Wednesday, 30 August 2006

A Setback for Medical Science

To the ever-growing list of those labelled “fascist” — a list that runs the range from followers of Mussolini to postmen who whistle —, there is a new addition: those who demand that medical science be based on evidence:
[W]e assert that the evidence-based movement in health sciences constitutes a good example of microfascism at play in the contemporary scientific arena. [1]
One ought to note that our authors are even of the opinion that this “microfascism” is “more pernicious” than the “fascism of the masses, as was practiced by Hitler and Mussolini” [2]. Undaunted by the scale of this blight, and armed with the most fearsome quackery, courtesy of Messrs. Deleuze, Guattari and Derrida of Paris, our authors are therefore ready for a fight:
It is fair to assert that [we] critical intellectuals are at ‘war’ with those who have no regards other than for an evidence-based logic [in medical science]. The war metaphor speaks to the ‘critical and theoretical revolt’ that is needed to disrupt and resist the fascist order of scientific knowledge development. [3]
And to what end is this war enjoined?
We believe that health sciences ought to promote pluralism – the acceptance of multiple points of view. [4]
So, next time you visit the doctor, if he blows smoke in your ear and mumbles something about the stars, you’ll doubtless be happy to know that the fascism of evidence-based medicine has suffered a setback.

[1] D. Holmes, S.J. Murray, A. Perron, and G. Rail, “Deconstructing the Evidence-based Discourse in Health Sciences: Truth, Power and Fascism”, in International Journal of Evidence Based Healthcare, Vol.4:3, September 2006, p.181; original emphasis. (H/T to and link via J. C. Wood, “Poseurs of the World Unite”,, 25th August 2006, in which the reader can find a more detailed discussion of the cited work.)
[2] Ibid., p.180.
[3] Ibid., p.185; original emphasis.
[4] Ibid., p.181.

Thursday, 24 August 2006

Unsound Old Egg

F.W. Nietzsche — the greatest modern source of inspiration for pseudo-philosophical loquacity and loony doctrines, most notably those inspired by his two greatest canards: “[F]acts is precisely what there is not, only interpretations” [1]; and: “The world is will to power—and nothing besides!” [2]. The first encourages the belief that any belief is as true as any other, being that there are no facts to which a belief may correspond; the second, that every human action — whether it ostensibly be in pursuit of truth, virtue, kindness, and so forth — is ultimately and solely for the sake of power.
.....If one accepts both, then one denies the truth of both on the acceptance of the first, the silliness whereof has not hindered the acceptance of both as partner-principles of post-modernist moronism; for the first is welcomed by those loquacious blighters who wish to “keep the conversation going” [3] without the hindrance of facts; and the second works as a sop to conscience for those who do indeed act always for the sole sake of power, being that “wrongs committed will not weigh quite so heavily on one’s conscience if one can say to oneself that everyone else, at heart, is just as bad.” [4]
.....Though much can be said in favour of old Friedrich, principally concerning his insights into modern life, I am inclined to agree with Jeeves when he told Wooster: “He is fundamentally unsound.” [5]
[1] FW Nietzsche, The Will to Power, tr. W. Kaufmann & R.J. Hollingdale, (New York: Vintage Books, 1968), p.267, §481.
[2] Ibid., p.550, §1067.
[3] Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979), p. 377.
[4] Leszek Kolakowski, “On Power”, Freedom, Fame, Lying, and Betrayal: Essays on Everyday Life, tr. A. Kolakowska (Colorado: Westview Press, 1999), p.5.
[5] P.G. Wodehouse, Jeeves Takes Charge (London: Vintage, 1992), p.26.

Thursday, 17 August 2006

Fewtril #115

It is partly a question of political philosophy and partly of good conduct whether one ought to permit oneself a feeling of superiority at the sight of an egalitarian who permits himself the same at the sight of those who have remained vulgarly at odds with those of his opinions which he takes to be enlightened.

Fewtril #114

How much of antirealist philosophy is a rebellion against authority? For reality may be thought of as being that which sits in judgement of our beliefs about it; such that, when the bug of rebellion is rife, even its authority may be rejected as a gross imposition.

A Tall Suggestion

Laban Tall has a suggestion:
Perhaps we should replace [The Last Night of the Proms] with a ‘festival of guilt and atonement’ where weeping Promendaders rend their garments and burn Union Flags, harangued from the rostrum by a succession of Guardian writers, while Salif Keita plays up a storm in the background. [1]
Insofar as this suggestion captures in sarcasm the spirit of the Guardianistas, it speaks to them in earnest of a sight they would doubtless prefer to see.
[1] Comment by Laban Tall, in reply to Philippa Ibbotson, “Jingoists, take your last bowThe Guardian, 17th August 2006.

