Friday, April 30, 2010

why bother? Bertram is such an idiot.

"The idea that incentives should be switched in favour of work with a policy payoff seems really really misguided in a world where that is already happening to the nth degree. (See, e.g. the “impact” criterion in British funding decisions in the humanities.)"

By this logic political philosophy should be under no obligation to engage actually existing politics, even to the point of describing it, because visions of utopia, unachievable by definition, are necessary in order to urge others on to bettering the world that exits. That's of course the logic of the post as well. So philosophy remains with the arts and humanities. But how much have the humanities outside of philosophy ever centered on the ideal? They spend most of their time on cases.

The sciences can be said to describe the external world, the arts and humanities can be said to describe our experience of the world, but philosophy is basically theological: it claims a rational superiority to the other humanities because its focus is not on the world we experience but an unreachable but somehow existent 'truth'.

The opposing argument is that it's more important for people to understand the weight of a dilemma than to fantasize perfect solutions. That fantasists don't like contradictions makes them less able to face them, not more. Does inventing fantasy worlds where prudence is unnecessary help us to understand the world where it is? There's no such thing as Heaven. The defense of atheism is that we like to put order to things and we debate how we should do it. That's enough.

Literature engages the ambiguities of the world without having direct "impact." Philosophy wants to claim the weight of science and still think of itself as above mere practicality. It wants to have the best of both worlds and ends up as the worst of them.

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