continued from here. note: this is doing a lot of groundwork, so it’s pretty dense.
Philosophy may or may not be useless, I say we showed the opposite. Why?
And Adeimantus interrupted and said, “What would your apology be, Socrates, if someone were to say that you’re hardly making these men happy, and further, that it’s their own fault – they to whom the city in truth belongs but who enjoy nothing good from the city as do others, who possess lands, and build fine big houses, and possess all the accessories that go along with these things, and make private sacrifices to gods, and entertain foreigners, and, of course, also acquire what you were just talking about, gold and silver and all that’s conventionally held to belong to men who are going to be blessed? But, he would say, they look exactly like mercenary auxiliaries who sit in the city and do nothing but keep watch.”
“Yes,” I said, “and besides they do it for food alone; they get no wages beyond the food, as do the rest. So, if they should wish to make a private trip away from home, it won’t even be possible for them, or give gifts to lady companions, or make expenditures wherever else they happen to wish, such as those made by the men reputed to be happy. You leave these things and a throng of others like them out of the accusation.”
“Well,” he said, “let them too be part of the accusation.”
“You ask what our apology will then be?”
“Making our way by the same road,” I said, “I suppose we’ll find what has to be said. We’ll say that it wouldn’t be surprising if these men, as they are, are also happiest. However, in founding the city we are not looking to the exceptional happiness of any one group among us but, as far as possible, that of the city as a whole. We supposed we would find justice most in such a city, and injustice, in its tum, in the worst-governed one, and taking a careful look at them, we would judge what we’ve been seeking for so long. Now then, we suppose we’re fashioning the happy city – a whole city, not setting apart a happy few and putting them in it…”
A) The comedic timing here is gold.
B) Socrates responds with two distinct arguments. “It wouldn’t be surprising if they were the happiest (because you have no idea what happiness is), but anyway we only designed this city for justice (so why are you trying to change the design?).” I’m going to focus on the latter (design), but the former (happiness) will be important for everything here on out.
C) Question: what is the ultimate purpose of the noble lie? “To raise the guardians to protect the city.” What’s the point of the guardians? “To make the city function.” What’s the point of the city functioning? “To obey its rulers.” What’s the import of the rulers? “Only they craft and enforce the city’s customs.” Fine, why do we need those customs? “So that the guardians can be educated into guarding the city.” Yeah, but why do we need them to guard the city? “So that it can function safely.” For what? “Sorry, isn’t it obvious? For justice.”
But we defined justice as the city functioning.
The definition of justice arrived at (“not interfering with others”) is weird but fine, and it isn’t where things start to break down. Socrates was asked to prove that justice is a terminal value with the implied condition that words are just words and no philosophy is allowed. Seems hard, but what did the feverish city prove? Justice is having a just city for justice, so you should care about justice in order to have justice. Hey, that sounds about right.
The best you can say, lacking some other measure, is that something “works for working to keep working.” Thrasymachus sounds like he has another measure (“advantage”), just like he sounds like “a hard-nosed political realist,” but Thrasymachus sounds all the time about a lot of things worth sounding around. That merely makes him loud. Here, he’s raucously tautological: “justice is the advantage of the stronger,” with “stronger” defined as “he who rules,” and “he who rules” defined as “he who is best at ruling,” making justice good for the justice necessary to help the ruler ruling to keep being a ruler.
We’re talking about the use of things, for instance “justice” or “philosophy” or “anything else.” But useful for what? Is it useful for being useful? Not even Sisyphus was required to best his timing with every heave, but I’m supposed to accept that as a core value? Efficiency for something is wonderful, efficiency for its own sake is hell. Am I supposed to act like the “for” is meaningless? Someone knows, they’ll substitute a substantive for you, be careful when you talk about utility. You can swallow the preposition but you’ll choke on the noun.
