The Dictatorship of Theory

(Here’s something I wrote several years ago…I was reminded of it by a current post and discussion discussion at Quillette, so thought I”d post it here and link it there.  The references aren’t current, but the issues raised remain very real.)

Professor “X” teaches at a prominent private university. Recently, he taught a course on “Topics in Theory and Criticism.” He thought the class was going poorly–it was difficult to get the students to talk about the material–but on the last day of class, he received an ovation.

“I didn’t understand what was going on until a few days later,” he writes (in an e-mail to Critical Mass.) “Several students came to see me during office hours to tell me that they had never taken a course quite like this one before. What they had expected was a template-driven, “here’s how we apply ****ist theory to texts” approach, because that is how all of their classes are taught in the English department here…Not a single one of these students had ever read a piece of theory or criticism earlier than the 1960s (with the exception of one who had been asked to read a short excerpt from Marx.) They simply had never been asked to do anything other than “imitate without understanding.””

In university humanities departments, theory is increasingly dominant–not theory in the traditional scholarly and scientific sense of a tentative conceptual model, always subject to revision, but theory in the sense of an almost religious doctrine, accepted on the basis of assertion and authority. To quote Professor “X” once again: “Graduate “education” in a humanities discipline like English seems to be primarily about indoctrination and self-replication.”

The experiences of Professor “X” are far from unique. Professor “Y,” chair of an English department, describes his experiences in interviewing for a new job (also in an e-mail to Critical Mass). “How truthful could I afford to be about my growing dissatisfaction with theory? Should I trump up some ghastly theoretical allegiances, or should I just come clean about my desire to leave theory behind to try to become genuinely learned?” He decided to do the latter, cautiously. In his job talk, he said:

“The writings I’ve published draw on a number of different theoretical perspectives…the overarching goal I’ve set for myself in my scholarship, though is gradually to lessen my reliance on the theories of others…” He sensed at this point that he had lost the support of about three quarters of his audience, and he was not offered the job. Those who did like the statement were older faculty members–one of whom later told Prof “Y” that she hadn’t heard anyone say something like this in twenty years.

Why is theory (which would often more accurately be called meta-theory) so attractive to so many denizens of university humanities departments? To some extent, the explanation lies in simple intellectual fad-following. But I think there is a deeper reason. Becoming an alcolyte of some all-encompassing theory can spare you from the effort of learning about anything else. For example: if everything is about (for example) power relationships–all literature, all history, all science, even all mathematics–you don’t need to actually learn much about medieval poetry, or about the Second Law of thermodynamics, or about isolationism in the 1930s. You can look smugly down on those poor drudges who do study such things, while enjoying “that intellectual sweep of comprehension known only to adolescents, psychopaths and college professors” (the phrase is from Andrew Klavan’s unusual novel True Crime.)

The dictatorship of theory has reached its greatest extremes in university humanities departments, but is not limited to these. Writing 50 years ago, C S Lewis says the following about his sociologist hero in the novel That Hideous Strength:

“..his education had had the curious effect of making things that he read and wrote more real to him than the things he saw. Statistics about agricultural laboureres were the substance: any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmer’s boy, was the shadow…he had a great reluctance, in his work, to ever use such words as “man” or “woman.” He preferred to write about “vocational groups,” “elements,” “classes,” and “populations”: for, in his own way, he believed as firmly as any mystic in the superior reality of the things that are not seen.”

It’s unlikely that the phenomenon Lewis describes has become any less prevalent in the intervening half-century. But in the social sciences, there is at least some tradition of empiricism to offset an uncontrolled swing to pure theory.

The theoretical obsession has even made a transition from academia into the business world, via MBA programs. Many newly-graduated MBAs have in their head some strategic “paradigm,” into which they will fit any business reality like a Procrustean bed. The 4X4 strategic grid, or the mathematical decision tool, are far more real to them than the actual details of manufacturing and selling a particular product. Like Lewis’ sociologist, they believe in “the superior reality of things not seen.” The attractions of theory-driven kind of thinking in business are similar to those that make it attractive in university humanities departments. By emphasizing theoretical knowledge, an MBA with little experience can convince himself (and possibly others) that he deserves more authority than those with broad experience and “tacit knowledge” in a particular business.

I’m not arguing that theory is useless in business management, any more than I’m arguing that it’s useless in academia. I am arguing that theory should be balanced by factual knowledge and empiricism, and that it should never be allowed to degenerate into dogma.

