You what?

Abstract

Glaciers are key icons of climate change and global environmental change. However, the relationships among gender, science, and glaciers – particularly related to epistemological questions about the production of glaciological knowledge – remain understudied. This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework with four key components: 1) knowledge producers; (2) gendered science and knowledge; (3) systems of scientific domination; and (4) alternative representations of glaciers. Merging feminist postcolonial science studies and feminist political ecology, the feminist glaciology framework generates robust analysis of gender, power, and epistemologies in dynamic social-ecological systems, thereby leading to more just and equitable science and human-ice interactions.

Via.

80 thoughts on “You what?”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    I was waiting for this to turn up here.

    After all, what can be more important that equitable and socially just human-ice interactions?

  2. A course of ECT when younger would nip this nonsense in the bud. Its narcissism out of control.

  3. They are also symbols of virginity, being white. And symbols of mothers-in-law, being remorseless. And symbols of nativity, depositing moraines. And symbols of sexual intercourse, grinding away. Leaving a crag-and-tail is presumably making a symbol of male genitals. Drumlins are breast-symbols.

    If you want more of this research, please send cheque.

  4. So Much For Subtlety

    dearieme – “Glaciers are phallic symbols; they advance and retreat, over the centuries.”

    Really? I would have thought that mountains are phallic symbols. The glaciers are more feminine. Taking their pleasure, as it were, from the mountains as they advance and retreat, over the centuries.

    But clearly glaciers are lesbians. As they are cold, chilly and have no sense of humour at all. As well as leaving little piles of ball-shaped objects behind them wherever they go. Which may explain why they take centuries.

  5. I don’t know what you are all objecting to. I have been seeking more equitable human-ice interactions for years, and at last my prayers have been answered.

  6. It’s a symbol of universities in America being stuffed to the gills with useless tenured professors doing pointless research and having the gall to charge their students the price of a small house for the glory of sharing a lecture theatre with several hundred other students a few hours a week.

    Our lesser universities are just as bad now, charging £9,000 a year for an education of questionable value.

  7. Yes, pretendy-science, the natural outcome of sending 50% of your youth into a higher education system controlled by loonies.

  8. “This paper thus proposes a feminist glaciology framework…”

    I cannot wait for other feminist investigations into natural events and properties.

    Feminist frameworks for the tensile strengths of steel and associated alloys?
    A lesbian view of electromagnetic spectra?
    A post-masculinist interpretation of the atomic weight of hydrogen?

  9. So Much For Subtlety

    Someone called Principia Mathematica a rape manual. So there’s people who believe in feminist mathematics.

    Newton’s one of a similar name. Not Bertrand Russell’s. Before anyone objects.

    John Lukacs quotes a Nazi somewhere saying that it is unfair to mock them for denouncing Jewish physics when others assert the existence of Capitalist science. Quite.

  10. Proggies predicate all knowledge on being values-led. Which ties into the fact/value stuff I’ve been debating with Theophrastus.

    Once you’ve bought into the idea that there is no realm of fact which one can with dilligence investigate, everything becomes the assertion of (moral) values. Hume cautioned against deriving the ought from the is. Here we see the even worse situation of deriving the is from the ought.

  11. I’m not sure what the solution is (other than Ian B’s free-market dictator dismissing all left-wing university staff, which seems unlikely).

    Is the answer perhaps to remove all regulation of the university sector, and allow anyone to set up a university, run them how they like, and confer degrees? Then perhaps we’ll have some for-profit universities (and there’s certainly enough scope for profit, if you remove the crap) that won’t have this sort of nonsense.

    Yes, it might be a bit messy for a while, but the current system has clearly failed and I can’t see that it could be worse than what we’ve got.

  12. Anyone notice the first author is male when at least one other author has a female name? What does that say about the patriarchy? 🙂

    I’d like to think they’re channeling Alan Sokal.

  13. I assumed it was a piss-take!

    But most of your comments read as if you’re taking it at face value: tell me this really is someone having a laugh at the SJWs’ expense!

  14. @Richard

    ‘I’m not sure what the solution is (other than Ian B’s free-market dictator dismissing all left-wing university staff, which seems unlikely).’

