Skeptical Modernism

You know, there are problems with Post-Modernism: different opinions have the same weight; no grand narratives; science is not objective; no objective reality etc. To some extent I may agree almost with all those premises. For example, I’m questioning so called expert knowledge, and in some fields, especially, in arts, this knowledge is based entirely upon subjective feelings. I’m also questioning grand narratives e.g. that society somewhat progresses. Here I adhere to the (maybe) reductionist argument: no progress until we escape the burden of our biology including the brain itself. So the question is could we potentially combine rationality with post-modernism? Some people argue that it’s possible. That we can combine it in Skeptical Modernism where there are such premises as (I quote here):

    Seemingly objective facts are often actually subjective (the date when Rome fell depends on how you define “falling” and perhaps the date we use is affected by incentives)

    Objective criteria of what counts as what are generally dependent on subjective opinions about what should count as important

    The answers to popular debates are often less interesting than the question ‘why are we having these debates at all?’

    Science is not quite as objective as it appears, as while there are certain standards or rules as to how various pieces of conflicting evidence should be compared, there isn’t a comprehensive, universally agreed upon standard for this

    Our culture raises us from birth to think a certain way and it is impossible for us to completely escape this influence
    Most people have a tendency to generalise their beliefs of how society should work to other societies with a very limited understanding of the cultural context. Even people who are well educated generally don’t have the same experience that people in that culture have.
    The language that we have access to makes some ideas easier or harder for us form and communicate
    That moral intuitions differ widely between societies so we should strongly question whether our moral beliefs are well justified
    Society seems to have been progressing over the last few hundred years, but not in all ways and this progress is far from guaranteed

    Democracy is generally good, but it requires a specific type of cultural context to work

I don’t know to what extent it would be useful to develop this idea further though. But it adds something to think about at least.


Fight, flight, fear & fuck. You may not like it but that’s how it goes. Yes, you’d have said that there is a one more F: find. You’re desperately trying to find some crack between those strong Fs. Something that cannot be related to Fs. But probably you’ll fail. I’d like to hope you won’t. Fs bless you. Moloch bless you.

Conflict Theorist vs. Mistake Theorist

Recently Scott Alexander wrote about the policy decision-making dichotomy: Mistake vs. Conflict. I.e. there are people who engage in policy making in the mistake way (you thouroughly think over every decision regardless of your interests/self-interests/class interests, gather smart guys together to help you etc., and you find that the current bad state of affairs is because of some error in the decision-making process), and who engage in the conflict way (you stop your thinking at the “this is all about conflict of interests” thing). Sure, this dichotomy is not that staright, and it’s hugely simplified but you get the gist. There are a lot of comments there. But I think they are missing the neuro/genetic part of the story. I mean there are people who are conflict-y by nature (some environmental factors exist too), there are those who more rational, there are people who are more or less on the both sides. This leads to obviously different ways in dealing with problems (not only political ones). Besides, as someone already mentioned in the comments, people may behave differently in different situations. So in the end it’s useful to know that such dichotomy may appear in the decision-making process. Though I don’t know exactly how to rule out this in reality considering that we are all humans after all. And even scientists are humans too.