Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Tom Paine's Age of Reason

Now this is a worthwhile read!

By the way, I finished Moral Politics. Eh. No data whatsoever. Where are the stats? Why not just say that this is cultural criticism? Why "scientize" it?

Given that, I do think, descriptively, he has a lot to say. Prescriptively, I'm not sure I agree. Lakoff's main mistake is slipping between descriptive and prescriptive, but we can talk about it if y'all want.

If this is cognitive "science," uh oh. But that's really a side issue: Can Lakoff help? I think maybe a little. I don't buy his bisection between Strict Father and Nurturant Parent, and his exceptions are so manifold that the dichotomy falls apart. So, he needs a better theory of the mind and personality (which cognitive therapists tend to lack, or even disdain!) in order to make actual causal arguments for the general division that underlies his entire thesis. Plus, as I said, he adduces zero evidence for it. I mean surveys, etc., and he even disdains that -- at one point early on he says that anyone who asks for that data is missing the point. I don't think I'm missing the point. Unless Lakoff has "higher sight," I'll be needing some evidence that he actually found this bifurcation, rather than invented it. That's science; if you don't do that, it's not science, so don't say it is. That doesn't mean it's not worthwhile, but you get no credit from me trying to "scientize" what isn't actually scientific.

Lakoff's thesis is untestable, as he disdains surveys, etc., and thus unrefutable. What's left is basic rhetoric, as Rossi pointed out.

So, Lakoff's book is both new and brilliant, but, unfortunately, what's new isn't brilliant and what's brilliant isn't new. (I cribbed that line from, I think, Samuel Johnson.)

1 Thoughts:

Blogger Doug said...

For linguistics, I'd turn (as I have) to Chomsky. His Language and Responsibility is next, and I have some other more technical works I plan to read, too.

For a brilliant diagnosis of the problem at hand, I still think 67-odd pages of Frankfurt's On Bullshit will do a lot to situate the problem. It's up to us to figure out how to combat it, but I think Mr. Orwell, in his life and writings, shows exactly what needs to be done.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005 11:06:00 AM  

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