    That wouldn’t be necessary. Just stop giving them taxpayers’ money in funding or student loans. If they can find alumni or students willing to part with their own wedge who cares?

  15. Interested-

    That’s more Mr Ecks than me. I’m more into doing to the Third Sector what Thatcher did to the Unions, but moreso.

  16. Oh, right. -1 points for not using the blockquote tag to assist those of us who are slow of mind.

  17. I’d like to think it was a hoax, but the lead author has a long history of published papers which link climate science with social science.

    Typical title: “Toward Hydro-Social Modeling: Merging Human Variables and the Social Sciences with Climate-Glacier Runoff Models (Santa River, Peru)”.

  18. I haven’t read the paper, but it seems to be genuine. I think when they say “science” they mean “social science”. Their point is that if you want properly to understand the effect of glaciers and glacier melting on society you have to talk to women as well as men.

  19. I don’t like icebergs.

    If I remember the TV ads at the time, sitting on an iceberg was how you caught AIDS. Haven’t sat on one since.

  20. The lead author has a degree in history and a post-graduate degree in museum studies and curatorship, which is entirely appropriate given that the only thing missing from this climate science paper is the science.

  21. @ SJW
    I’ve read some of it and it looks like a spoof
    “Such knowledge diversification, however, can meet resistance, as folk glaciologies challenge existing power dynamics and cultures of control within glaciology. For instance, in response to Cruikshank’s detailed and highly acclaimed research, geographer Cole Harris suggested instead that Cruikshank attributed too much weight to ‘Native’ stories and non-scientific understandings of glaciers. He questioned the relevance of indigenous narratives about sentient glaciers in today’s modern world by explaining how he consulted a colleague, ‘an expert on snow’, about why glaciers advanced rapidly (surged). The expert ‘spoke of ground water, friction, and the laws of physics. Is it possible, I [Harris] asked, that they surge because they don’t like the smell of grease? He looked at me blankly, slowly shook his head, and retreated into his office’ (Harris, 2005: 105).”
    The authors’ view is that “In the case of his Cruikshank critique Harris seemed uncomfortable accepting that knowledge is situated in particular places and context…”

  22. @John77
    “I’ve read some of it and it looks like a spoof”

    Having proofread some of my wife’s undergrad papers on Lacanian psychotherapy, I am not so sure. They use words that are familiar to us all, but which have taken on alternate meanings that only the cognoscenti can decypher.

  23. “I haven’t read the paper, but it seems to be genuine. I think when they say “science” they mean “social science”. Their point is that if you want properly to understand the effect of glaciers and glacier melting on society you have to talk to women as well as men.”

    I have never been asked about the effects of glaciers melting on society. My answer would be along the lines of ‘wet’, but that’s obviously too terse and patriarchal for our new seekers of wisdom.

  24. @John77
    “I’ve read some of it and it looks like a spoof”

    Can’t be, Social Justice Warrior already explained it. ‘Their point is that if you want properly to understand the effect of glaciers and glacier melting on society you have to talk to women as well as men.’

    Though I wonder what societies are proximate to glaciers.

  25. @SJW
    “I haven’t read the paper, but it seems to be genuine. I think when they say “science” they mean “social science”. Their point is that if you want properly to understand the effect of glaciers and glacier melting on society you have to talk to women as well as men.”

    Three points:
    1. Is any one saying you shouldn’t/they don’t?
    2. Is that all the authors really have to say? Seems a bit thin for a paper?
    3. Do the people they think need to be spoken to to properly determine whatever it is they want to investigate have anything useful to day? To whit: is it exclusionary to not talk to residents of the Atacama? Should I give a shit either way?

    I sometimes wonder if scientists are under a contract where they have to produce a certain number of papers, like bands and record contracts. This smacks of a compilation of demos of b-sides and shiny live tracks from a mid nineties never-rans indie band

  26. @ John Square
    “I sometimes wonder if scientists are under a contract where they have to produce a certain number of papers, ”
    Not quite but (in the UK, at least) the funding for their department does depend on the department publishing a number of peer-reviewed papers and the number of third parties that reference them.