Books I-III are the foundation of the city and a description of its basic structure. They’re explicitly philosophical, by which I mean the city is still clearly a metaphor for Justice and Truth and Goodness of the Soul and Other Such Capitalized Words. That culminates in early Book IV, with the ability to finally define “justice” based on the design of the city, which leads into the problems above, which leads to the introduction of philosophy in Book VII. By any reasonable standard, that makes philosophy “important,” which is fine, but things can be important in all sorts of ways – hence, Books IV, V, and VI. Everything above is still “ethics” and “more ethics” with a little bit of “politics,” which is neither hard to prove nor really worth proving. Our task was to connect metaphysics, not blather about [whatever is happening up there].
Books IV-V are concerned with the minutae of the city, and they get set off by Adeimantus’s question. They’re technical, where “technical” means “basically playing Sim City,” i.e. concerned with the careful design of the hypothetical city before the introduction of philosophy. These passages are more or less the reason people mistake the Republic for a political book, but it’s still about the soul. More to the point: it’s still about philosophy, but in the sense of “how to do philosophy,” with the city currently operating as a metaphor for doing it badly. Not coincidentally, “playing Sim City” is also how “Plato”-“loving” technocrats do their realpoliticking.
Thrasymachus has a problem – he assumes that “advantage” has some meaning that “justice” lacks, but the two concepts are inescapably stuck together. The glue is “good,” the issue is “finding it,” the methods are philosophy or […]. We’ve decided to go with the brackets, so what now? “Let’s talk about serious things,” so you assume that the problems work out on their own. They don’t, and now you have a very serious torture garden.
Adeimantus thinks that “happiness” is somehow more objective, which is bizarre, but the problem has compounded with another. He (correctly) intuits issues with the city, and then proceeds to “solve” them in the worst possible way. Thrasymachus was, at least, starting with a blank slate. Addie is not, he has the entire feverish city constructed according to the group’s specifications. He dislikes what came of it, so he wants to sub in some pleasure, but he doesn’t realize that things do not work that way.
Addie thinks the city is able to both define justice and allow pleasure, but what he doesn’t understand is that the conditions of “justice” preclude that kind of pleasure. Alternately, the conditions of pleasure preclude that kind of justice. “Lacking objective definition” means “liable to change,” and “liable to change.” Put a different way: did Adeimantus not think that “happiness” existed before? Why does Socrates claim they’ll be happiest? Addie (correctly) recognized it as a different one than he wants, but he doesn’t understand that justice has the same problem. Add in the pleasure, receive a different justice. Redefining one word redefines the others around it because they’re interconnected.
Words are just words, we agreed with Thrasymachus by design and then proved it via the noble lie and the act of defining justice. Adeimantus: “Oh. Well if it’s subjective, then it must not matter how they get defined or how those definitions fit each other. Let’s pop in some pleasure.” You go through values like a buffet, picking and choosing the ones that seem “nicest” without any regard for what those things mean. After all, it’s subjective. This means the opposite is important, you’re getting confused by words not by uncritically accepting them but because you knew to critically examine them and were bad at it.
Want to understand the world? One weird trick, Plato scholars hate him: Addie and Thras are the exact same person, and I’m giving a contentious reading of the Republic here to get you to recognize it. Full-blown Thrasymachus [whatever]ism is popular among teenagers/adults who get intellectually cornered and regress into teenagers, but the Adeimantus variation is extremely common. “Well, there aren’t Forms, and it’s not falsifiable, plus, like, social control, so who cares about justice?” Huh, never thought about it that way.
It’s not that it “won’t work,” it’s that it will always work. Defining justice a certain way is just that: definitional. Defining happiness a certain way is just that: definitional. The problem comes when the words are the same but their objects different, when a not-so-subtle-but-apparently-too-subtle shift makes you prove the opposite of what you meant to, and then when you get confused and think you’re still talking about the same concept. The value of it is different now.
