Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Monthly Archives: December 2006

Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc

My attempt to place public pressure on myself not to blog during the holidays appears to be failing miserably. This failure places me, I think, in a particularly hopeless subset of resolution renegers: where most people will make new year’s resolutions, only to see their resolve falter at some point during the new year, I have now twice broken my resolution – and have yet to reach New Year’s Day…

I have, of course, been sorely tempted (surely everyone else who breaks a resolution does so willfully and in the complete absence of provocation… ;-P). But I ask you: who could maintain a vow of even temporary silence with LMagee in the background, lobbing provocative emails that positively beg to be publicly acknowledged and addressed.

First there was the labour of love involved in assembling the list of all the works we’ve read and discussed together this past year. What an appropriate thing for a period of year-end reflection! How could I not post it to the blog? And besides, that post required no new thinking, no novel problem-solving, no creativity on my part – surely that post didn’t count? So I posted – my rationalisations at the ready: see, even the title suggests that, in spite of appearances, this isn’t really a post – not deep down where it counts. In the text, I suggest that the entry should be interpreted, not as a post, but merely as an organisational update – oh, and don’t mind that bit of anecdotal window-dressing, which was simply tossed in for a bit of local colour, so the entry wouldn’t be so dry… I then use some sleight of hand to qualify my original resolution – ex post facto, one might say – suggesting that I had only ever intended to declare a hiatus on something I now called “serious blogging”…

But now I must surrender even this pretence. And, once again, LM is to blame. Last night LM sent me the most extraordinary email – all innocence and light:

Hope you have a lovely new year’s eve, with as little distraction from Hegel as possible (although it will be the bicentennial of the Phenomenology, as far as I can tell).

What a deliciously underhanded, self-undermining directive – evoking such flagrant historical symbolism (of which I otherwise would have been completely unaware) in the guise of insisting that I ignore it and enjoy my break. By this morning, my resolution reduced to a mere flinch of embarrassment, I suggested to LM that perhaps serious blogging wasn’t completely ruled out during this period – although this would, of course, break with the established order in which we had agreed to conduct our online reading group discussions. Scenting weakness, and not willing to let me off so lightly, LM followed up with:

And of course, with the sounds of fireworks vaguely reminiscent of Napoleon’s cannons at the battle of Jena, just as the Phenomenology was being completed, what time could be more apposite than New Year’s Eve for posting on Hegel?

How delightful – and, whether intended this way or not, what a lovely tacit critique of the comparative comfort in which we currently reflect on these issues.

In any event: in honour of LM’s self-deprecating (and, often, just plain deprecating… ;-P) sense of irony, I’ll write something on the preface to the Phenomenology today – and queue the post to appear at the stroke of midnight, Melbourne time… My post, I should flag, will likely be rather bad: there is a reason I had originally not intended to write on Phenomenology until late January… Hegel tells us:

We may rest assured that it is the nature of truth to force its way to recognition when the time comes, and that it only appears when its time has come, and hence never appears too soon, and never finds a public that is not ripe to receive it. And, further, we may be sure that the individual thinker requires this result to take place, in order to give him confidence in regard to what is no more as yet than a matter for himself singly and alone, and in order to find his assurance, which in the first instance merely belongs to a particular individual, realized as something universal.

If we are to take this seriously at all, I fear we’re forced to suspect that – with no truth I can identify attempting to force its way into my recognition at the moment – my midnight mutterings might best be drowned out by the Melbourne firework displays… It’s not for the symbolism alone that I’ll schedule the post to go up at a delay… ;-P

Still, regardless of the actual value of its content, LM might still be well-advised to savour this post. For apparently our small reading group has recently garnered unexpected and august attention – attention that admires the concept, but finds our implementation to be somewhat… base and common – ripe for improvement by just the right sort… I have therefore been approached – on the sly, as it were, so do please keep this information between ourselves – to join a newly-forming Reading Supergroup (“invitation only”, I am told), in which I would apparently be exposed to heights of intellectual virtuosity without precedent in my hitherto thwarted intellectual development.