  27. @ John Square
    re 2
    The authors also say that women scientists are oppressed and that in glaciology the nice safe back-office jobs in warm offices are undervalued relative to male-dominated pioneering work of actually examining glaciers.

  28. ‘The authors also say that women scientists are oppressed and that in glaciology the nice safe back-office jobs in warm offices are undervalued relative to male-dominated pioneering work of actually examining glaciers.’

    Simple solution: stop examining glaciers. There is nothing OF VALUE left to be learned. And it will cure the dastardly practice of leaving the girls at home.

    Priorities!

  29. “I sometimes wonder if scientists are under a contract where they have to produce a certain number of papers, like bands and record contracts.”

    Are these people scientists? I’m not convinced.

  30. Surely examining glaciers is about a thousand times less stimulating than watching paint dry in the scale of human- inanimate interactions?

  31. I’ve read through the whole damned thing, and I’m afraid to say that while this piece of….Academia.. could be taken as a complicated attempt at satire, it is, in fact, quite serious in its intent.

    One of those cases where it’s once again proven that you can’t make shit up, or Real Life™ can and will surpass you, I guess.

    I’m going to d/l the article and the link though. There’s much potential for enjoyment in this one.. [insert mandatory Evil Overlord laughter]

  32. Proggies predicate all knowledge on being values-led.

    Some might; many don’t. I’ve known more than a few scientists with progressive views. Why be so dogmatic? Your ‘knowledge’ here is surely value-led.

    Once you’ve bought into the idea that there is no realm of fact which one can with dilligence investigate, everything becomes the assertion of (moral) values.

    True of Marxists, and perhaps a handful of feminist ‘epistemologists’, but not true of progressives in general.

    Hume cautioned against deriving the ought from the is.

    You are learning! I’m so glad you agree at last with me on this. Hume provides no demonstration of the fallaciousness of the transition from ‘is’ to ‘ought’.

  33. @ Gunker
    That is called “jargon”. I am well aware that I use jargon so I used to get my wife to read some of my reports so that she could tell me when they were incomprehensible to a normal human, until she got too accustomed to the jargon so that she could understand it.
    “only the cognoscenti can decypher.” well, normally but I later tried asking my teenage son to read my reports to tell me what was incomprehensible and he went through correcting my grammar and punctuation, taking the jargon in his stride.
    But, but … glaciers disliking the smell of grease from cooking?

  34. Theo, I’m not agreeing with you. I would recommend however that you spend less time on pettifogging textual criticism and engage with the issues discussed instead.

    I’m waiting for you to derive a value from facts alone and thus prove me wrong. Go on. Just one value, that’s all it will take. Any value, any facts.

    Off you go.

  35. 1+1 = 2.

    The first two are values, the second is a fact. Alternatively, the first two are facts, the second is a value.

    Yes, I know, but couldn’t resist.

  36. IanB

    The derivation of ‘ought’ from ‘is’ is, as I have pointed out, the norm in ethics. The theist derives his ethics from statements of factual form about what God wills. Aristotle derives his ethics from statements of fact about what promotes human thriving. Evolutionary ethics is derived from the facts of sociobiology. And so on….Now, these various schools may (or may not) draw the wrong conclusions, but they reason from facts to moral principles.

    However, since moving from ‘is’ to ‘ought’ is the norm, it’s up to you to show why it is fallacious. Hume couldn’t, so I doubt you can.

  37. IanB

    Theo, I’m not agreeing with you.

    You are agreeing with me that Hume only cautioned against making the transition from is to ought. Previously, you – dogmatically – insisted that Hume “demonstrated” this, when he manifestly didn’t.

    I would recommend however that you spend less time on pettifogging textual criticism and engage with the issues discussed instead.

    You made a textual claim about Hume: I refuted it.

    As for engaging with the issues, I see you have ignored my point at 5.41pm that in claiming that progressives “predicate all knowledge on being values-led” you fail to see that your own knowledge-claim here is value-led. And your claim is false.

  38. The derivation of ‘ought’ from ‘is’ is, as I have pointed out, the norm in ethics. The theist derives his ethics from statements of factual form about what God wills. Aristotle derives his ethics from statements of fact about what promotes human thriving. Evolutionary ethics is derived from the facts of sociobiology. And so on….Now, these various schools may (or may not) draw the wrong conclusions, but they reason from facts to moral principles.