“Extremely common.” You will accuse me of arguing with a cartoon, which I am, but only because people reduce their own arguments to 16-bit. It’s not even a specific cartoon: social constructivists, STEMsupremacists, a sad old academic raising his twitter count so the publishers will take his life’s work seriously. Exact same game, choose your fighter and spend the others, everyone’s a token something:
- An entire genre of papers attempting to quantify democracy is well-received and cited. The problem is that everyone decided that defining democracy was “boring” and, perhaps, “hard,” and most certainly “obvious,” so they let the numbers do it for them. Numbers don’t do that, so you have meaningless papers proving nothing about definitions no one would accept. But they do seem “important.”
- Edgy social constructivists try to evade “scientific objectivity” by redefining Truth as power, accidentally redefine it in the exact same way as the empiricists, use it to prove the exact same thing. Why did they care about truth? Serious question.
- A prominent Big Thinker writes a Big Thinking History about the causal import of the Enlightenment, defines “the Enlightenment” in 21st century terms, still gives it an 18th century causal role. Further fails to define “rationality” or “good,” argues for an inhuman and impossible world, calls it “rational” and “good” because he’d set it up that way.
- Same big thinker relies on bad social science genre, accidentally points out concentration of power among the wealthy, gets confused because it’s defined as “democracy,” and “democracy” is certainly an important word.
- Various extremely staunch scientific realists decide to be a little bit too realist. In so doing, they reaffirm the Platonic forms, probably God, and almost certainly clear the way for a kind of moral realism they would find antiquated and a little scary. But it does, technically, “work.”
- Both “postmodernists” and people who fucking love science crash into the fact that truth doesn’t mean what they think it does, so science doesn’t mean what they think it does, but since they were arguing with the old definitions of the words anyway they just keep doing that. This time, with inapplicable arguments.
Not one single person failed to prove something, but neither did any of them prove what they set out to prove. The problem in approximately none of these cases is people being wrong. The issue is the precise way in which they went wrong.
Philosophy is not a science, but philosophical schools are somewhat analogous to Kuhnian paradigms. I think this is a more helpful metaphor for us than the city, the current essay is going to expand on it, I’ll need it for more important points down the line.
I’ll make this argument, be suspicious of it: Books IV-V are, if anything, more metaphorical. Plato seems to treat Sim City as a serious entity, but that’s only a response to Addie’s latter-day Thrasymachus. The city is a paradigm, change one part and reformulate everything. Might need a different paradigm, might simply revise the old ones, doesn’t matter, same deal. Their style is a way of getting around the common and obvious critiques: “Yeah, but isn’t that just being a little pedantic?” I dunno, how low-res are you willing to be? Take a city and declare the only law: “Be nice unless you must be mean.” Think it’ll go well? What about if you change the definition of “mean” every few years?
That same aspect makes them less helpful here. They’re hard, proving that “Plato says this thing” is only interesting if you already care about Plato. It’s more valuable to speak broadly, by which I mean not at all about Plato. Kuhn is a better metaphor for our time.
Kuhn. Just like in philosophy, the kind of question you ask gets restricted by the paradigm, e.g. an eliminative materialist won’t be asking questions about qualia. Similarly, the objects you’ll interrogate are determined by the paradigm, e.g. consequentialists are much more likely to examine empirical results, deontologists more likely to take principles to their logical extremes. Certain proofs become uniquely valuable for a paradigm (say, “light” for Einstein or “virtue” for Aristotle), but these values become almost identical with a certain methodology. The methodology necessitates the value and vice-versa. Finally, normal vs. anomalous gets determined by the paradigm itself. “Right” or “wrong” answers are only right or wrong in relation to the theory, not in relation to “real truth.”
Paradigms are inherently ambiguous, by which I mean “incapable of being reduced to a list of rules,” and schools of philosophy are no different. No school has a “list” outside of wikipedia, they aren’t perfectly mathematical, there’s always guesswork and movement. Scholarship in philosophy works much like the scientific articulation of a paradigm. Without some wiggle-room, every change would require a paradigm shift, and the ambiguity works like a shock absorber. Certain changes do revise large parts of the previous theory, but there’s still general agreement over methods, objects of interrogation, etc.
