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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daniel Kuehn Diagnoses the Disaster of the Modern Social Sciences

Except he likes the disaster:
Thinking like an economist simply means that you scientifically approach human social behavior - which means that you approach them like any other species of animal. Nobody judges animals when they behave in ways that we would consider horrendous in other humans. They're just... animals. And that's what you really need for good social science. You need to look at your fellow humans as "just animals."
When we had real social scientists, such as Aristotle, they knew that man is the "rational animal," and as such, distinctly different from other animals, and so in need of special analysis, such as political science.

If you can't tell the difference between a dandelion and a redwood tree, you are going to make an awful botanist, and we have awful social sciences because the practitioners can't tell the difference between a human being and a tapeworm.

9 comments:

  1. At the very least, his science should begin by classifying humans as featherless bipeds.

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  2. Gene, I chimed in, in your defense, at Daniel's blog where he responds. But let me say here: I think what you are doing in this post is pretty close to what Matt Yglesias did to you, regarding your moral relativism post. Daniel is saying that *in one respect* social scientists should treat humans and (other) animals the same, and then you accuse Daniel of not being able to tell the difference between a human and a tapeworm.

    So if you were mad at Yglesias before, you can chill out, since now you can understand what would lead somebody to do such a thing in an Internet argument.

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    Replies
    1. I don't know, Bob: what does he mean when he keeps saying we are "just" an animal? I don't ever see him saying "in some respects."

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    2. We've gone over "just" ad nauseum, Gene. You should know what I mean.

      You and I agree there are some very special things about humans. I don't see why this is somehow distinct from our animal nature. You - for some reason - think it is distinct from our animal nature.

      I say "just an animal" because (1.) it doesn't rule out the stuff that makes us special, and (2.) it reminds people that we are animals and can be analyzed as such - something that often gets forgotten by people that get too caught up in the things that do legitimately make us special.

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    3. What would be nice is to not have to walk through this "Daniel is forgetting there's something special about us" thing every single time. I certainly don't think that. I just don't see any obvious reason to ascribe some sort of transcendent qualities to what makes us special.

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    4. Daniel, if you insist on using the phrase "Just an X," which, as I've demonstrated, has the common meaning "Nothing special about it as an X," then I may object. If you acknowledge something special about humans, then stop using a phrase that means there is nothing special about humans.

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    5. "What would be nice is to not have to walk through this "Daniel is forgetting there's something special about us" thing every single time."

      It would also be sweet if you stopped using a phrase which MEANS "there is nothing special about X as a variety of Y" if you don't mean "there is nothing special about X as a variety of Y."

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  3. Keep fighting the good fight Gene. The Abolition of Man will not have been written in vain.

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