    I asked for a specific example. Nonetheless I will reply to your generalisations.

    God’s Will is itself a set of values (God’s values). So is the idea that one ought to follow God’s Will. So, that contains oughts. Fail.

    “Human thriving” is a value; you are assuming that humans ought to thrive.

    Sociobiology cannot give us an “ought” for the same reason. That I have an instinct to kill you and steal your women doesn’t mean it is moral to do so. Indeed, most morals are suppressive of biological instincts, which is why we have them.

    Now give me a specific example of a value you can derive from facts. Just one is all it will take.

    As to your textual nitpicking, Hume is generally recognised to be the philosopher who identified (if you prefer that word) the Is/Ought gap, which is why it is also called Hume’s Guillotine. Hume himself is not the issue. Just ignore Hume if you like. The issue is still whether values can be derived from facts.

    So, one example is all you have to give. Just one. I will wait with bated breath.

  39. IanB

    I’ve already given you examples. To spell it out for you

    1. God forbids x in the Bible

    Is a statement of factual form. And from it theists conclude that

    2. X is immoral.

    Similarly, with human thriving. So from:

    3. To thrive, humans require food, water, shelter, community…etc, etc.

    Many moral thinkers conclude:

    4. Depriving humans of those things is wrong.

    1 and 3 are statements of fact, while 2 and 4 are value statements.

    If your response is that 1 and 3 are value-laden, I’d agree – in so far as all human perception is partly either value-laden or theory-laden. There are very few brute facts, if any. So there isn’t a sharp divide between facts and values in human affairs, which is one of several reasons why the social ‘sciences’ are not hard sciences. And, of course, why Hume’s sharp distinction between fact and value is mistaken.

  40. No, you can’t get around it by claiming that the statement of a value is itself a fact in this discussion. “Adolf thinks the Jews should die because they prevent the Germans thriving” is a value, and although the statement that Adolf has this value is a fact, the value itself is not rendered into a fact.

    Nice try though.

    As I pointed out, but will repeat, “humans should thrive” is a value.

    As Bart said the other day in another thread, if you deny that there are no such thing as facts, as you seem to be saying, you need to justify that. Regardless, if there are no facts, and everything is values, Then proof is certainly impossible, and you are by accident agreeing that all values are either primary values or derived therefrom.

    Which I don’t think was what you intended, but it’s interesting to see you painting yourself into that corner.

  41. if you deny that there are no such thing as facts

    To avoid further textual argument, that’s garbled. I meant “if you deny that there are such things as facts”.

  42. Bloke in Costa Rica

    This is classic cargo-cult science. It’s interesting to note that the people that wrote it would be completely unable to understand why anyone who knew anything about science would dismiss it out of hand. It really is a Dunning-Kruger type thing.

  43. It seems obvious that the article and most of the comments have been written by one of these ‘intelligent computers’ we hear so much of.
    Either that or it was written by one of the group of monkeys that typed out Shakespear.

  44. IanB

    I am not saying facts don’t exist; I am saying that there is a continuum or spectrum from fact to value. The fact-value distinction is not sharp.

    You can see this in the law courts and in the study of history. A judge (or an historian) may try to ascertain whether x promised to do y. If it is a fact that x promised to do y, then x ought to do y. Similarly, if it is a fact that x contracted to do y, then x ought to do y. The promise or contract is a fact: that is undeniable, and in everyday speech we refer to such things as facts.

    Furthermore, there isn’t a sharp distinction between the objective and the subjective, which likewise are two ends of a continuum. But that’s another story…and I’m currently in a different time zone to you.

  45. This presumes the value “contracts should be honoured”. The fact of a written contract saying x promised to do y does not itself generate the “ought to do y”.

  46. So Much For Subtlety

    Social Justice Warrior – “I haven’t read the paper, but it seems to be genuine. I think when they say “science” they mean “social science”. Their point is that if you want properly to understand the effect of glaciers and glacier melting on society you have to talk to women as well as men.”

    Ahhh so yet another topic you have not studied but you already know the answer too. Wondrous really.

    I think when they say “science” they mean “science”. And that is not their point.