There’s an old saying: when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In today’s world, we have an epidemic of people metaphorically trying to use hammers to drive nails, or to use saws to weld metal. Academia bears a grave responsibility for this situation. Too often, professors have acted not like true scholars, but like preachers believing that their salvation lies in getting people to accept the One True Doctrine, entire and unmodified–or like salesmen who have only one product to sell and will do their best to sell it to you, regardless of whether it has anything to do with your actual needs or not.

See also Studying ‘Frankenstein’ Without Reading ‘Frankenstein’.

34 thoughts on “The Dictatorship of Theory”

  1. This is another facet of the things I’ve been saying for years, related to the entire paradigm of our selection and educational system for our “elite technocrats”, to whom we’ve handed so much power.

    I think the problem originates in the idea at the very root of it all: That “intelligence” is something reducible to the things we can test for on a written exam. This idea has warped everything that follows onwards from that testing, right into education and then post-education employment/promotion.

    It’s not that the tests are invalid, either–They do measure aspects of intelligence. The problem is that they’re disconnected from actual real-world performance and accountability. Nobody goes back to look at the things these wunderkind have gotten up to, or evaluate the actual effect of their efforts.

    The things decried in this post are a side-effect of the issue I’m discussing: IQ testing sans real-world performance assessments and feedback loops into the educational process lead to an ever-increasing level of narcissism and solipsist behavior within the academy, which further warp things by encouraging precisely the wrong sort of dysfunctional people to take roles within the academy while simultaneously promoting them regardless of actual real-world performance or effects. You can see this in the various “English Professor” types who decry grammar and proper English as being “colonial and demeaning”, utterly without value. The fact that it renders the products of their English courses unable to write or speak standard English well enough to get good employment? Never considered, never evaluated by anyone.

    Couple of good papers which discuss the edges of this are out there: One, by James Flynn (of the “Flynn Effect” described in The Bell Curve), is entitled “Beyond the Flynn Effect” and discusses the distortive effects that IQ testing has had on education and the testing process itself–We have, in his opinion, been “teaching the test” to an alarming degree. It’s quite a piece with the whole quantum observer effect you note with regards to what is sometimes termed the “Hawthorne Effect”, wherein by observing human factors processes, you distort the hell out of them by virtue of the fact that you’re openly observing them in the first place.

    https://www.psychometrics.cam.ac.uk/about-us/directory/beyond-the-flynn-effect

    He’s got a book out, which isn’t exactly new, but I just discovered it and put it in my reading queue.

    I’ve instinctively felt that we’ve been on the wrong course with much of this crap since childhood, when I first made the observations that a.) I’m really not all that smart, b.) these tests are really easy for me, and c.) those people over there who I’m told are really smart, too…? They’re mostly and demonstratively actually very stupid in terms of demonstrating or possessing an iota of common sense. The vaunted “intellectuals” I’ve been exposed to, over the years, have mostly been some of the most easily duped and credulous actual dimwits that you could possibly imagine–And, we’ve put them in charge of everything.

    Trust me on this: By the time you’ve watched your various and sundry West Point-graduate officers getting the wool actively pulled over their eyes by some barely-literate high-school dropout senior NCO, you’ll really start to question the value of attendance at said institution. Some of those guys credulously bought the most egregiously fraudulent BS I’ve ever seen sold by anyone, including traveling circus carnies and traveling salesmen…

    Whatever the hell it is that IQ tests measure, it ain’t what we term “street smarts” or common sense.

  2. University humanities departments have been overrun by commies. There’s no reason to overthink this, or try to apply some theory or other. They’re basically just all commies.

  3. ” Becoming an acolyte of some all-encompassing theory can spare you from the effort of learning about anything else.”

    THIS.

    I’ve long believed that the real reason Chomsky’s theories of language became so popular with American linguists was that if they subscribed to those theories, everything about how languages work could be deduced from English; no need for the messy, time-consuming work of actually learning other languages.

  4. Ideologies of any sort, whether they be political or academic, are substitutes for thought, representing an attempt to impose imaginary rules on an inherently chaotic universe. The people who treat ideologies as unquestionable propositions, all-encompassing solutions to all things problematical? In my observation, they’re mostly mentally ill dullards who are frightened of actually thought and too damn lazy to undertake original thinking of their own.

    You can tell someone is ideologically bound when you question them about their pet theories. If they cannot refute questioning or counter-evidence with good argument, and resort to spouting off the shibboleths and catch-phrases of their ideological preceptors, well… You’re not really discussing or arguing with a real entity; you’re engaged with a regurgitator of someone else’s thought-vomitus.

