Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

A subtle change has been made to the comments links, so they no longer pop up. Does this in any way help with the problem about comments not appearing on permalinked posts, readers?

Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Further ruminations on "if something's not worth doing, it's not worth doing well"

This always degenerates into a flamewar when I write it on CT[1], but I mean really, look at it. It's a random, but certainly not peripheral or nutpicked, example of an article in modern metaphysics & epistemology, on the subject of statements of the form:


Sue: "Bill could be in Boston"
Ted: "Actually, I just saw him board a flight to Houston"


Sue: "Oh. Then I was wrong".

Apparently it is very difficult to fit this sort of thing into a consistent logical framework. It's not a bad article, or even an uninteresting one - it's quite fascinating if you like logic puzzles and I do. But I mean really. "Oh, maybe I'm wrong then" - who doesn't understand that?

People who tackle problems like whether phrases like "Oh, maybe I'm wrong" imply that there are sentences whose truth conditions are indexical to a context of assessment, are, as a fact of sociology, some of the most prestigious and respected members of the profession and generally considered to be the most intelligent. Problems like this are considered to be the most important and difficult in philosophy.

People who think about questions like "Is war bad?", "Does life begin at conception?" or "Is it immoral to make workers redundant?", are much further down the food chain and often working in departments that don't even have "philosophy" in the title. Funny old world.

[1] Strangely, there is always an appreciative audience for material suggesting that economics has gone down a blind alley of pointless formalism, but when the same suggestion is made to the philosophers about their own subject, my gosh they don't like it. I think the original reference is in the Talmud, Bava Kama Chapter 5, "Rules Concerning a Goring Ox".

[2] "High theorists" in any subject are, of course, always given to arguing that their abstract methodological discussions are vital in forming the tools which can be used to work on practical problems. There are two responses to this, which are in the first, "No they aren't"[3], and in the second that high theorists certainly don't act or behave like support staff providing a secondary function to people doing the real work.

[3] "No", is imperfect here - the correct response, as the economist said to the philosopher, is a sweep underneath the chin with the fingertips.
45 comments this item posted by the management 3/25/2010 02:23:00 AM

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