Monday, 14 August 2006

Lin Yutang on Smoking

“The world today is divided into smokers and non-smokers. It is true that the smokers cause some nuisance to the non-smokers, but the nuisance is physical, while the nuisance that the non-smokers cause the smokers is spiritual.” [1]
“[H]ow could imagination soar on the clipped wings of a drab, non-smoking soul?” [2]
[1] Lin Yutang, “On Smoke and Incense” The Importance of Living (London and Toronto: William Heinemann, 1938), p.236-7.
[2] Ibid., p. 242.

Friday, 11 August 2006

Fewtril #113

Is it not a downright cheek for those philosophers who tell us that we cannot represent things as they actually are to complain when others misrepresent what they actually say?

Fewtril #112

Rare is the intellectual who is not consoled for those errors of his by which his name is widely celebrated.

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

Fancies and Fallacies

“According to the dictates of logic I have committed fallacy after fallacy”, [1] admits Andrea Nye, in which case she feels compelled to pose a question: “Is logic masculine?” [2] and to find an answer that will save her from blushes: “Logic was made for men by men” [3]. Upon further reflection, she feels that “[l]ogic is not thought at all” [4] and fancies all her fallacies justified.

[1] Andrea Nye, Words of Power: A Feminist Reading of the History of Logic (London: Routledge, 1990), p.174.
[2] Ibid., p.176.
[3] Ibid., p.177.
[4] Ibid., p.179.

Tuesday, 8 August 2006

Fewtril #111

“All the world’s problems are due to ignorance”, say the fawney-wise commentators; but has it ever crossed their minds — at least as a fleeting nag — that some of the world’s problems might stem from our knowing much and understanding one another only too well?

A Little More Lichtenberg

“That one can convince one’s opponents with printed reasons, I have not believed since the year 1764. It is not for that purpose that I have taken up my pen, but rather merely to annoy them, and to give strength and courage to those on our side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.”
[“Daß man seine Gegner mit gedruckten Gründen überzeugen kann, habe ich schon seit dem Jahr 1764 nicht mehr geglaubt. Ich habe auch deswegen die Feder gar nicht angesetzt, sondern bloß um sie zu ärgern, und denen von unserer Seite Mut und Stärke zu geben und den andern zu erkennen zu geben, daß sie uns nicht überzeugt haben.”]
G.C. Lichtenberg, Sudelbücher, (Frankfurt am Main und Leipzig: Insel Verlag, 1984), E170 from Sudelbuch E (1775-1776), p. 203.

Thursday, 3 August 2006


Jean Baudrillard is set to appear at the Frieze Art Fair in London on the 14th October of this year [1]. Perhaps the organisers should promote it as a non-event.
[1] Charlotte Higgins, “Baudrillard to appear at London art fair”, The Guardian, 3rd July 2006.

The Howard League for Hazardous Reform

“Locking more men, women and children up for longer cannot be considered a serious, measured response to protecting and reassuring the public”, [1] says a press release from The Howard League for Penal Reform, whose members, having made some efforts to persuade themselves that putting criminals in prison does not protect or reassure the public, are determined to persuade the public itself that this is so.
.....Naturally our reformers are optimists, and are of the opinion that there is no man, however despicable or base in character, who cannot be corrected by the freedom to do good, or, failing that, by bribes; and, insofar as they understand their ideas to be fallible, they feel that, where criminals do not deserve the sanction of prison, the public deserves the risk.
.....I think Chamfort said it best: “Instead of trying to correct the intolerable way some people behave, we’d do better to correct the weakness of character of the people who let them get away with it.” [2]
[1] The Howard League for Penal Reform, “Home Office’s half-baked plans will create more victims of crime” (Press Release), 20th July 2006.
[2] Nicolas-Sébastien Roch de Chamfort, Reflections on Life, Love and Society, tr. & ed. by D. Parmée (London: Short Books, 2003), §47, p.51.

Tuesday, 1 August 2006

Fewtril #110

A great test of character is whether one can — for the sake of truth or beauty or virtue — forbear originality.

Friday, 28 July 2006

Dogged Aetiology

“The root causes of youth crime and antisocial behaviour need to be tackled first, before we focus on the symptoms and attribute blame,” [1] says Ms Pamela Pollock in a letter to The Guardian. One might wonder whether a lady of her kind would do nothing to remove a dog from her leg until she had first determined the reasons for its randiness.

[1] Pamela Pollock, Letter to The Guardian, 28th July 2006.

Wednesday, 26 July 2006

Fewtril #109

Nothing is as important as it seems at first — or: complacency wins in the end.