As tempting as this sounds, I find myself quite happy with my current reading group, and confused as to the benefits to be found in seeking out another. I shared my confusion with LM, who originally thought I might be worried about the perception of conflicting loyalties, and graciously gave me permission to attend as many reading groups as I like… :-) LM even suggested that our reading group might benefit from my participation in other groups, as a sort of double agent or reading group sleeper:

You have my consent and blessings to participate in a rival reading group. In fact I think this would be useful as an effort to conduct a form of reading group espionage. I am concerned of course that our reading group efforts could be plagiarised by what could eventually be numerous other […] reading groups (all so-called “invitation only”). I can foresee that, left unchecked, there will also be many parasitic blogs developed, leeching the content from our primordial foundry of criticism. There may even eventuate reading groups for ARC projects, set up solely for the purpose of reading materials actually related to the projects themselves (although this does seem at the limits of speculative reason). I fear without proper corrective measures the pristine and pure objectives our group will thus be corrupted by these derivative organisations, which seem grow virus-like from our original cell. The possibilities for being “unpopular” only hint at what to me seem the logical organic development here: of bitter rivalries, jealousies, factionalism, vituperative cross-postings and derailments of careers, as groups compete for what scant prestige exists in the modern academic world…

In any case, I’ll see you Wednesday. Perhaps we can discuss these dire implications further then.

When I protested that I have no desire to participate in a rival reading group – whatever important intelligence I might gather – LM volunteered an analytic perspective:

I think in psychoanalytic terms it must be admitted that your desire, far from being non-existent, has been sublimated and repressed, requiring a form of coercion to encourage its realisation. Your superiors no doubt recognise this and are merely interceding on your behalf…

While it does sometimes appear that certain persons have come to such a conclusion, and oriented their actions accordingly, I must say that I find myself… resisting this interpretation… Crass attempts at coercion seem quite consistently to result in the opposite of their intended effect. No: it takes something much more nefarious to provoke me to action against my will – something, perhaps, like sly references to events that resonate with the potentials of the historical moment… Tell me how some Supergroup will be as able to satisfy that desire… ;-P

But the countdown to the new year approaches – all too soon the fireworks will begin to fall, and I have a bad post on Hegel to write! Happy New Year’s Eve to everyone! And may you all find more success in keeping your resolutions than I have done (and as much joy as I’ve found in breaking them… ;-P)!

This Is Not a Post

Magritte's PipeStill intending on maintaining my holiday blogging hiatus, but wanted to post some organisational updates for the reading group in the new year, and couldn’t resist tossing up a bit of ephemera while I was at the keyboard…

On the ephemera side of the equation: my favourite coffeeshop, where I often spend my mornings reading and writing, is blissfully empty at this time of year. I think the place is open only because the owner is remodelling the kitchen (and fretting over how to minimise the damage the remodel will inevitably wreak on the accumulated layers of informal and formal artwork that cover every surface). At least at the times I frequent the place, I seem to be their only customer (which has caused me to wonder whether they appreciate the custom, or whether it’s just a nuisance for them to have to prepare coffee for one person…).

Today, however, another hopeful soul – not a regular – happened upon the place and, since the establishment doubles as a pub, ordered a beer before absorbing that the environment presented no easy options for companionship. Forced to settle on me by default, he attempted a faux-casual approach to my table. I registered his intention out of the corner of my eye and, not desiring company, tried to make a great show of concentrating on Hegel. Alas, my tactic was unsuccessful, and I ended up having to rebuff the man explicitly, provoking some apparent confusion as to why Phenomenology should offer better company… (If you have to ask, etc…. ;-P)

The incident reminded me of when I was researching in Paris, where over time I became quite irritated at people’s tendency to assume that, because I was unaccompanied, I must necessarily want company – even when I was obviously absorbed in some task. I eventually took to carrying a copy of Durkheim’s Suicide with me any time I intended to work in a public space. I found that a prominently displayed copy of a work with that title was sufficient to deter most approaches with nary a word exchanged (although I observed some truly priceless facial expressions as people suddenly decided that they really didn’t want to initiate a conversation, after all…). The few hardy persons who persisted in approaching generally attempted to use the book as their initial point of contact: “What’s that book about?” they would ask. This opened the way for me to reply, “It’s a work that shows how social integration can cause people to kill themselves…” That response usually worked nicely to ensure my privacy. (I’m loads of fun in person, let me tell you… ;-P)

At any rate, in terms of reading group signposts for the next several weeks:

LMagee is waiting not-so-patiently for a discussion of the follow-up to the initial post on the Derrida-Searle debate. Because I’ve somewhat unilaterally called off my own serious blogging for a bit, LM is holding off publication of the piece until the middle of next week (thereby tacitly giving me a deadline for rejoining serious public discussion… ;-P).