    Through a review and synthesis of a multi-disciplinary and wide-ranging literature on human-ice relations, this paper proposes a feminist glaciology framework to analyze human-glacier dynamics, glacier narratives and discourse, and claims to credibility and authority of glaciological knowledge through the lens of feminist studies. As a point of departure, we use ‘glaciology’ in an encompassing sense that exceeds the immediate scientific meanings of the label, much as feminist critiques of geography, for example, have expanded what it is that ‘geography’ might mean vis-à-vis geographic knowledge (Domosh, 1991; Rose, 1993). As such, feminist glaciology has four aspects: (1) knowledge producers, to decipher how gender affects the individuals producing glacier-related knowledges; (2) gendered science and knowledge, to address how glacier science, perceptions, and claims to credibility are gendered; (3) systems of scientific domination, to analyze how power, domination, colonialism, and control – undergirded by and coincident with masculinist ideologies – have shaped glacier-related sciences and knowledges over time; and (4) alternative representations, to illustrate diverse methods and ways – beyond the natural sciences and including what we refer to as ‘folk glaciologies’ – to portray glaciers and integrate counter-narratives into broader conceptions of the cryosphere. These four components of feminist glaciology not only help to critically uncover the under-examined history of glaciological knowledge and glacier-related sciences prominent in today’s climate change discussions. The framework also has important implications for understanding vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience – all central themes in global environmental change research and decision-making that have lacked such robust analysis of epistemologies and knowledge production (Conway et al., 2014; Castree et al., 2014).

    So basically it is the usual criticism of White men and their nasty science. If you look at their four main points, when they say “knowledge producers” they mean that White men have failed to understand glaciers because they are 1. White and 2. Men. When they talk about gendered science what they mean is that White Men cannot understand glaciers because they do not have a uterus and so are deaf to alternative viewpoints, or Feels as they are commonly known. “Systems of scientific domination” means they are going to argue how White Men use science to downplay anyone else’s views and get all the good grant money for themselves. Foolish men think that we cannot see through their shamelessly transparent lie about objectivity and scientific rigour when what they really mean is keeping science a boy’s club by excluding women. They probably wear the wrong t-shirts or something.

    Only in the last part – “(4) alternative representations, to illustrate diverse methods and ways – beyond the natural sciences and including what we refer to as ‘folk glaciologies’ – to portray glaciers and integrate counter-narratives into broader conceptions of the cryosphere.” do we get even close to listening to indigenous peoples and, presumably, women about glaciers. Which probably means we should stave off global warming by sacrificing virgins to the Goddesses of the Mountains or something. Which, to be fair, would be a lot more rational than funding this tripe.

  47. “Is the answer perhaps to remove all regulation of the university sector, and allow anyone to set up a university, run them how they like, and confer degrees? Then perhaps we’ll have some for-profit universities (and there’s certainly enough scope for profit, if you remove the crap) that won’t have this sort of nonsense.”

    We have plenty of for profit universities in America. Many produce graduates with the same abilities as the author of this paper. The biggest difference that I can see is for profit schools have more commercials. Additionally the credits aren’t normally accepted at “accredited” universities.

    I personally think the problem is we have too many kids going to college instead of just getting on with life. Between 1987 and 2009 the number of philosophy graduates doubled yet outside of philosophy professors I simply don’t know of any jobs that require this degree. When retail assistant manager posting are looking for at least a BA then there are far too many “educated” people for the job market.

  48. So Much For Subtlety

    The problem in the UK is that academic salaries are simply not competitive. Conditions are worse. I have friends in academia. The petty bullsh!t they have to put up with from the administration is pointless but it also seems designed to humiliate. Does any university in Britain actually believe that their academics are professionals in the normal meaning of that word? You know, people who can be trusted to do their job. How many of them would let an academic talk to a female student alone with the door closed?

    Increasingly academics are all foreign – especially in places like London – simply because they have no idea how much it costs to live in London and do not intend to stay. Even places like Oxbridge cannot recruit decent staff these days. Neither Oxford or Cambridge could offer a professor a standard of living he could expect in, say, a third rate Canadian university. The LSE can’t even come close. And they are not competing for staff from third rate Canadian universities.

