Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

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  1. I once read the letters that Feyerabend and Imre Lakatos wrote back and forth to each other. I expected a treasure trove of issues in the philosophy of science. They mostly complained about the competence and politics of their students.

    Alex Sparrow

    September 14, 2013 at 10:39 pm

  2. But of course there must be “universally valid and binding standards of knowledge and action” even if they are only standards to show us how to evaluate evidence and balance conflicting moral and ethical considerations. If they did not exist then no decision or action can have any legitimate foundation. Every act might as well be random or impetuous, because other wise it must depend on some “universally valid and binding standard of knowledge and action.” Feyerabend is saying nothing more than certain belief systems are too rigid or too extreme for his taste. To lump libertarians and Marxists in the same contemptuous dismissal just shows how intellectually lazy his position is. And more, it is simply an intellectual game. He might as well argue that nothing exists; everything is a dream. Or time is an illusion. It’s the stuff of stoned college dorm discussions. It has nothing to do with how to lead one’s life or how to organize or govern a society.

    DK Fennell

    September 15, 2013 at 12:47 am

    • You’re assuming that legitimacy depends on universal foundations, but empirically I’d say that’s not the case. You are making the standard argument that people like Feyerabend reject – that the choices are universal foundations or complete arbitrariness.

      Feyerabend is definitely saying something more than “certain belief systems are too rigid or too extreme for his taste” – indeed, this whole book (among others) is meant to argue that there are no universal foundations, that there could not be, that they are unnecessary, and that the search for them has pernicious effects.

      That said, the line about libertarians and Marxists is unfortunate – it distracts from the argument. I almost cut it out for that reason. But no stray line undermines an argument or demonstrates that an author isn’t to be taken seriously.

      David Kaib

      September 15, 2013 at 8:45 am

      • So are choices based on ad hoc assumptions? Can I tomorrow decide that human life has no value? And the next day decide that I am entitled to steal from a collection box? If there is something short of a “universally valid and binding standards of knowledge and action” what is it? Inspiration? Divine revelation? Yes, it’s very clever to say there is no “empirical” support for any form of idealism. The hard part is to develop a system that explains how to guide our “knowledge and action.” It’s easy to show any attempt is not perfect.That’s not clever. So if I am missing the importance of his argument, what is it in essence?

        (By the way I am not attacking him or you, I’m simply asking what “there” is there? Maybe it is I who is picking nites. I remain a loyal follower otherwise.)

        DK Fennell

        September 15, 2013 at 9:01 am

      • I should also have noted that perhaps I came across too strongly for the limited point I was making. My objection is lumping together “knowledge and action” in a critique of what is universal or not.

        Of course all deductive systems are “false” or incomplete because we cannot know anything a priori, as such systems require. We only know things inductively, which is a method inherently fraught with danger of errors. Nevertheless, we have to have some system, universally applied, to judge how we can “know” something sufficiently to justify action.

        Kurt Gödel proved that no mathematical system can be both universally valid and complete. This was an interesting and important proof, which had ramifications for theoretical mathematics. Nevertheless, whenever we need a tool to make even the most intricate calculations (for sending humans in space, constructing particle accelerators, determining the weight a bridge can hold) we use mathematics, as incomplete as it is.

        The question I am asking is very narrow. Yes, given that there can be no universally binding system of knowledge, how do we act if we do not construct a universally valid system (or as near as we can) for action?

        DK Fennell

        September 15, 2013 at 9:28 am

  3. Chiguis jan was un powerful lider that hasn’t this kind of belief and defeat muslim wave in Asia. His avalanche is in the base of states like India, China and Russia yet with the golden horde. His belief were supported by an visión with Sun, Moon and an eagle. He was a inhabitant of frontier region to big China nation and did know the differences in boundary trade near a big empire and a poor region. This can bring light to the problem of imperialism.


    September 15, 2013 at 8:20 am

  4. DK,

    Feyerabend argues that one can have standards, but they need not be (nor can be) universal. Standards are different in biology and physics (or even within different branches of each) yet science works just fine. Within any particular community we might agree to a set of principles without believing that everyone outside of that community must accept them (or worse, that we have a right to impose them).

    David Kaib

    September 15, 2013 at 9:19 pm

  5. I think that boundary or frontier region near a high developed region must be revised. Boundary regions are affected of extreme misery. That extreme misery is the result of trade interchange between highly developed and low developed regions or countries. In this conditions uprise belief like muslim actual and ancient. In extreme misery “universally valid and binding standards of knowledge and action” are builded with the intelectual resources and ideas at scope. Muslims have bring ideas from Jews, from Christians and create or receive his proper belief. They did make a synthesis. But the problem yet exists, a misery that permeates all. In the boundaries of ancient China several such movements begin. Just now in borders of USA, there are in Mexico boundary several groups that develop belief and apply that to everyone. The problem not is to complain on this kind of belief but to understand the unequal trade between regions with different development level or to regulate commerce between regions with different modes of production and different of distribution modes. This problem is skiped by marxists and by economists of all kind.


    September 24, 2013 at 3:36 pm

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