I’ve invited a Mystery Guest Blogger to perhaps introduce a discussion on Lakoff and Pinker – no firm commitment yet, but I’m very much hoping this arrangement will work out. I’ll withhold further details until we know for certain.

Unless others are eager to step into the breach (someone? anyone?), I’ll likely write something on the preface to Phenomenology of Spirit, as the inaugural reading group post on that work, some time in mid-to-late January.

While I am looking forward to what the reading group will be reading and discussing, LM seems to be in a more nostalgic mood, and has compiled an impressive-looking bibliography documenting what we have already achieved (perhaps LM has been reading Spurious… ;-P). LM’s bibliography of works read since we formed (in case anyone was curious) is pasted below. Links to the discussions on many of these works, to the readings that are available online, and to various additional, “non-core” readings associated with the reading group discussions, can be found in the entries within the Reading Group category.

Chomsky, N., (2002), Syntactic Structures, Walter de Gruyter.

Chomsky, N., (2006), Language and Mind, Cambridge University Press.

Derrida, J., (1988), Limited Inc., Northwestern University Press Evanston, IL.

Fitch, W.T. and Hauser, M.D. and Chomsky, N., (2005), “The evolution of the language faculty: clarifications and implications”.

Hacking, I., (2002), Historical ontology, Harvard University Press Cambridge, Mass.

Hauser, M.D. and Chomsky, N. and Fitch, W., (2002), “The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?”

Jackendoff, R. and Pinker, S., (2005), “The nature of the language faculty and its implications for evolution of language (Reply to Fitch, Hauser, and Chomsky)” Cognition 97.

Lakoff, G. and Johnson, M., (1980), Metaphors we live by, University of Chicago Press Chicago.

Pinker, S., (1995), The Language Instinct, HarperPerennial.

Pinker, S. & Jackendoff, R. (2005) “The Faculty of Language: What’s Special about It?” Cognition 95.

Saussure, F. and others, (1966), Course in general linguistics, McGraw-Hill New York.

Searle, J.R., (1977?), “Reiterating the Differences: A Reply to Derrida” Glyph II.

Weber, M., (1946), “Science as a Vocation”, Oxford University Press.

Whorf, B.L. and Carroll, J.B., (1956), Language, thought and reality: selected writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf, MIT Press.

Wittgenstein, L., (1999), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Dover Publications.

Wittgenstein, L., (1967), Philosophical investigations, Blackwell Oxford.

[Note: image modified from the one hosted at Wikipedia – please see the Wikipedia page for information.]

Holiday Hiatus

Taking a brief holiday break from blogging – mainly to try to consolidate some of what I’ve been thinking and writing in various contexts recently, into a less gestural and perhaps more useful form…

I couldn’t resist reproducing the recently uncovered Tennessee Williams’ poem – not as a reflection, I should stress, of my mood in any general sense, but as something that resonated a bit with my desire to withdraw – briefly – from public discussion, until I can gather a few fragmentary thoughts into a more meaningful form…

I am tired.
I am tired of speech and of action.
If you should meet me upon the
street do not question me for
I can tell you only my name
and the name of the town I was
born in-but that is enough.
It does not matter whether tomorrow
arrives anymore. If there is
only this night and after it is
morning it will not matter now.
I am tired. I am tired of speech
and of action. In the heart of me
you will find a tiny handful of
dust. Take it and blow it out
upon the wind. Let the wind have
it and it will find its way home.

Thanks to everyone who has challenged me to think more creatively and rigorously this year – it’s been an exciting and draining and incredibly productive time.

See folks again in the new year…

The Weakness of Strong Ties

The issue of how bounded our personal and professional networks can be, and how this affects our ability to empathise and communicate across networks, seems to be in the academic air a bit at the moment – perhaps because so many conferences are both reconstituting and – hopefully – stretching established networks a bit this time of year.