Put a different way: two Heidegger scholars screaming about “enowning” still agree that “enowning” is important enough to scream over. Even if you’re arguing that it’s unimportant for Heidegger’s work, you’re still admitting that its relative unimportance is important enough to draw attention to. They’re under the same paradigm, everyone else knows it, that they have opposite interpretations of it changed nothing. Or: Most of the hate directed at careful scholars completely misses the mark. You can argue that the entire theory is worthless, fine, but it’s hard to ask a scholar to do anything besides minutae. It would be like demanding that every scientist come up with a new theory. This sounds like a defense of academic philosophy, but really it’s a pharmakon.
How is more important than what. Aristotle, Mill, and Kant all agree that “lying is bad.” Do they lie in the same way? Before answering, consider that words are meaningless and qualitative valuations liable to change.
There are a couple of results of this, and I hope the metaphor makes them easier to grasp:
First, it’s best not to think of results or specifics so much as methods, values, questions. How is more important than what, good=good=anything, and if you’ve ever read a philosophy book, you’ll know that they aren’t great about laying out definitions anyway. Where philosophical schools preach certain values, those values should be thought of as connections and tools rather than specific things. “Something that makes things visible or affords illumination” is true for Ptolemy, Newton, and Einstein. You need to have a more global understand, because you need to understand where the word can be used, why it gets used that way, and where its limitations are. Part of the issue is just that all definitions are going to arrive together. Context is king: e=mc^2 only makes sense with an understanding of m and e and the background knowledge of what that all came from.
Second, a question comes from paradigm, so certain pedantic changes are less pedantic than they seem. Philosophers may seem to agree on the importance of a concept (“Justice, I like it”) but they rarely use it the same way. This raises the stakes of things that seem small. For a given school, the solution to “why does non-euclidean geometry work?” is going to be tangled up with, say, why you should follow the golden rule (not a hypothetical). This is for an obvious reason: if you solved one problem with an equation, and that equation gets revised, you’ve now solved none problems. I recognize how weird this sounds, but recognize that if you only think that “light” means “something that makes things visible or affords illumination,” then the differences between Newton and Einstein actually don’t make much sense.
Third, paradigms are mostly incommensurable. Imagine plugging the periodic table into the world of phlogiston. What would happen? I have no idea, but it would not speak well of anyone involved. You might be able to get something out of it, but it’s hard to tell what anything there would actually mean. Similarly, try handing a deontological response to an ethical dilemma to a utilitarian. “No.” Good call. An obvious corollary is that – for the most part, exceptions are always there – no paradigm can really “disprove” another. They’re using completely different words even if they’re using the same words. What seems anomalous and paradigm breaking to one will not appear so to the other, because they have completely different standards for “anomalous behavior.” It may not even make sense.
Fourth, and most critically: some words are “important,” by which I mean they sound important. Freedom, truth, justice, etc. These have no meaning on their own, and a one-sentence definition will not actually get at their importance. Over time, due to their use in a paradigm and everything they’re connected to, the sounds have built up a valuable sediment, but the accrued value doesn’t stick to the phonemes. If you change everything around them, that word is no longer important at all. It’s not even the same concept. This sounds obvious, and it is, but what is less obvious comes from the first and second points: even if the one-line dictionary definition is the same, and so it looks to you like it’s the same with relatively minor variations in use, those minor variations might have utterly unsettled the whole. If your mistake the sound (worthless) for its use (important), then you’ve appropriated the value without retaining the concept.
