influence of the faulty theory lasts.

Bruce Charlton said...

@aFinn- good ideas - I particularly like the 'end of tether' idea - that social scientists are at full stretch therefore unable to self-critique.

This reminded me of Thomas Sowell's Applied Economics - in which he deploys a technique used by one of his professors who who listen to a policy proposal and say "And then what will happen?", and keep repeating the question.

This is absolutely ruled-out by the one-step logic of public discourse, as if considering policy consequences was a monstrously heartless act.

And so we continually, repeatedly, increasingly subsidize undesirable behaviour - and as Sowell says in another place, when you subsize something you get more of it (and when you tax something you get less of it).