Sinthome from Larval Subjects wrote an extended reflection on the elements of perception and thought that structure our individual and collective receptiveness to communication with those who don’t share similar identifications, and asked about the possibility for effective political discussion, given this predisposition not to be able to hear the potential logic of competing views. The result of communities organised around shared identifications, Sinthome suggests, is a strange combination of absolutism in thought, and extreme relativism in practice, resulting from the failure of all groups to acknowledge a sufficient common universe of referrents to enable productive cross-group discussion. Sinthome argues:

It is not that someone has deviously adopted a philosophical position of postmodernism wherein there is no ultimate reality, but rather that we are living in a postmodern situation. When I argue with my friend that is a staunch supporter of the war, we literally live in different realities or “universes of reference” by virtue of how our subjectivities are structured transferentially. For this reason, we are unable to use “actual reality” to decide the truth or falsity of contested propositions. Rather, our universes of reference (hence the plural) have become self-referential by virtue of what we recognize as a credible authority….

Grounds become matters of individual preferences and the savvy consumer shops around for those grounds that most suit his taste. I get my news from NPR and dismiss FOX, while you get your news from FOX and dismiss NPR. This is one of the meanings of Lacan’s aphorism that the big Other does not exist. What seems different today is that where before this truth was largely unconscious and repressed such that we at least pretended that there was a consistent and shared Other, today we seem conscious of this. I am not at all sure what is to be done. I hardly find it to be something that should be celebrated or that is a happy thesis.

While more optimistic in its conclusions, Gavin from Real Climate points to somewhat similar issues in a piece today on the necessity – and the limitations – of trusted peer networks for scientists trying to manage the often overwhelming amount of new research in their fields. Gavin argues:

It used to be that one could go to a meeting like this and get a wide overview of the work being done much more efficiently (and speedily) than reading the journals. However, that is clearly no longer true. And of course, we can’t keep up with all the relevant journal articies in the wider field either, and so how do scientists manage?

Basically, it’s tough! Everyone in the field generally decides that there are some technical areas that aren’t worth (for them) getting too deep into, and so they tend to ignore the technical literature on that topic. For myself, I draw the line at carbon isotope studies and anything older than the last glacial period in paleoclimate (with a couple of exceptions). Review papers and high profile articles are useful and read more often, but even they can be too technical if they’re not right in your field. But, given how multi-disciplinary climate science is, there are always going to be technical issues outside your field that you are going to need to know more about.

To deal with that, most sucessful scientists develop networks of ‘trusted’ sources – people you know and get along with, but who are specialists in different areas (dynamics, radiation, land surfaces, aerosols, deep time paleo etc.) and who you can just call up and ask for the bottom line. They can point you directly to the key paper related to your question or give you the unofficial ‘buzz’ about some new high profile paper. You don’t expect to agree with them all the time – we scientists are quite naturally contrarian (in a good way!) – but this is generally an efficient short cut to understanding what the most serious/interesting issues are.

It is, of course, at meetings like AGU that these networks become established and are nutured, and which is why, despite the difficulties, people come back year after year (though personally, I only go every few years). At this year’s meeting we got a lot of feedback about RealClimate, and a surprisingly common theme was the extent to which we are becoming part of these networks. That is both gratifying and slightly worrying – such responsibility!

However, there are dangers in having everyone tuned in to the same ‘network’ – it can lead to a certain rigidity in what is being thought important. As an illustration, when going between meetings in Europe and the US, you tend to see that ‘issues’ and ‘buzz’ are often completely distinct on either side of the Atlantic – a function of mostly non-intersecting networks. Fortunately, there are frequent contacts across the divide which leads to substantial cross-fertilization of ideas.

Read more of this post

Santa Pause

Small suggestion to roving santas cropping up in unexpected places along the street: if a small boy looks absolutely terrified of you, to the point that he embeds himself bodily into his parent’s leg and will later require an almost surgical extraction, chances are it isn’t the best idea to continue following the boy’s family down the street, in the vain attempt to prove that you aren’t the most terrifying thing their child has ever seen in his life… I’m sure there are plenty of other children this time of year who would be eager for your attention: by all means, prioritise. We promise we won’t mind…

Oh – and please accept our apologies for the velocity with which your lolly was returned to you… The trajectory probably wasn’t all that ideal either… Maybe it was just the wrong flavour…

Bleg: Histories of the Concept of “Bias”?

Probably the worst time of the year to post a bleg, but hopefully some folks might still see this when they trickle back from the holidays…

I’m interested in tracking down some useful articles or books on the history of the concept of bias in research methodology (or of related concepts such as the principle of observer neutrality as a normative ideal for research, etc.). I’m particularly interested in works that might track the initial articulations, spread and development of concepts related to the notion that, in order for research results to be robust, the research process must remove subjective and social influences on research outcomes.