  5. The writer Andre Maurois asserted that people who are *intelligent*…but not at all *creative*…tend to be eager adopters of intellectual systems created by others, and to hold to those systems more rigidly than the originators of those systems would do.

    The vast expansion of academia in recent decades has probably brought in a lot of people who fit the ‘intelligent but not creative’ description. So, say you’re an academic, you need to publish original research, but you don’t have a lot of original ideas. What to do? One answer is to grab hold of whatever conceptual framework is currently considered hot (even better, also considered cool) and do a slightly different spin on it. I suspect that a lot of the ethnicity/race/gender obsession derives from this phenomenon.

  6. Ike was a smart guy:
    “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.”

  7. Margaret…C S Lewis, in ‘The Abolition of Man’, critiqued a secondary school literature book which was basically about debunking the emotional content of literature. In discussing the motivations of the writers for taking this approach, he said:

    “In the first place, literary criticism is difficult, and what they
    actually do is very much easier. To explain why a bad treatment of some basic
    human emotion is bad Uterature is, if we exclude all question-begging attacks on
    the emotion itself, a very hard thing to do. Even Dr Richards, who first seriously
    tackled the problem of badness in literature, failed, I think, to do it. To ‘debunk’
    the emotion, on the basis of a commonplace rationalism, is within almost anyone’s
    capacity.”

  8. In one college English class I took, the instructor told how he, as a student, objected to the popular theory that a famous poem was written in the early morning hours of quiet contemplation. His objection to this was based on the poem mentioned the fast chirping of crickets and that crickets do not chirp quickly in cooler weather. The professor teaching him said that this was not a valid argument because the crickets would not dare contradict the poet.
    My class instructor then went on to say that this was a brilliant argument against his objection.
    Main result for me – don’t wanna take this nutjob seriously.

  9. One of the forces that nudged academia along to its demise was a hunger for novelty. It’s a society-wide thing and not new: “Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.” (Let me check my news feed again..)

    There’s a place for this: In chemistry a diligent student can measure something nobody has ever known before: original research gets you a PhD. But “science envy” encourages nonsense when the discipline isn’t suited for original research.

    You can’t create new Shakespeare or 14’th century French literature, you can only master them. Or… write a thesis on “Patuxet Influences on Shakespeare”–that’s new. Or “Colonizations of Gender Oppression in Chanson de Geste”. That looks vaguely like original research. (FWIW, The STEM folks I’ve known have been happy to explain their work to a layman, if not always adept at it. I think that’s one of the motivators of a scientist–to find something new and tell people about it.)

    With an appropriate template you can stamp out “scholarly” papers as fast as you need to, switching the target and emphasis to suit the fashion. If a paper gets you in the news as well, so much the better. The unenlightened just don’t understand; your peers will. And you’re doing new work, just like the big boys.

    Real mastery is hard, and doesn’t have the cachet of “new and improved.” Where’s the incentive to work on mastery, when bafflegab works so well?

    There are plenty of other factors, of course, not least of which is the attitude that anything done with the mind is cleaner and more perfect than things done with mere hands. (A relic of Plato’s Ideas?)

  10. Roland Fryer, an intellectually outstanding black professor at Harvard, ran afoul of the conventional beliefs of black faculty that racism explains everything.

    Roland Fryer, an economics professor at Harvard University, recently published a working paper at NBER on the topic of racial bias in police use of force and police shootings. The paper gained substantial media attention – a write-up of it became the top viewed article on the New York Times website. The most notable part of the study was its finding that there was no evidence of racial bias in police shootings, which Fryer called “the most surprising result of [his] career”. In his analysis of shootings in Houston, Texas, black and Hispanic people were no more likely (and perhaps even less likely) to be shot relative to whites.

    Fryer’s analysis is highly flawed, however. It suffers from major theoretical and methodological errors,

    Actually, theological errors would be more like it. He was accused of sexually harassing some staff member and suspended on the advice of an all black committee of rivals. His research facility was closed and his grad students dismissed. Heretics will not be tolerated.

  11. Which goes to demonstrate the corruption of today’s academy, more than anything else.

    The astonishing thing is how they can’t recognize that they’re actually inculcating a persecution complex that turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. White guy gets stopped by the police, his first reaction is typically “What did I do wrong…?”, and that white guy takes it as a corrective on his driving behavior. Black guy gets stopped? Oh, hell… The most likely reaction is “You stopped me because I’m black…” and it escalates from there into a full-blown incident because of their attitude and reaction. If you’re antagonistic from the first word exchanged, what the hell do you expect is going to result from that?

