Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Work Plan

When I renamed my blog "Anything Goes" before my sudden abandonment of it I wrote a short piece explaining why I chose the title. I did it because too many people in discussion argue from a position of the correctness of their own theoretical position, which is OK so long as both parties adopt the same theory. But increasingly in the area of public discourse this isn't so. There are different theories and they are often "incommensurable" - the same word does not have the same meaning in different theories.

So the adoption of the "Anything Goes" title was meant to mean that there would be blogs about theories rather than just the application of theories. I'm also concious of the fact that "Anything Goes" was the title of a book by the late David Stove that was attacking the "irrationalist" approach to science. I've had the book for a while but have only nibbled at it. I have decided it needs a far more robust response - but not today.

One of the things Stove does in that book is construct his own "strawman" of the general thesis being propounded by his rivals - and this strawman he then attacks. This is a technique that really is the only way of engaging in discussion about theories, but it is not always valid. For example, Stove starts by criticising the irrationalists because they. he claims. do not accept that there is a growth of knowledge, and he attempts to suggest this must be absurd because anyone looking at the last 400 years of science would see more knowledge now than before. I think perhaps Stove has missed a major point here that the "irrationalists" do not dispute this point but do say that the curve of Amount of Knowledge as a function of time is not monotonically increasing everywhere and there are times where it can go down.

But enough of that for now. The purpose of this post is to say I have three projects that I wish to explore here over coming weeks. The first is an assault on what I call "economic libertarianism" - a thesis that the collective action of self-interest cannot be improved upon. The second is a short contribution to what has become known as the History Wars - in which I will try to discuss "What is History" and in the process will rely heavily on a book by that name by E.H.Carr. And finally I wish to launch an assault on what I will call the Quadrant Realist Tradition - a troika of belifs that embraces realism, a correspondence theory of truth and a designation theory of meaning; this belief set is the core of a set of derisory criticisms of a notional left consisting of postmodernists who are painted as describing truth as relative and operating through a collective of manipulative "elites".

So hold on for the ride.

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