I’ve had a sudden realisation – perhaps inspired by the Hamming article – that this information might be particularly useful for some of the problems I’ve been circling around… ;-P

(Oh, and… er… happy Christmas Eve and such… ;-P)

Distinction

Someone sent me an email link to Richard Hamming’s (1986) “You and Your Research”, which I have read previously, but not for some time. The piece analyses why a few scientists manage to make significant contributions to their field, while the rest of us… not so much… ;-P Read more of this post

The Dead Weight of Tradition

Below the fold is just a bit of archived work – a piece that’s seven or eight years old now. I’m posting it here mainly for my own convenience, although it might hold curiosity value for a few other people. The piece was an attempt, essentially, to think out loud on the subject of how far you could stretch a Marxian theoretical framework, if your primary interest was understanding potentially critical intellectual trends in a non-reductive way… It was also, though this may be harder to discern from a straight read of this text without familiarity with my later formal writing, the beginnings of an attempt to loosen certain conceptual categories from a Marxian framework, to experiment with the beginnings of a different vocabulary and thought-space. The text is therefore quite dated, but I’ll be revisiting some of the underlying questions and problems over the next several months and, in preparation, I wanted to remind myself of, and create an accessible archive for, some of my past gestures at these issues. If anyone intends to click through, also a warning that the piece, even with its apparatus stripped, is rather long… Read more of this post

Giving as Knowing Where the Wild Things Are…

From Marginal Revolution, a few holiday reflections on the conflictual psychology of receiving:

Giving to my Wild Self

The economist in me says the best gift is cash. The rest of me rebels. Some people argue that the reason we don’t give cash is because that is too easy – to show that we know the person well we must signal by shopping for something “special.”

Yet this can’t be quite right, either. Imagine the following thought experiment. Someone gives you $100 cash. You go out to the store and buy a set of car tires. Purchasing the tires clearly maximizes your utility. Now imagine that instead of $100 the gift giver gave you a set of car tires. Would you be happy that they know you so well that they purchased for you just what you would have purchased for yourself? I don’t think so.

The example illustrates that we want the gift giver to buy something for us that we would not have bought for ourselves. Or more precisely one of our selves wants this – the self that is usually restrained, squashed, and limited, the wild self, the passionate self, the romantic self.

Gift giving, therefore, is about reaching out and giving to the wild self in someone else. Why would we want to do this? Because we want the wild self in someone else to be wild about us.

The bottom line? If you want to please the economist in me, send me cash. If you want to please my wild self (I know, not many of you, but you know who you are!) use your imagination.</blockquote

Fragment of a Conversation on Immanence

Yesterday’s conversation is still percolating along at Larval Subjects. I wanted to cross-post here the most recent comment I’ve made (minus its chatty introduction), mainly because these are issues – in a very condensed form – I’ve been meaning to take up here, in part because they gesture toward how I might think about addressing some of the questions Nick has recently raised on this blog.

I’m somewhat hesitant about the duplicated post because it risks a situation where, for example, someone offers a quite fundamental critique over at Larval Subjects (or here) that doesn’t flow through to the cross post (including, perhaps, the points that Discard and Sinthome have already made in the original thread – it may be that my suggestions have, in a sense, already been fundamentally undermined…). I’d strongly suggest that readers interested in the topic consult the original thread, as the position I’m outlining here does not reflect any kind of achieved consensus in the overarching conversation (and the post may make more sense, as well, with the original context in view)…

Note that, because this was written as a comment, and I haven’t edited it for re-posting here, the style is more appropriate for a comment than for a stand-alone post…

[Updated to note that, because this discussion is continuing in some detail, readers actually are much better off, I think, reading the discussion in its original location, where they can assess my comments in light of critiques and questions that Sinthome has posed.]

***

There may be more and less abstract concepts of immanence at work in the broader discussion we’ve been having. In your most recent post, you’re using “immanence” in the way I would generally use “materalism” – as an assertion of the non-necessity of appealing to transcendent explanations. (“Materialism” having been one of those words that has been historically flattened, such that the reflex assumption seems to be for people to gloss it as an assertion about economic caussation, rather than an assertion about secular causation…) I have no problem with the strategic notion of using “immanence” in place of “materialism” or “secularism” as a strategy in discussion – or just as a term perhaps more likely to be understood, because it’s not so freighted with history.