    I’ve been sitting in the passenger seat with a black guy driving the car, when stopped by a black police officer. The driver turned it into some kind of racial litmus test, and the stop ended with him in handcuffs, while I’m sitting there, jaw agape, watching him turn that whole thing into a major incident. And, to be utterly honest–He got stopped for good reason, due to his dumbassery. What was funny was that the only person who the cop could have seen in the car wasn’t the driver, it was the passenger–And, I’m about as white as you can get, due to being Scots-Irish in ethnicity. Awkward situation, that…

    American blacks are pretty much their own worst enemies, and they have gotten that way entirely on their own. Nobody forced them to listen to the demagogues, or to fall in under the Democratic grievance umbrella the way they did. It won’t end well, either–If blacks had avoided the Democratic trap, and kept far, far away from all the freebies they were offered, as well as evading the Planned Parenthood demographic trap, they’d probably be somewhere around 20% of the US population. As it is, they’re hovering around 12%, and once the illegal alien Latino majority happens, they’re going to wind up the same way blacks in Mexico did–Vanished. Won’t be pretty, either…

  12. There ARE hostile cops…once I made a right turn at a place I’d turned right many times before. White female cop waves me over, a whole bunch of other cars had been pulled over, too…I thought a water main must have broken or something to make the street impassible.

    She comes up, I roll down the window & say, “Hey what’s going on?”

    She immediately became very hostile–don’t know if she resented my informality & took it for disrespect, or just didn’t like my red Mazda RX-7. (Issue was that a ‘no right turns during the hour of 3-7PM except weekends and holidays and days when the moon is full’, or something like that, had been put up and missed by me & lots of other people) When I showed her my license, she got a LOT nicer, and I suspect it was my address, which was in what is considered to be a pretty high-income part of town, that made the difference.

    I certainly don’t think it is most cops, but I there are some obnoxious ones, as there are in every profession, and obnoxious people will calibrate their behavior inversely to the perceived status of the people they are dealing with.

  13. Don’t disagree about hostile cops, but the one in my anecdote was anything but hostile. Until the idiot driver opened his mouth and started off by calling him “Officer Tom”, ‘cos he was black, too…

    Swear to God, I’ve never seen something go so wrong, so quickly, and solely due to the attitude and demeanor of the driver. I’m sitting there thinking to myself “Man, I’m about to get shot by a black cop because of a belligerent black guy I’m getting a ride from…”

    And, trying to distance yourself from something like that, in the moment? Yikes… “Gee, officer, I’m with him but not, y’know… Like, really with him…?” I should also note that this whole thing blew up out of the blue, as I’d never, ever seen or heard of the driver acting like this, but there was something about that black cop that just set him the hell off. No alcohol, no drugs, just epic dumbassery in a Renault Fuego. He had no reason to act like that, because the stop was legitimate due to his driving error. Had to be one of the more awkward situations I’ve ever experienced. I think the only thing that kept me out of cuffs that evening was the fact that I was being super-obvious about trying to calm the driver down and keep things from escalating, but there was no stopping the stupidity.

    Some years later, I saw that Chris Rock bit about how to avoid being shot by the police, and I’m like “Where the hell was this, ten years ago…?” That clip should have been shown 24/7 around every military base in the country, as a public service.

  14. “When it is useful to them, men can believe a theory of which they know nothing more than its name.” Pareto.

  15. I got pulled over for making a rolling turn on a red light at 5 in the morning one time, a motorcycle cop who was apparently lurking for people doing that pulled me over and said “Did you not see that red light back there?”
    Cops like that should be fired with extreme prejudice, just give me my ticket and don’t be a total a-hole about it.

  16. Two things come to mind, related to one of the biggest enterprises known to Man, War: Firstly: In 1979, Gen. Robert H. Barrow, then commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. uttered the famous phrase that “amateurs talk about tactics, but professionals study logistics.”. Logistics is the process to secure and deliver the appropriate tools required to gain the stated objective; Secondly: Wars and for that matter, any human enterprise is won by “joint forces operations” – this is where theory and strategy is practiced with actual war games. Is the theory operant? Does it provide the right framework? To gain an objective, theory and strategy must conform to the realities on the ground. This is true in war, investing, critical analysis and politics. You must manage to objectives.