Yes, these are broad strokes for an idealized version of philosophy. Yes, these are also assertions, I’m explaining how I’ll be using the words “philosophy” and “value” and “important” and “paradigm” for the rest of this series (read: this blog). Finally: yes, I know someone’s read a Nietzsche and will want to own me about “human reason and moralism.” It is true that people may have predetermined the morals and then built the metaphysics to justify those, rather than deducing ethics from pseudo-first-principles. In fact, I think it’s likely. Go reread and pretend that the values came first, it changes nothing but time and rhetoric unless you think that “reason” already has some special non-descriptive value, in which case –
Imagine an Extremely Important Lever in a factory. Due to a quirk of wiring, it has to be pulled at exactly the right time or the factory goes up in flames. Accordingly, the worker in charge of the Lever earns high wages, enjoys the station’s status and respect, etc. The factory is eventually remodeled and they fix the wiring problems. The Extremely Important Lever is still there for historical purposes, but now it only controls the lights to a supply closet. Is it the same Lever, does that Lever have the same value? If you wanted to argue that now salaries should be more equitable, what would you need to understand? Would it be enough to grasp the Lever’s shape, size, timing, the names of the operators and their yanking history?
If you want to understand why Adeimantus’s request is so bizarre, consider that plugging “pleasure” into the Feverish City is demanding that the Lever (justice) retain the same value (justice as staying in your lane), as though “uniform cyclical motion” was equally important to Newton. If you want to know why (1-6) think they did anything at all, consider that they presumed the value of a specific paradigm’s word (democracy, truth, good, etc.), changed the paradigm, and thought that the word was still important. It isn’t, it doesn’t even have the same meaning. We only cared about “democracy” because it had one specific use and a few specific connections, without those it’s just a sound.
“Fact/value.” Kind of, not really, fact/value needs to be understood in a particular way, that comes next time. Everyone knows that Saxonisms like “good” and “mean” and “kind” are the useful part of philosophy while the hyphenations are masturbatory, except that the truth is precisely the opposite. The import of those words only depend on the paradigm (alt: the noble lie). “Is it the same lever?” and then: “It’s the same material on the same wall, duh.” I could respond with an observation about reality, but ontology does seem kind of pedantic. What about the particular wire at floor 3, hallway B? “Uh, why are you asking me these frivolous questions?”
Kuhn’s views may rankle some, but he at least allows for some kind of progress. It’s not Philosophical Truth, but more and more solutions can be incorporated into the paradigms. More to the point: he provides a very solid defense of the physical sciences.
The interconnection between philosophy and science should be obvious enough. While normal science has no need for philosophy, extraordinary science requires it. Extraordinary science – preparadigmatic and crisis-periods – are characterized by an abundance of competing paradigms, and thus all arguments are primarily philosophical. Not arguments over the facts over which facts are relevant, which categories they belong to, and how those categories interrelate. For much the same reason, he later decided that the social sciences were and might always be preparadigmatic, i.e. not sciences.
In extraordinary periods, competing paradigms argue philosophically because they need to use philosophy (or “qualitative work” if you’re a prude) to determine the categories they’ll be testing. In turn, the sciences adopt a paradigm because it’s demonstrated solutions for “more puzzles”. Bluntly: philosophy alone cannot convince scientists to adopt your paradigm. It has to allow for more puzzles and give you the hint of a solution or two. Another blunt thing: this is where the metaphor begins to break down.
A science will have a given paradigm at a given time, but philosophy is perpetually pre-paradigmatic. This is for a few reasons: 1) It just isn’t that way, sorry. 2) Truth-standards are, by definition, determined by philosophies. They’re pre-empirical, you need to know what “something works” looks like before you can declare empiricism the workiest, meaning that “more puzzles” is not actually possible under different philosophical paradigms. 3) Different value systems are a part of the game.
“Fact/value.” Kind of, not really, fact/value needs to be understood in a particular way, that comes next time. When misunderstood, that can lead to the following: “unfalsifiable means irresolvable,” which is a weird thing to say, because you resolved the importance of empiricism just fine. “What?” Can you falsify falsifiablility? Sorry, I missed Popper’s empirical demonstration of it. I’m not trying to gotcha, I’m establishing base-level honesty. Variants of empiricism require pre-empirical work, which means they have non-empirical results. Are those unimportant? You realize that there are many different ways to respond to “unanswerable questions,” right?