    So universities are increasingly dominated by Fools and Knaves. Either idiots who can’t muster the intellect to study law or go into the City. Or members of the Socialist Workers Party. Either way they produce nonsense.

  49. Bloke in Germany in Japan

    Surely everyone in London is now foreign because non-foreigns aren’t prepared to spend 80% of their income on renting a room in a squalid over-occupied bedsit, and thus enjoying an otherwise third-world standard of living?

  50. Perhaps this is a bit cheeky but I’m reproducing what I put the other day on another thread (since nobody responded to it.)

    Consider the following statements:
    1. Wilma and Betty are both women
    2. Wilma and Betty are different types of woman, attractive to men of different tastes.
    3. 80% of men in the survey found Betty more attractive than Wilma.
    4. Most of my mates agree with me that Betty is more attractive than Wilma.
    5. I find Betty more attractive than Wilma.
    6. Betty is more attractive than Wilma.

    Number 1 is a value-free statement of fact, and number 6 is a fact-free statement of taste, but 2-5 seem to be something different: factual statements about the tastes of certain people.

    This suggests that there is a continuum ranging between value-free statement of fact and fact-free statement of taste. If so, it’s good to be aware of it. Does that mean that any line you draw at any point across the continuum must be arbitrary? Not so fast. In my opinion there is indeed a line to be drawn between 5 and 6: 1-5 are all fact statements and 6 is a value statement.

  51. @ Theophrastus March 9, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    You say:

    1. God forbids X in the Bible
    Is a statement of factual form. And from it theists conclude that
    2. X is immoral.

    I understand that you offer this as an example of the derivation of a value statement (point 2) from a fact statement (point 1).

    Actually, it’s nothing more than an example of an argument that is unacceptable because it omits a vital premise. Indeed it is such a simple, clear example of that kind of fault that it might have come from a textbook on critical thinking.

    If asked, the theist would very probably acknowledge that his train of reasoning is this:
    1. God forbids X in the Bible
    2. Everything which God forbids is immoral.
    3. Therefore X is immoral.

    The value statement in point 2 is manifestly essential to the argument. So if you wanted to offer an example of the derivation of a value statement from a fact statement, you’d have to show how that value statement in point 2 can be derived from some fact statement.

    Personally, I doubt whether that could be done.

  52. SMFS is as usual spot on – the quality of research from even our ‘elite’ universities is risible in many disciplines- and getting worse – the above article quoted by Tim is very far from being the worst I have seen – fortunately other circumstances mean the author has probably two decades before ISiS or some such movement put her in a veil for good – believe me when I say that is scant comfort…

  53. @bart
    #1factually describes W&B
    2-6 describe various peoples’ relationship to W&B.But not W&B

  54. Bart,

    As I think I said further up the thread, the statement of a value is not a fact, or in a grey area. For instance, “Ian B fancies Wilma” is simply referring to my subjective value. It doesn’t turn into a fact from which values can be objectively defined because somebody else is stating it about me, even though it’s a fact that I have that value. If you see what I mean.

    Remember, we are discussing is and ought here. I might say, “I find Wilma more attractive than Betty because she has longer legs”. But that is no help in deciding whether I ought to find her more attractive. The thing being that you always need some value to get another value.

    For instance, let us say you have done thorough research and conclusively proved, to the satisfaction of everyone, the following statement-

    “If everyone is restricted to monogamous marriage, there is less violence in society”.

    (And everyone agrees on the definitions of the terms “marriage”, “violence”, “society” etc). This seems like an ought from an is (the “is” being the objectively measured effect of marriage on violence). But there is an implicit “ought” in the assumption that less violence is preferable to more violence.

    Most people would, at least currently, agree that less violence is preferable to more violence. But it is still a value, rather than a fact; an “ought” rather than an “is”.

    I sort of got into thinking about this not as Theo thinks because I’m trying to justify a Bacchanalian free for all, but because of being embroiled in and observing numerous attempts by Libertarians to “prove” Libertarian values. Everyone would like to prove themselves objectively right. If you can do that. you win the argument for all time. It was actually with some reluctance that I came to realise that it cannot be done, and it was only after that that I discovered that Hume had said it in the 18th century.

