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Friday, September 07, 2012

How Do Bright People Fall into This Trap?

Pareto is a very interesting social theorist, but he commits an error so egregious that I am gobsmacked whenever I encounter it: he holds that all theories are "mere manifestations of psychic states."*

But that proposition is, of course, itself a theory, and by its own lights, must be a mere manifestation of Pareto's psychic state. How can obviuosly intelligent people miss this when they spout such nonsense?

* Pareto: Sociological Writings, p. 37

6 comments:

  1. Some psychic states are more useful or accurate than others. I don't see why you can't have a psychic state that holds that all theories are mere manifestations of psychic states. If that seems to characterize the world well, you're more likely to maintain that psychic state, right? And you'll probably be better off for it.

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    Replies
    1. The idea that some psychic states are more useful or accurate than others is itself a theory, which, per Pareto, must be simply a manifestation of your psychic state.

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    2. Let's say i am in a psychic state which "causes" me to emit the proposition "any psychic state is as good as any other." If we accept Pareto's idea, how could you possibly refute me, except by noting your psychic state is different than mine, which is obviiously no refutation at all?

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    3. re: "The idea that some psychic states are more useful or accurate than others is itself a theory, which, per Pareto, must be simply a manifestation of your psychic state."

      Right.

      We've established that. You seem to think that "a psychic state" is equivalent to "not descriptive of the world". Why is that?

      I could refute that psychic state by pointing to data that show that some psychic states are a lot worse than others. You may or may not be convinced. If I manage to convince a lot of people with that explanation, and if I convince them by following predetermined rules of argument/logic/science/inference or what have you then we say that I've "refuted" your point.

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    4. I haven't explained fully enough what Pareto meant, i see. He was being dismissive of theories. here would be an example: a man is fearful of sex. That is his "psychic state." but he can't leave it at that: over that he erects a superstructure of theory, say, about the virtues of chastity. The theory, per Pareto, is just bs to rationalize the fear (or lust or greed etc).

      Except for his theory, of course.

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  2. "It's a psychic state!"
    "It's a statement about fundamental reality!"
    "It's a psychic state, I tell you!"

    "Hey, folks, you're BOTH right: It's a psychic state, AND it's a statement about fundamental reality!"

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