My point has been that there is something specifically and deeply inconsistent with asserting a concept of immanence as a stance. I think the move to materialism/immanence entails an obligation to explain how we have become aware that our world can be conceptualised in this way – that we do not need the hypothesis of transcendence – and also how particular immanent dimensions of our world render it plausible for people to jump to the conclusion that a subject-object divide exists.

If we are also historical materialists – if we believe that the nature of our social world has changed over time, and that some of the concepts we are trying to explain have a historical dimension – then this points in the direction, I think, of explaining how something about the practices and habits of thought constitutive of our social world suggests both the subject-object dualism, and the possibility to arrive at concepts like “historical materialism” or a historically-oriented notion of immanence…

If we don’t believe there is evidence for historical shifts, then we could perhaps explain the concept of immanence, and the perception of a subject-object divide, with reference to more timeless concepts (this is, in fact, a very common move in scientific texts that want to explain, e.g., aspects of ethics or morality – to put forward an argument that something in our makeup as biological creatures causes us to perceive and think about the world in specific ways). If we find evidence of meaningful historical change persuasive, however, this avenue is not open to us.

If we still want to assert the hypothesis of immanence in these circumstances, I think the form of the argument would have the structure of: (1) pointing to some specific dimensions of our historical environment that have suggested to us the possibility of immanence; (2) pointing to some specific dimensions of our world that have suggested the existence of a subject-object divide (a divide that, among other things, makes conceptually available to us the constellation of standards for “objectivity” – e.g., that something be reproducable across history); (3) recognising the historically-generated character of our notions of “objectivity” – such that we recognise the way in which any evaluative standards related to this concept must themselves be understood as standards for us; and (4) examining aspects of our historical environment – including concepts like “immanance” whose historical resonance we have already attempted to explain within our theoretical approach – to see whether we might be able to test the validity of these concepts for the analysis of other historical periods.

It is in this sense, in the discussion with Nick for example, that I have suggested that it might be possible, from within a “historical materialist” framework, still link to more conventional notions of truth claims – reconfigured by our recognition that these are lessons we have taught ourselves, concepts for which we have “primed” ourselves, for specific reasons, at a specific moment in time. But concepts which then become provisionally available for us to wield as hypotheses about other human societies, the natural world, etc.

This same orientation might react back against the sort of the discussion we’ve been having about religion and subjective experience. (Some of what I’ve been trying to do in this particular thread is to experiment with whether and how we can be robust with the assertion you made – and with which I agree – at I Cite: that ultimately we have no means to evaluate someone’s subjective experiences, to assess the authenticity of those experiences, when that person asserts that authenticity…)

So, the historical generation of the concept and practice of a “subject” (an individual subject, in this case, although an analysis of collective subjects can also be carried out) also releases concepts – of authenticity, for example – that can then potentially be applied validly, when reconfigured as historical concepts.

I’ve thought a great deal more, personally, about the ramifications for this approach for bodies of thought like the natural sciences, than I have about this approach for understandings of subjective identity. But I suspect that the resonance of quite important political values – the ideals of respect and non-coercive communication, for example, that you mention in your post – can be historicised in this way.

I suspect – but this isn’t a strong or important point to me, on a personal level – that our historical experience of subjecitivity might also leave a reservoir of something like “non-generalisable, authentic personal experience”, to which people could refer in accounting for, e.g, religious experience, experience of personal relationships, and other meaningful experiences whose generalisability to others cannot be assumed, but whose importance to a given individual can nevertheless be asserted with reference to ideals and normative standards (like Habermas’ notion of authenticity) that are generally understood…

Within this framework, the concept of immanence or “historical materialism” does remain a hypothesis or theory, I think – but in something like the way the theory of evolution remains a theory: not as some kind of expression of scepticism about the limits of what we can possibly know, but as an expression that we have developed the theory through an attempt to interpret our experiences after extended reflection. The theory may become extremely powerful, to the degree that it becomes difficult to conceive how its central tenets would ever be challenged – but there is a value, I think, to retaining an in principle agnosticism and tentative openness to the possibility that an alternative, more powerful theory is always in principle possible. (That, and I don’t personally think anyone has done enough serious and systematic work within this framework that we can afford to treat this as a well-established and foundational theory at the present moment in time…)

I realise this is all very condensed… I’m just trying to give a better sense of why I tend to intervene when you try to assert as a stance something that I think needs to be explained as something we have learned – that represents a hard-won historical insight.

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