Sunday, July 18, 2010

"In a rich man's house there's no place to spit but his face." How did we get from Socrates and Diogenes of Sinope to professorships in Management and Marketing? That's not a rhetorical question, but it's not one that would occur to political scientists or sociologists, since both fields are if anything anti-historical. Org Theory. From Crooked Timber to Ben Casnocha in one step.
“…the science of association is the mother science; the progress of all the others depends on the progress of that one.”
The meaning of the word "science" has narrowed greatly over the past 150 years. Brian Leiter predicts doom, brought about by the irrationalism of others
It’s one of the great assumptions underlying modern democracy that an informed citizenry is preferable to an uninformed one. “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1789. This notion, carried down through the years, underlies everything from humble political pamphlets to presidential debates to the very notion of a free press. Mankind may be crooked timber, as Kant put it, uniquely susceptible to ignorance and misinformation, but it’s an article of faith that knowledge is the best remedy. If people are furnished with the facts, they will be clearer thinkers and better citizens. If they are ignorant, facts will enlighten them. If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight. Maybe not. Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.
There is no record in history of the mere presence and availability of knowledge changing anything. Intelligence is associative and association begin from what we know: prefer or fear. A curious, self-aware, and flexible intelligence is more accepting of new information than an intelligence set in its ways. That's all. Optimism is an ideology.

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