Boundaries of Competence: How Social Studies Makes Feeble by Gwynne Nettler

By Gwynne Nettler

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Sample text

Is a common interrogatory, thrust particularly at “bad actors” and more forcefully at “good people” caught in wicked deeds. This question is frequently useless—apart from making the interrogator feel important. ” More customary responses state reasons. ” Good reasons are pre-judged by investigators’ notions of human nature and their ideas of how people do, and should, behave. Reasons are thus evaluated by empathy (ch. 9), not by any objective process. This fact, and additional defects noted below, advise us not to confuse reasons with causes.

17 Thousands of people now make their livings asking strangers questions, and Homo sapiens, the habitual talker to itself and others, obliges with answers. To do so is polite; silence is sullen. But many of these interrogations are vacant. They ask about matters that respondents cannot know. 19 Why? ”. ” is a common interrogatory, thrust particularly at “bad actors” and more forcefully at “good people” caught in wicked deeds. This question is frequently useless—apart from making the interrogator feel important.

They are lamentations: ! ” Literate auditors understand that such utterances are not empirical questions. Such verbalizations do not ask for information. ” We placate one another with words that need not refer to anything observable. We often accompany such solemnly pronounced terms with appropriate gestures, music, scents, and lights that comfort sorrow and allay anxiety. Ritual is emollient. ”, the eager student asks Morris Cohen. ” Philosophy is full of such vacant questions. Even esteemed practitioners of the search for wisdom are not immune.

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