We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Of course, Dugin’s vehement attacks on ‘American liberalism’ expose his dishonesty and the incoherence of his selectively relativist philosophy. If a culture can only be legitimately judged through its own lens, then by what right does Dugin attack American liberalism to begin with? Surely his attacks on liberalism are as worthless as liberal attacks on Russian illiberalism. Dugin’s 1997 book, which contains a detailed account of what Russian global domination might look like, certainly involves the imposition of a Russian system on the rest of mankind, and to the benefit of no one but Russia.

Robert James

13 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Myno

    A coherent article on the incoherence of relativism. I would only add that when one proceeds beyond the study of reproducible phenomena, it is no longer science… a criticism that applies to the broad swath of the “social sciences” including anthroapology [sic] and/or “culturology”. Not that these aren’t worthy of discussion, but making claims on their basis, as if they are science, is fraught.

    Also, I cannot go so far as to embrace in fullness the closing paragraph’s bon mot: “All cultures have alike grown up blindly, the useful and cumbersome together, and not one of them is so good that it needs no revision, and not one is so bad that it cannot serve, just as ours can, the ideal ends of society and of the individual.” Modern societies are in the dire process of proving themselves incapable of serving the “ideal ends of … the individual.”

  • NickM

    The concept of reproducability in science is fraught. It cannot be regarded as an absolute criterion for what is and isn’t a science.

    There is a major problem with the historical sciences such as evolutionary biology and astrophysics. This differ fundamentally in principle (if not necessarily in methodology) from ahistorical sciences such as biochemistry and particle physics. We only have one evolutionary tree to explore and given the timescales nobody is going to get funding for that long ;-). Similarly in astrophysics we have the peculiar situation of living in a galaxy of >100 billion stars but there is only one we know anything about other than luminosity and spectrum. Note luminosity is usually inferred by apparent magnitude and stellar theory*.

    It is very difficult both practically and philosophically because we have a data set with one well known point and billions of ones known to various levels up to and including, well, guesswork. Yes, there are known knowns, known unknowns and unknown unknowns.

    I hope that was clear(ish). I apologise especially if it seems a bit off topic but I only have my own lens and that is very much astrophysics and it’s inherent difficulties. The philosphical problem is, increasingly, computer modelling is standing in for and almost being regarded as equivalent to actual experiment because… There is no alternative really. Whether that is real, genuine science in the way chemistry is… God knows.
    *OK, for nearby stars you can use parallax to measure distance as an independent variable but that is limited to about 100pc which in astronomical terms is like knowing the World on the basis of being able to see the local post office from your bedroom window.

  • Thailover

    Nick, it’s not that defining science as reproducible and testable is a problem, it’s not. It’s that many things we want to call science, isn’t, and that’s OK.

    I dare say that “Dark Matter” or “Dark Energy” theory is not science, and that’s fine. They are OK theories, and do what theories do, offer an explanation to fit certain observable facts. It would be wrong-minded to consider theories “true”. Rather we should ask if a theory best explains the facts as we currently understand them without being contradicted by other accepted facts.

    And, it’s even OK to use certain theories/ i.e. models, to give us the type of answer we’re looking for. For certain answers, one might use M-Theory, (String theory, of course), and for others, any of a number of quantum theories. And one should use Newtonian physics in everyday situations. No one needs to know the relativistic effects regarding a car traveling 60 MPH, but it does pertain to GPS satellites.

    This is largely navel-gazing in a world where the average person doesn’t know the difference between science and technology.

  • The author is a 3rd year anthropology graduate student interested in human perception, cultural evolution, and metabolic laws of scaling. ‘Robert James’ is a pseudonym.

    The fact ‘Robert James’ feels obliged to use a pseudonym is not a minor aside.

  • Dr Evil

    Social science is another oxymoron. There is no science in this ‘topic’ at all. It’s bollox.

  • Paul Marks

    Ironically Dugin has a lot in common with the philosophy of the modern American (and other) “liberals” – he is a relativist (like them), he denies objective morality and objective truth, he (like the modern “liberals”) believes in an all powerful state, he (like them) makes no real distinction between state and civil society……

    And on and on.

    The Western media (and education system) say they hate Dugin and President Putin – but they share common philosophical assumptions.

    Both Mr Putin (and Mr Dugin) and “CNN liberals” would consider such things as the Constitution of Texas (1876) as based on absurd philosophical assumption of objective and universal principles of reason and justice.

    Both Dugin and “CNN liberals” are philosophically on the side of the German Declaration of War upon France in 1914 – a Declaration of War based upon LIES (such as the claim that the French were bombing Bavaria), and which President Poincare of France declared was really a philosophical Declaration of War on the very idea of objective and universal principles of “reason and justice”.

  • NickM

    Dr Evil,
    Social “science” is not so much an oxymoron as a marketting. It is perhaps a tribute to how successful real science has been in explaining much and enabling so many technologies (Thailover’s point on science/tech is duly noted) that any number of disciplines have felt the need to co-opt the term “science”. Of course this is problematic because it means that some quite half-baked drivel gets a coating of something like “truth”.

  • bobby b

    Dr Evil
    July 1, 2018 at 5:34 pm

    “Social science is another oxymoron. There is no science in this ‘topic’ at all. It’s bollox.”

    Social science, when performed correctly, is simply the valid computation of probabilities, and can be useful and informative.

    Mathematical calculation falls under STEM, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can be termed a science. It’s more akin to the competent installation of plumbing, which places it below “science”, but far above Feminist Empowerment Literature.

    Of course, too many seem to practice a “social science” that has every bit as much rigor as the aforesaid Feminist Empowerment Literature, and so all social science gets a bad name.

  • NickM

    bobby b,
    The question as to whether maths is a science is thorny. Let’s not go there. Maybe later?

    I’m sorry but social science has given itself a bad name because it isn’t science. Probably it’s most glaring shortcomings on that score are the difficulty of quantifying a lot of it’s concepts and the fact that social sientist don’t agree on the meaning of even basic concepts.

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    This is a few months’ old but still very relevant from Tom G Palmer, on the rise of anti-libertarian thought, and Dugin, about whom Palmer has written a fair amount, gets quite a lot of attention in this excellent essay via CATO.

  • bobby b

    July 2, 2018 at 11:21 am

    “The question as to whether maths is a science is thorny. Let’s not go there. Maybe later?”

    I have to go there, sorry, if only very briefly, simply to point out that I purposefully said “mathematical calculation” and not “mathematics” specifically in order to differentiate the churning of data points through known equations – which is what statistical analysis is – from true mathematics.

    I’m not disparaging the second. I’m smart enough to churn, but not to ponder.

  • Mr Ed

    Mathematics is a science in that the root of the word is from the Latin verb for ‘to know’, ‘scio’ = ‘I know’.

    Where mathematics differs from other sciences is that it does not depend on the reality of the external world (OK, a lot of physics might be like that), and a curious, sentient, intelligent being devoid of physical form and unable to enage in or observe our or any Universe could appreciate or devise mathematics by reason.

  • Paul Marks

    Correct Mr Ed – and the Ancient Greeks understood that as mathematics was universal and objective, so might other things be. And that it was a matter of reason – not experiment.