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Linkfest

April 30th, 2006

I’ve been very slack about linking interesting posts lately, so here’s a quick roundup, mainly on military topics, reflecting the week’s news. Jeremy Bray at Catallaxy has a fairly pessimistic update on Iran’s nuclear program, while Andrew Norton discusses the death of Private Kovco. On the latter topic Democracy and Justice looks at the role of contracting out (a policy first implemented under Keating, as several commenters have observed) and Tim Dunlop dissects a typical Greg Sheridan rant.

Apart from the individual tragedy of Private Kovco, and continuing statistical disputes over how many tens of thousands have died, there’s nothing much on Iraq where we seem to have run out of things to say.

The Oz attack on John Curtin seems to have halted for the weekend, but you can read another response from Mark Bahnisch and more on Anzac Day from Gummo Trotsky, David Tiley and Ken Parish.

Finally, JF Beck complains that I don’t link to his posts and it’s true. Let me try to compensate by observing that his site slogan Nothing’s fact until it’s history, and then it’s debatable is the most perfect statement of the rightwing postmodernist outlook that I’ve ever read or am ever likely to. Also, and unequivocally positively, Beck’s participation in the DDT debate has led him to run an appeal for donations to Swim for Malaria, which has raised nearly $US 1000. If right and left could compete more on this basis, we might actually get somewhere.

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  1. Ros
    May 2nd, 2006 at 10:21 | #1

    Know that this has been debated and points made many times, but as it is raised in these specific circumstances will buy in. Wear with equanimity labels such as RWDB, Bush lover, Bushie, warmonger, even in some places Zionist or Zionist acolyte, but am most definitely miffed to be categorised as a rightwing postmodernist because I find Beck’s slogan rational and reasonable.

    What is wrong with “nothing’s fact until it is history�. Take the matter of the sun rising tomorrow. Very, very probable but until it does, it isn’t a fact. It may not. Until it happens it therefore isn’t a fact. Surely the only knowledge of future events as known facts is revelatory knowledge, and don’t mind being set apart from that take on facts.

    And debateable, well yes. Even after the probability has become a fact, certainly the causes and the nature of the effect are in complex systems such as human systems always debateable.

    Assume that the point is that rightwingers and JF in particular are advocates of truth relativism , that for them (and this fellow traveller) truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as language or culture. That there are no abolute truths. A step too far for me and I don’t think that is what is meant or proposed by JF’s slogan.

    Or is this label saying that postmodernism is the same thing as complexity, which if so leaves me discomfited.

    If however it is the case that the label is merely meant to identify rightwingers as adopting a weltanschauung that is about ours being a complex universe then my equanimity is restored.

    Or that rightwingers think that knowledge should be sought and “emerge from the ‘ecological postmodern sciences of complexity, rather than the semantic swamps of deconstructive postmodern social science’ (discussion Sydney Uni) I am also inclined to happy. Or I think I am.

  2. jquiggin
    May 2nd, 2006 at 15:34 | #2

    Ros, I think the claim is not that nothing in the future is fact (too uncontroversial to be stated) but that nothing in the recent past is fact, until it becomes history Postmodernists have argued that truth is a social construction and that accepted history is the embodiment of that construction. There are no neutral facts, only competing ‘truths’.

    You can make some pretty strong arguments in support of this view, and the postmodernists have done so.

    The practice of the postmodern right has been consistent with postmodernist theory. Even the simplest factual statement, such as ‘there were no WMD’s in Iraq’ has been contested,reinterpreted and parsed within an inch of its life. Similarly on global warming, evolution and so on.

  3. Katz
    May 2nd, 2006 at 15:54 | #3

    Magnetism isn’t physics, but the scientific study of magnetism is physics.

    The past isn’t history, but the scientific study of the past is history.

  4. May 2nd, 2006 at 20:57 | #4

    The motto is an adaptation of military conventional wisdom. I nearly chose “Measure with a micrometer; cut with an ax”. It’s meant to provoke thought. It also indictaes I don’t take myself too seriously.

    Katz, buy a dictionary.

  5. Katz
    May 2nd, 2006 at 21:24 | #5

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/history

    “his·to·ry Pronunciation (hst-r)
    n. pl. his·to·ries
    1. A narrative of events; a story.
    2.
    a. A chronological record of events, as of the life or development of a people or institution, often including an explanation of or commentary on those events: a history of the Vikings.
    b. A formal written account of related natural phenomena: a history of volcanoes.
    c. A record of a patient’s medical background.
    d. An established record or pattern of behavior: an inmate with a history of substance abuse.
    3. The branch of knowledge that records and analyzes past events: “History has a long-range perspective” Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.
    4.
    a. The events forming the subject matter of a historical account.
    b. The aggregate of past events or human affairs: basic tools used throughout history.
    c. An interesting past: a house with history.
    d. Something that belongs to the past: Their troubles are history now.
    e. Slang One that is no longer worth consideration: Why should we worry about him? He’s history!
    5. A drama based on historical events: the histories of Shakespeare.”

    JF Beck,

    I got this dictionary definition of history for free. It’s a fairly standard definition of “history”. You’ll note that “history” ≠ “the past”.

    You may need to buy yourself some education.

    But a word of warning: any money spent will be no guaranteed cure for pig-ignorance.

  6. May 2nd, 2006 at 22:26 | #6

    Katz,

    Which one of your definitions describes history as “the scientific study of the past”?

  7. Katz
    May 3rd, 2006 at 06:52 | #7

    “3. The branch of knowledge that records and analyzes past events”

    “Science” , derived from “sciencia”, the Latin word for “knowledge”

    Now JFB, do you need any further joining of dots?

  8. May 3rd, 2006 at 17:26 | #8

    History as science: interesting concept.

  9. May 3rd, 2006 at 19:02 | #9

    J F Beck,
    Like economics as science. Now, how do I set up that controlled experiment?

  10. Katz
    May 4th, 2006 at 08:24 | #10

    Gosh, where do I start?

    Does this mean that astronomy isn’t a science? For where are the controlled experiments in astronomy?

    The ability to run controlled experiments is not a sufficient condition for declaring a discipline to be a science.

    To say this ignores the last 80 years of the history of the philosophy of science.

    Here’s one of many places to catch up:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_science

    And when you’re ready we can talk about where the discipline of history fits into this framework.

  11. May 4th, 2006 at 22:28 | #11

    Katz,

    I have no problem with you regarding history as science. I, on the other hand, will continue to hold that it is not.

  12. Katz
    May 5th, 2006 at 00:01 | #12

    JFB,

    Such confidence about your future disposition. Could it be that you believe your worldview is law-bound?

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