I care about science too, why do you think I bother to write about it? Here’s your problem: certain values – say, truth – are different from field to field, and all of them will always “work,” because “working” has no meaning outside of a broader value system. Hell, even saying that something is “untrue, but it still works,” requires that. Plenty of people admit lies into their value systems, see: me.
That being said, unfalsifiability is important, and it’s interconnected with the “words are just words” position. The reason you need to care about the limits of a given mode of inquiry is that within certain limits, it will always work. It will never stop working, it will never arrive at a crisis on its own, you don’t get God’s hand reaching down to tell you when to stop, you have to stop yourself.
Put a different way: philosophy is not science, because it can never drive itself into crisis empirically. It can do so qualitatively, sometimes, maybe, bigger question. The immediate result is this: no crisis, but we do still have incommensurability. Want to see what happens when we don’t understand that?
This is dense, I know. It will be the most dense in this series, and it should be clarified by later pieces. It’s a necessary foundation for what comes later, and I couldn’t see a way to put it that was not overly [like this]. Let’s recap:
- Schools of philosophy work like paradigms – the questions, methods, etc. are tangled all together.
- Sometimes they overlap, but more often the overlap is superficial. Words that look the same will have very different uses and connections.
- Values get determined not axiomatically, but more loosely. They’re part of a whole. “Value” there should probably be clarified: I mean both value in the sense of a variable, i.e. use and meaning in a system and value in the sense of “importance, both ethical and metaphysical.”
- Changing aspects of the paradigm mean you’re not discussing the same object.
- Truth-standards are one of these, meaning that philosophical schools don’t run into crisis. You need to take great care with the philosophical reasons behind a certain value.
- …Because they’re still incommensurable, and the similarities of the words, and the sense of their “importance,” tricks people into crossing paradigms.
Normally, this means you just say something meaningless. Other times, it overlaps with definition drift. (Then again, definition drift is worth investigating.)
There’s one way to deal with this problem: “who cares?” It’s not a serious response.
Values may come from philosophy or noble lies or God or drinking your brain soft, but they’re there. Problem for another time, it’s a doozy. “Who cares” turns you into a puppet, see Thrasymachus. Hope your esophagus is particularly large. If someone’s feeling extra clever, you get “not even wrong” and, indeed, this is the exact problem. The only thing worse than having a crisis is not having a crisis.
Let’s work through a misunderstood example: Polanyi’s economic bias (or economistic prejudice, he uses both) and the double movement.
I’m going to mangle this to get the point across, the above article does a better job going through it all. Still, it’s important for us:
18th-19th century liberal economists needed to define wealth, so they galaxy-brained a measure for wages. This fit nicely for their purposes, it made things empirical (read: measurable), and the trend-lines were up. It also blinded them to certain phenomena, namely what everyone else meant by it and why they cared in the first place. Applying this – and thus defining “social progress” in a certain way that allowed for certain behaviors – is what Polanyi calls the economistic prejudice.
The traditional definition of wealth incorporated family and communal land and gifts and etc. These have obvious non-material value in addition to material value. Usufruct land provides food, families help you out when the harvest goes poorly, local churches provide a safety net different in kind from the poor-house. The results of the first movement – communal property was enclosed and sold, better wages came from a distant town with no family, religiosity fell as a result of work hours, etc. – damaged that. In their paradigm (not measurable, or at least not in the same way) wealth had fallen. They began to rebel, but their rebellions were in such a language as to be unintelligible. Liberal economists: Everything is going well, economy is booming, wages are wealth and wages are up, why are the plebs grumbling, are they daft?
This is not the problem.
