I’ve been too busy to post much, but I’ve written a number of articles over the past month or so that might be interesting to readers here. This one, published by various Fairfax papers looks at the damp squib of the G20 finance ministers meeting, and links it to the Abbott government’s elevation of tribalism over good government, and even over market liberal ideology.
There’s a follow-up here from Charles Richardson at Crikey and something more on similar lines by Rob Burgess at the Business Spectator
163 thoughts on “Abbott and tribalism”
Whereas I have had the benefit of both the empiricist epistemological tradition and more relativistic approaches. I always wince a little when I use the word fact or explore the fact-opinion dichotomy. So I need no reminding. For me the aphorism is about affirming that even imperfect inquiries are worth making.
@Ikonoclast how can a model wrong if it is useful?
Coase argued the some models may predict will but may not be useful in developing our understanding more
the criticisms Marshall and Boulding made of mathematics and of quantitative economics were that they restricted analysts to what was mathematically tractable and measurable rather than what was truly important.
Hayek also spoke of the same bias about restricting analysis to what can be measured and tested rather than what is important
According to Pigou, Marshall “saw that excessive reliance on this instrument [mathematics] might lead us astray in pursuit of intellectual toys, imaginary problems not conforming to the conditions of real life.” Beed and Kane has a nice paper on the history of the critique of mathematics in economics in Kyklos 2002, 44 (4).
If, in fact, you automatically wince at literally every use of the word ‘fact’ and not just the over-ambitious ones, that is not a sign that you have benefitted from relativistic approaches but rather a sign that you are suffering under their curse.
The argument against objective facts can be taken too far. It’s one thing to admit epistemological difficulties. It’s another thing to go down the excessive relativist or idealist route and deny objective reality. That indeed is the granddaddy of all Denialism.
All learning is painful, because it makes things that seem simple on first inspection, appear complex and textured, and opens the way to appearing unwise or jejune.
I wince because “facts” are often adduced as if thyey were slam dunk arguments, and I feel bound to reflect on how others will hear my use of the term. That is a kind of curse, but it’s one I feel I must bear, lest I be mistaken for mere flotsam on a sea of ill-organised data.
‘Not everything that matters can be measured , and not everything that can be measured matters’ – Albert Einstein.
Sunshine can be measured and it matters.
I am sorry to hear that you find painful the experience of discovering previously unsuspected complexities. It’s not like that for me.
Wincing often at the use of the word ‘fact’ makes sense to me. Personally, I wince when I hear some dullard begin a pronouncement with the words ‘the reality is …’ But I don’t therefore automatically wince at every occurrence of the word ‘reality’.
Self-expression risks misunderstanding, and some caution to ward against the possibility makes sense. But there are no guarantees against misunderstanding. Do you wince every time you give out street directions because it is possible they will be misunderstood? Or do you forbear entirely from giving out directions when requested? Who would that help?
Iko, I think we had this discussion before re hard science and soft science, relativism etc.. I’ll be simple in my argument like you are above in yours. Thus, here an illustration thatscience is not at all that simple, even with sunshine.
There is, what both quantum physics and psychology call the observer effect. The ‘pain’ Fran is experiencing is caused by engaging the ‘quantum’ register or considering the observer effect, if you like, to get a broader or more ‘accurate’ view on the subject at hand. One does not have to be either absolutist or relativist, one also can be an universalist or agnostic.
It is not a skill many people use or even are aware such exists. I believe at times people with such skills were called renaissance person.
Thanks for the solidarity. I should add that pain takes a number of forms, and while it’s easy to assume that it’s always unpleasant, sometimes the pain is trivial and in the long run satisfying, in the way that the discomfort one endures at an exercise or yoga class is associated with feelings of satisfaction that one has done what is needed to maintain fitness and flexibility.
I suspect I’ve used that phrase more than once, and if you’ve read me uttering it, I apologise for inducing wincing. When I use it, it’s just a verbal tag — like the comparable “really”. I accept that one should avoid such terms, but bad habits are hard to break.
Nor I. I’m with Terrry Lovell on ‘reality’. I accept that there is a real and material world that exists independently of our observations of it, but I despair of us every being confident of cognitively acquiring grasp of its scope and contours or if we do, being able to be share that insight with others. I suspect we will forever be burdened by uncertainty.
I do worry about that, given that this almost always occurs in circumstances where what is salient and obvious to me may not be equally so to others. Even when speaking to ‘hubby’ about which way to go, I note that he often hasn’t noticed what I’ve noticed and vice versa.
But no, I don’t forebear helping, as long as I believe my guidance is more likely to help than hinder.
Well, I didn’t want to get into my own brand of amateur faux-philosophy and bore the heck out of everybody. I’ve done that before on this blog and I don’t want to do it again. I am aware that everything isn’t simple. But some things are very dependable. It is better perhaps to speak of a dependable law (in physics) rather than a simple law.
For nothing worthy proving can be proven ,
Nor yet disproven; wherefore thou be wise ,
Cleave ever to the sunnier side of doubt.
Alfred Tennyson -from ‘The Ancient Sage’
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