Monday, December 23, 2013

Nasty-Dirty Epistemology Part I - Befundled Rationalists


As a society, it seems that we've come to rest firmly in the camp of rationalism. That is, we love to think that we can use reason to learn about truths beyond our sense experience. Even a moderate type of rationalism seems to strike most as basically true, otherwise, what are numbers (though much controversy still exists - otherwise, how would PhD philosophers make a living?). Starting from the basic assumption that numbers can give us at least some form of truth, modern science has created the most extravagant and untestable theories possible. Working in tandem with theories, such as those supporting dark matter or catastrophic man-made climate change, is a certain type of smugness - i.e. it is the truth and the whole truth. It seems that having learned nothing from the proofs attempting to show God's existence, science has instead looked to invent whatever is necessary to fill in the gaps. All the strange entities from physics -the suggestion that we are holograms, string theory, dark matter, etc.- are becoming too numerous to keep track of.

Rather than thinking that there might be an issue with the mathematics or the model itself, the conglomeration of statistics and mathematics that goes into something such as climate change is assumed to be true. A simpler person might suggest that it is much more likely that there is a flaw in the math, rather than catastrophe being inevitable. Friend of science, and general intellectual powerhouse Salon shows us how to deconstruct such a preposterous idea. Hopefully those damn morons will shut up and quietly pay their CO2 tax. As we all know, taxes are only one to two steps away from providing us with all the solutions. If only there were sufficient tax dollars flowing into science, then perhaps we could finally prove that we are all holograms and fund the ultimate end of such an endeavor - Humanity: The Trading Card Game. Egalitarian of course, because each of every one of the us deserving of our hologram status. There are obviously bigger political implications here, but that's something we can worry about later.

Of course, rationalistic mathematical models give us good things. Such as a 50% chance of knowing whether or not it's going to rain on each given day. Well, at least we know when a tornado or hurricane is going to destroy our homes again, so that we can give FEMA a reason for existing. That's comforting. And Amazon's algorithms know exactly what I want to buy months before I do, so there are a few victories to be sure.

However, there is another side to these types of rationalistic thinking. And it's perhaps the reason I'm most uncomfortable with Austrian economics. The whole a priori economic truth thing seems to fall into the same kind of trap as decadent rationalism is wont to do. But there seems to be something...different about many aspects of the Austrian system. What do you mean that if there is a majority of welfare intoxicated immigrants, they'll vote themselves more benefits?! What proof do you have of that? You think people are more concerned about their own private property, as opposed to their concern for public property? Because the homeless who is defecating in the trashcan while staring me in the eye certainly has a lot of compassion in his soul; I can see it. Time preference? No thanks, I just want that new iPad.

The distinction between the popular quasi-religious theories (because what the hell else could support something as unintuitive as multiple dimensions and holograms) needed to prop up aspects of some modern physics and the common-sense notions of many Austrian claims, is just that - common sense. The most dirty of words. It's something that rednecks do. I don't know - rednecks and retards and inbred hillbillies playing banjos. That's common sense! Unless your concept has the sufficient amount of calculations, then it's not even sophisticated enough for us to consider. Sorry Duck Dynasty. I'll be covering common sense in my last post on the subject. And as usual, Back to the Damn Scotts we will go. And no, it's not Hume. Or Carlyle. Or Smith.

Rationalistic thought brings fantastic rewards whenever it obeys its servant, common sense. Sometimes this turns into a gray area. Germ theory was a real bitch I'm sure. And electrons? I've never seen one. I drew a picture of one once though. This can raise some difficulties of creating distinctions between what is ridiculous and what is not. And that's where our good friend empiricism comes in. Which will be covered in succinct detail in my next post.

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