Peasants were unhappy, liberal economists had all the power, their game their rules, the pleb definition of wealth is out. All of those traditional components (family, land, community, etc.) get reframed as solely cultural, and thus not a question for political policy. To argue about Serious Political Things, you have to talk about Serious Economic Things, i.e. the peasants had to translate their demands into liberal economic language. The solution could only be thought of in certain terms, and those terms couldn’t deal with the solution. The forms of aid proposed and the economic laws suggested all ran contrary to how the system worked, and if you’re crazy you might say “Good, burn it down,” but then you’d miss the broader point: the peasants couldn’t get what they wanted either. We’d (still) call it “cultural” rather than political, no proposals could properly address the actual “wealth” that the peasantry was talking about, burning the system down would take everyone even further.
Or, the problem is this: Since the peasants had to substitute their demands into a different system, the political results of those demands overturned everything. A value from a completely different system had been subbed in, which (checking Kuhn above) means that the rest of the system was getting subbed in, and solving for one system of equations with the x-values of another is never a good thing to attempt. x=7=x=39. Mathematically, this seems wrong.
Wealth=wages only one equation, but the rest of the paradigm was built around it, and the rest of the paradigm just happened to be “all of society.” Laws, theories, regulations, private firms, etc. Changing the definition of “wealth” is whatever, but changing it within all the rest of the is a little less whatever. Accounting for the wrongness meant incorporating a series of proposals that could never work within the system. When you try to translate “mere cultural concerns” into economic language, it goes poorly for the “cultural concerns” as well as the economy. When attempted, it meant pervasive inefficiencies, incoherent solutions, and worsening deprivations. Or: the entire system got scrapped. Here, “entire system” means the reigning global order, and “scrapped” means everything that happened from 1920-1950. No, this is not the entire story, but that was a major part. It still is. Why do you think so many mass movements tried to fit clearly cultural concerns into economistic language? Why do you think so many still do?
Polanyi refers to this type of social upheavals the “double movement.” People who read Polanyi tend to focus on the damages of the first part – enclosure acts, wrong-headed application of bad definitions, etc. – while ignoring the second. This second part of the double movement – “formalized local economics” did just as much damage, and it’s a prejudice to focus too hard on either part. It’s also foolish to argue of the facts. Wealth=wealth, look above, neither is truer.
The better question to ask is not truth, nor accuracy. It’s “why did we care about wealth in the first place?” followed by, “Wait, did we just forget why what we were measuring mattered?”
Polanyi’s argument is a textbook example of incommensurability, but it’s not an example of crisis. A crisis only comes where an observation is interpreted as an anomaly by the paradigm itself, but that could never have happened here. w=t*l will always empirically justify itself because there’s no “wealth” sitting around in object-space to tell you that it is not true. More to the point, if you think “wealth” can be measured with a few quick surveys and an equation, then nothing outside of a philosophical argument will prove you wrong. Here we’re pretend that this is impossible, meaning that, yes, nothing will prove you wrong.
Both systems worked, they were simply incommensurable. I’ve discussed the fallout in some detail, where I describing it as “translation issues.” The thing that looks like a “crisis” is actually one paradigm being substituted into another. You can think of it like a system of equations. The same w-value will always come up for the same system, and it only stops working when you plug in a value from a different one. Hey, that sounds about right.
The single worst way to understand this would be to argue that it was a problem of “fact,” because that’s how you repeat it. Unsurprisingly, that’s always how the argument goes, which leads to the next question: why do you think this happened?
Here’s one option, the better one: someone thought wealth=wealth, they had a paradigm that restricted certain questions, they did not understand where it differed from others, didn’t care, and so plopped in the value from a different one. Hilariously, this destroyed both.
Here’s a second option, far more unsettling: if you’ve unconscious adopted a certain modern paradigm – call it a noble lie – then your standard for “valuable” is something like Kuhn’s version of science. “What works” and also “How many puzzles will it solve?” This gets transmuted into “it works” and therefore “it’s correct,” which tricks you. “Wealth” is not a natural category, if you define wealth as “wages” then, empirically speaking, wealth will always be wages. What confused the economists was the assumption that, if wrong, they’d run into an anomaly. They didn’t, they ran into a different paradigm and failed to see it.
