Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Fixed Exaltation

When the all-or-nothing mentality is fixed upon exalting one thing above all others, it allows no criticism of the exaltation of that thing to pass without seeing it as an attack on the thing itself. Thus, such men for whom the economy is the single most important thing, before which all other matters must fade into insignificance, see criticism of the idea that the economy is the single most important thing as an attack on the importance of the economy; or, such men for whom science constitutes everything worthwhile see criticism of the idea that science constitutes everything worthwhile as an attack on science itself. (In the latter case, there is an inability on the part of such men — at least as a first reaction — to distinguish between science and their unscientific and scientistic hopes for it.) Now, if you were to ask such men in the cold light of day, as it were, whether they see their particular interest as the be-all-and-end-all of everything, and perhaps give them examples from their lives that make a mockery of the very idea, most of them would likely declare that they see it in no such terms, and would even declare any suggestion thereto as an attack upon a straw man — and yet their reactions, at least in first flush, tell us that they do not like to hear it said that their particular interest is not the be-all-and-end-all of everything. It strikes me very much as originating in an ancient defence-mechanism, of the same kind as that of loyalty to kith and kin, but without the warmth.

5 comments:

dearieme said...

In the old Scots view of things, loyalty is a mutual compact. Loyalty to science would make no sense since the feeling cannot be reciprocated. One could, I suppose, be loyal to an Institution of science - say, the Royal Society. But given some of its ludicrous antics lately, one could reasonably be disillusioned as to its suitability for that role.

Anonymous said...

Exalt, perhaps?

Deogolwulf said...

"Loyalty to science would make no sense since the feeling cannot be reciprocated."

Quite right, Dearieme, though it seems to me that there is some misplaced sense of loyalty given to things in which one has invested one's personal hopes, etc.

Oh dear, Anonymous, I have embarrassed myself again. I am in your debt for the correction.

Nadeem Mohsin said...

This reminds me of this post on Overcoming Bias.

Deogolwulf said...

It has been a while, Mr Mohsin. Thanks for the link to that interesting post.