  17. On hostile cops, my 16 year old daughter got a call one night from a friend who had missed the last bus at the nearby junior college. She got in her car and went to pick him up. He was standing at the bus stop and she stopped to pick him up. A sheriff’s car pulled up behind her before she could drive away. She didn’t know what to do and so waited to see what he wanted. He walked up to her window and she asked him what he wanted. “I’m going to give you a ticket,” he replied. She asked why and he replied that she had parked in a bus stop. It was 11 at night and no one else was around. Her friend, who was in the passenger seat, had missed the last bus. No more buses that night.

    She was upset because she had only had her license for a few months and now was getting a ticket for no good reason. I asked to see the video of the encounter many times and there was always some reason I couldn’t see it.

  18. I don’t think David links to his earlier post, “On the Pornography of Power,” which also goes into some of this and which seemed quite good at the attractions of the increasingly prideful place and perspective of lit crit.
    I looked for the obituary (figured the 50 years that has passed) of the old teacher I quoted in the comments; he has, indeed, died, but I saw that he’d been nominated for the Pulitzer for his dissertation which became the wisely humble “The Partial Critics” of 1965 – his second year, I believe, at Nebraska. Close reading, seeing the works as alive – that was what the critics of the 40’s and 50’s taught us. They also taught us the importance of awe in that respect, in that affection for literature.
    The mid-70’s on, not so much. I wonder how much that bled into the way law students look at the Constitution. Certainly the ones this blog is likely to respect are ones who view the Constiotjution as did the old critics, reading from a more Biblical and respecting perspective.
    Certainly awe for others and appropriate humility is not the perspective of the current “let’s burn the whole fucking thing down” popular in law schools today – a reading with very little respect for the works, the authors, or, indeed, the words themselves. (someone who studied in that old tradition would not have taken a stance on Alito’s position without a) reading it nor b) wrestling with the real argument within it rather than the straw men they so quickly erected.)

  19. Dissecting, describing, systematizing and cataloging were among the most notable accomplishments of the 19th century in science. By the time Wallace and Darwin were concocting their theories of Natural Selection, a species was as concrete a concept as a chair sitting on a floor. All with very little more than a knife and hand lens. The story of the rest of the scientific enterprise was much the same, leveraging relatively crude instruments and ingenuity into an explosion of knowledge and understanding.

    Certainly, the arts were in a ferment as well. What we remember today isn’t what was said about the art, it’s the art itself. The exception is when the critic got it wrong. Pointing out how pathetic Beethoven was as a composer, was an easy way to buy a sort of immortality. In a way, this proves that art is a universal language, the common folk are perfectly able to tell what they like, even if they don’t all agree on why. Those that can, do, those that can’t, criticize.

    I’m not sure what evolutionary psychology is, my inclination when I see evolution hitched to anything outside of the narrow biological context where it is known to apply is to assume that violence is being perpetrated on both disciplines. This is especially true when evolution is applied to humans. I don’t doubt that evolution was what shaped the species, I do contend that once some threshold of intelligence was reached, evolution stopped as far as we are concerned. How else to explain a single species who’s natural range includes every square inch of every continent save Antarctica, every major island and countless minor ones. No other species is even remotely close. Moreover, the evidence is that most migrations took place in an evolutionarily negligible time frame.

  20. Well, what I liked in the first evolutionary literary critics was that they tended not to emphasize any kind of evolution in human behavior as much as the eternal, core tendencies of human that arose both from our biological heritage and our human ability to transcend (?), at least to modify that to some degree ourselves, though it, like fate, was always likely to remind us often harshly that we were still driven by some basic imperatives. My impression (and i’m not – never was -enough of a scholar to be sure this is true) that most critical theories began with a useful insight, which ended up overexplaining, overschematizing, simplifying the power of art – that the theories began as an epihany and ended up as rigid ideology.

  21. MCS “I’m not sure what evolutionary psychology is…”
    See, for example, Peterson’s citation of the lobster to demonstrate that hierarchies of status are not an aberration of the capitalist patriarchy (wink) but rather are just part of nature. This even came up to hilarious effect when he was interviewed by feminist ideologue Kathy Newman.

  22. pst314,
    “See, for example, Peterson’s citation of the lobster to demonstrate that hierarchies of status are not an aberration of the capitalist patriarchy (wink) but rather are just part of nature.”