    I think it matters because it leads people into being “system builders” who start with what they perceive to be a perfect set of rules (e.g. “natural rights”) and then extrapolate themselves into extremes that are never going to be palatable to most people, as with Ayn Rand’s “objective” system. The harsh reality is that winning the argument is more like advertising; it’s persuading people that Brand X will better satisfy them than Brand Y.

    So I think this matters. We need to sort our facts from our values.

  55. @ Ian B
    In that continuum I wasn’t getting into the matter of deriving (or not) values from facts. I probably agree with you on that topic.

    I was just pointing out that it sometimes requires careful thought to distinguish one sort of statement from the other.

  56. 6. it is probable, based on the evidence we have and accepting the small sample size, that Betty is more attractive than Wilma

  57. The fact of a written contract saying x promised to do y does not itself generate the “ought to do y”.

    I disagree. The example is John Searle’s, and many eminent thinkers agree with him. In any event, a promise is a fact, which underscores the point that the divide between facts and values is not as sharp as you dogmatically insist it is.

    Also, you claim that “humans should thrive” is a value judgement. Actually, it’s a necessary condition of human rationality: anyone who holds that ‘humans shouldn’t thrive’ is irrational. It’s not so much a value as a higher order value or meta-value that makes all other values possible.

    Hume makes a similar mistake when he argues that induction can’t be justified. Induction is a condition of rationality, so requiring a rational justification of it is asking too much. Humean empiricism is full of these errors, which Kant and Wittgenstein have refuted and resolved.

  58. Bart

    Your 6 is not fact-free, though it could well be in someone with poor judgement. In resolving arguments about comparative value judgements, we make reference to facts – eg ‘But have you not noticed Wilma’s regular teeth/long legs/blonde hair?’ etc. Discussions comparing items of literature, painting, wine, cars etc etc all follow this pattern. Value judgments are often interpretations of facts. The common law, forensic enquiries, history, etc all proceed in this way.

    I take your point that there’s a suppressed premise hovering over my 1 and 2, if you re-cast the inference into a syllogism. However, I would say it is a background assumption, and one of my points is that we cannot avoid such background value-laden assumptions, because the distinction between fact and values is not sharp and what is a fact on one level is a value on another (and vice-versa).

  59. IanB

    I think it matters because it leads people into being “system builders”….

    It can do, I agree, but it ain’t necessarily so. A psychological tendency is quite different to an implication – ie logical necessity. It’s not a good idea to choose your philosophical positions in response to other people’s lazy mental habits.

  60. Theo,

    Yes, I thought you might be referencing Searle’s argument. I don’t think it holds water. The fact of a contract does not itself generate the “ought”.

    Also, you claim that “humans should thrive” is a value judgement. Actually, it’s a necessary condition of human rationality: anyone who holds that ‘humans shouldn’t thrive’ is irrational. It’s not so much a value as a higher order value or meta-value that makes all other values possible.

    It’s still a value. Some people rank human thriving below other values, like saving the planet or obeying their religion. There’s not much thriving going on under ISIS at the moment. Plus, you have the problem of whether it’s all humanity you want to thrive, or just some “us” at the expense of everyone else.

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s a value I agree with you about. But it’s not something one can prove to be correct. You just have to assert it and, if necessary, kill the bastards who disasgree.

  61. It’s not a good idea to choose your philosophical positions in response to other people’s lazy mental habits.

    I didn’t. As I said, I concluded this to be true after a great deal of thought on the matter. The quote you have there is explaining why I think it’s worth arguing about.

  62. @ SMFS
    It isn’t just talking to women, it is talking to glaciers and listening to their replies – as in the paragraph you quote.
    That is one of the reasons I assumed that it was a spoof.

  63. If you guys can’t get along, you are going to have to stay home with the girls on the next glacier trip.

  64. Even places like Oxbridge cannot recruit decent staff these days. Neither Oxford or Cambridge could offer a professor a standard of living he could expect in, say, a third rate Canadian university.

    Utterly wrong. I don’t know how the salaries compare, but the best academics aren’t in it to maximize their incomes. The standard-of-living comparison depends on what you value.

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