“Yes, but the empirical version of justice is truer, because it better incorporates the phenomena.” We already agreed that justice was subjective, so what could ‘truth’ possibly mean here? I suppose you mean “this is the observed behavior,” but if so, why are you assuming that it’s an important behavior to classify for observation? There’s no natural category for that, so the only possible justification is that the value is important to you, but then you betray the uses and connections that made it once useful. Why are you trying to keep the word anymore? Is it particularly mellifluous?
You have to be philosophically rigorous (read: care about qualitative arguments over subjective unmeasurables) because one cannot leap straight into the forms. This is for much the same reason that incommensurable paradigms means you have to be very careful about the limits of your own.
Where Kuhn gets accused of relativism is precisely the truth vs. puzzles question, but he points out (and it’s a good thing to point out) that there is an objective value here: puzzle solving is objective, inasmuch as “more puzzles” can be compared to paradigms with “fewer puzzles,” and science does not dispute its value. See above. Of course, Kuhn himself points out that his theory is totally relativistic when applied to anything like “society” or “thinking.” Kuhn was right.
“More puzzles” in the human realm is a value, as in “one of several options,” and there’s no clear reason to favor it and many reasons not to. If you optimize exclusively for “solve puzzles,” then you start to lose everything for that single one. Note that, based on everything said, it is impossible not to do this.
Ptolemy had a specific goal, “retaining uniform circular motion.” He contorted a whole bunch of things to achieve that, and there were epicycles everywhere, but he did manage to save the appearances. There were philosophical arguments for this, and there were philosophical arguments against this, but neither of those was quite as important as the Copernican ability to add to the stack of explicable phenomena. Copernicus completely changed the heavens, this is a good thing scientifically. The same action in the human realm – the same changing of the heavens – is not automatically good. We have values for reasons beyond solving puzzles about the values, right?
Or: Imagine trying to convince the Guardians that they should value “citizenship” without reference to this particular Noble Lie. Give it some pleasant, milquetoast definition that we all like, that allows for more phenomena, and that gives them their little pleasures (for Adiemantus). Let’s say that “citizenship” actually means “under the same legal framework.” Is that it?
The guardians set the legal framework, why not set it to their advantage? “Well that would be oppressive.” Who cares? The Guardians are also soldiers, hence the name, they kill people for the material good of the city. They’re allowed to do that because the-people-they-kill have no relation to them, and the Noble Lie is meant to convince them that they cannot do that to the people-they-govern because the-people-they-govern are family. If you get rid of that, they’re now equidistant from the people-they-kill and the people-they-govern. Do you seriously expect them not to at least hustle the governed out of a few bucks? Is killing less oppressive than scamming?
The Guardians valued a very specific citizenship, and we certainly can generalize it into “citizenship under the same legal framework.” That will allow us to solve more questions of fact re: citizenship in the world, how people in states behave, etc. The question you need to ask is: why does that “fact” have value?
Someone will now accuse me of being a relativist (it’s the opposite), because they will not have understood. I’ll put it plainly: these are not natural categories, their reality depends on your paradigm, under an empirical paradigm “justice” and “virtue” and “kindness” most definitely are not real. You grouped a bunch of phenomena under a certain label and act like it’s a meaningful category. Which it is, maybe, but only because there was some anterior version you’ve swapped out.
The definition will always work, not all of the definitions have the same value. We invented the facts, then we’re surprised that they’re invented, and in our surprise we argue about which invention is the least invented.
Works for what is the question, which means we start here: They both work, both are useful, they’re equally subjective. “Equally subjective” does not mean “equivalent.”
It also doesn’t mean “equal,” and if you think it does then you probably think that useful things are used for using.
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