    Without meaning to be contentious, this is too good a target to pass up. A much more defensible conclusion would be that hierarchies of status arise spontaneously in lobsters.

    Lobsters are the target of so much neurological research for the express reason that they have an exceedingly simple and well defined neurosystem. I believe it is one of the organisms where all of the neurons have individual numbers and they didn’t have to count very high. If they haven’t already, I’d bet that somebody is determining just which neuron needs to be stimulated or blocked to make one of the lesser lobsters behave as the boss or vice versa. Extrapolating that into us seems more than a stretch.

    The extent to which human behavior is governed by cognitive processes versus what is biological is the question. The insight we can gain from lobsters is probably extremely limited.

  23. MCS, we find status hierarchies throughout the animal kingdom, so I think Peterson used lobsters precisely because they make such a striking example, having diverged from our common evolutionary ancestor over 300 million years ago: Both species, despite being so evolutionarily divergent, display the similarities Peterson cites: dominance hierarchies, nervous systems that “run on” serotonin, and response to antidepressants.
    I’m sure that Peterson would agree that the human insights we can gain from lobsters are extremely limited, but the one he makes in that interview seems to be valid. And what Peterson says is a push-back against the Blank Slate Hypothesis Fantasy which has done so much harm.

  24. pst324,
    All of those parallels would be meaningful only if they were somewhat exclusive. As far as I know, they aren’t. I imagine that black widow spiders diverged pretty far back, yet I have never heard anyone try to reconcile their peculiar proclivities with human behavior. As I said, I find insights derived from an organism with a handful of neurons unconvincing when applied to an organism with literally more neurons than we can count.

    “Besides mammals, serotonin is found in all bilateral animals including worms and insects” via Wikipedia.

  25. Again, I doubt that Peterson is trying to derive unjustifiable insights. The only use I have seen so far is his point that biological reality refutes the Blank Slate Hypothesis. I don’t think insights have to be exclusive to be meaningful, as this refutation should illustrate. And as a matter of fact, I would think that biological determinism would be irreconcilable with psychotherapy. I think you are reading more into what he has said that is justified, and that in the end when we have both read more of his writings we will see nothing to be troubled about.

  26. pst314,
    I’m not arguing for the “blank slate” and consider it nonsense. What I’m trying to say is that the power of intelligence is both so powerful and novel that disentangling the innate from the intellectual from the not inconsequential occasional pathology may be impossible. I don’t see that lobsters have much to add to the process, as you said, many other animals have hierarchies.

    Intelligence is so new that when coupled with the almost explosive spread of humans world wide it hasn’t allowed evolution to have appreciable impact on humans since its advent. The fact that there is no evidence that any human population has diverged into a new species despite many seemingly isolated populations is either an indication of novelty or that isolation is incomplete, allowing enough interchange to prevent drift. Things as seemingly minor as mountain ridges have caused the development of new species in other animals in far less time than humans have been around.

    Human migrations have been orders of magnitude greater than non domestic animals in both speed and distance. This is an example of the difference between instinct and conscious direction by intelligence.

  27. MCS “I’m not arguing for the “blank slate” and consider it nonsense”

    Oh dear, I should have written more carefully; I did not mean to imply that you do support the Blank Slate. And in fact I suspect that if we were to take a couple hours to hash out our opinions we would find that we do not differ all that much.

    “What I’m trying to say is that the power of intelligence is both so powerful and novel that disentangling the innate from the intellectual from the not inconsequential occasional pathology may be impossible.”

    I am inclined to largely agree. I think evolutionary theory is most likely to lead us to ideas about tendencies and limitations rather than hard and fast templates.

    I do think Peterson’s comment about Lobsters was of such limited intent as to be unremarkable, but if he has said anything else which you think I should know about do point it out.

  28. }}} Statistics about agricultural laboureres were the substance: any real ditcher, ploughman, or farmer’s boy, was the shadow…

    Plato is, wherever he is, laughing and going, “What the eph?”

  29. pst314,
    I was clarifying rather than answering some perceived accusation. I think the great majority of people here agree on many large points more or less. As with a machine, it’s the finer points that generate friction. It’s also as easy to miss an excess of vehemence as a typo, probably easier with spell check, something I have been as guilty of as anyone. So nothing amiss.

  30. I would imagine that the new government truth enforcement squad is already compiling dossiers on all of us as we speak.

  31. “I would imagine that the new government truth enforcement squad is already compiling dossiers on all of us as we speak.”

    And we should be grateful, comrade.

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