www.psysr.org on groupthink
J. Ginges & S. Atran, "War as a moral imperative"
For one of the most surprising statements about the social sciences I have read:
"However, to date, no published work has directly investigated whether people use the logic of instrumental rationality or deontology when reasoning about war."
That was written in 2011. This, after 6 decades of research on game theory, game theory which was applied to real-life situations of conflict. And the discourse of game theory ends up in narratives like Dr. Strangelove. And storytellers have pointed up the gap between a theory that frames decisionmaking in cost-benefit terms and the way groups forge decisions. And not even as coalitions, but as a group behaving as a group.
Trends in Cognitive Sciences: Thinking the Unthinkable: Sacred Values and Taboo Cognitions
The Price of your Soul: Neural Evidence for the Non-Utilitarian Representation of Sacred Values
“We’re in a post-empire arts culture,” he tells me. “We’re making movies out of crap that’s left lying around from when we were great.”
1967 The Grasshopper
Games = “the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”
“To play a game is to engage in activity directed toward bringing about a specific state of affairs, using only means permitted by specific rules where the means permitted by the rules are more limited in scope than they would be in the absence of rules, and where the sole reason for accepting such limitations is to make possible such activity.”
Neither does being a realist prevent one from understanding the conventionality of our modes of understanding.
In short, the next time some lame Ayn Randian, or Sam Harris/Dawkins fan, or yer typical internet "Skeptic" or "Rationalist" screeches "irrationalist" or "subjectivist" at you, hit 'em up with some Poincare:
The geometrical axioms are therefore neither synthetic a priori intuitions nor experimental facts. They are conventions. Our choice among all possible conventions is guided by experimental facts; but it remains free, and is only limited by the necessity of avoiding every contradiction, and thus it is that postulates may remain rigorously true even when the experimental laws which have determined their adoption are only approximate. In other words, the axioms of geometry (I do not speak of those of arithmetic) are only definitions in disguise. What, then, are we to think of the question: Is Euclidean geometry true? It has no meaning. We might as well ask if the metric system is true, and if the old weights and measures are false; if Cartesian co-ordinates are true and polar coordinates false. One geometry cannot be more true than another; it can only be more convenient.
Science and Hypothesis, H. Poincare, conclusion to Chapter 3
Chew on that, positivist running-dog lackeys of the default bourgeois liberal mental hegemony!
- Loot at the entries for Play & Chance
- Try to sort out the mathematical background for metaphors of social navigation and weighing one's options
- Look at 18th century analyses of chess
"[They] sit down to cards with calmness and indifference, making play rather an occupation than a passion"
Moll Flanders could still fleece them despite their outward show of stolid propriety at the gaming table.
Hume doesn't exempt them from the general rule that "deep play" attracts more spectators than the skilful kind. Spectators are drawn into the vertigo of deep play even when their bodies are not disordered. I am thinking of the scenes in Owning Mahowny when the solid Philip Seymour Hofmann stares placidly into the roulette wheel, the systematic disordering of his senses conveyed by superimposed shots of the spinning wheel. Caillois wants to keep the physical excess of ilinx prominent in his categorization of types of play. But the spin of the wheel, the tumble of the dice, the flipping of the cards are common icons attesting to the inner vertigo that can seize the most stoical-seeming gambler.
It is probably significant that Rousseau is supposed to have gambled only once in his life. Unlike DaPonte or Cassanova he never fell into the vertigo of Venice's Ridotto.
In his letter to D'Alembert, Rousseau says a few nice things to say about experimentalists, who he sees as part of the industriousness that is exemplified by the Geneva but lacking in Paris.
But as to those who profess "science," like the compilers of the Encyclopedia, watch out:
'At any other time, there would be no room for a asking this question [about the value of the performer] ; but in the present age, when prejudice and error prevail under the specious name of philosophy, we see mankind, intoxicated by frothy science, are grown deaf to the voice of reason and the dictates of nature.'
Science and the arts are so many bubbles that distract minds from apprehending the enduring principles of reason and nature.
There is the caricature of Rousseau as either as a prophet of undisciplined subjectivity or as an abstract theoretician who eroded social conventions in the name of doctrines which he cooked up in his head but which he passed off as transcendent.
What I see here is the legacy of 17th century rationalism. Nature and reason are eternal and unchanging and our thought and action should accord with their dictates. Our expression and our conduct should be in line with them. No French Jesuit educator would disagree with him. So, Rousseau as a partisan of Reason but not of science and sophistication? A friend of tradition and despiser of novelty?
I myself love that expression of frothy science that is the latte. Call me a corrupt urban cosmopolitan.
Il est, parbleu , grand jour. Déjà de leur ramage
Les coqs ont éveillé tout notre voisinage.
Que servir un joueur est un maudit métier !
Ne serai-je jamais laquais d'un sous-fermier?
Je ronflerais mon soûl la grasse matinée ,
Et je m'enivrerais le long de la journée :
Je ferais mon chemin ; j'aurais un bon emploi ;
Je serais dans la suite un conseiller du roi ,
Rat-de-cave ou commis ; et que sait-on ? peut-être
Je deviendrais un jour aussi gras que mon maitre.
Voltaire could be read as implying that France's political life lags behind the enlightenment achieved in intellectual, literary, and dramatic life. The standards of regularity and decorum are not derived from the elaborate politesse required at court but from the ethos of Jesuit and Jansenist education. The English might be more free in their political and social life but lack the enlightened intellectual standards developed in France in spite of its lack of public freedom:
“You free Britons do not observe the unity of place, or of time, or of action. In truth, by failing to do so you do not improve things; verisimilitude should count for something. Art is more difficult because of it, and the difficulties which are overcome provide pleasure and glory in every genre."
Adherence to the unities is part of achieving regularity and decorum. But keeping to proper standards of verisimilitude is not a matter of merely obeying rules: it is a challenge. Shakespeare and Calderon, Lope de Vega all failed to rise to it. But Addison has.. To acquire the virtues necessary for meeting this challenge, the British will have to curb the freedom they exercise elsewhere. Voltaire insists that French dramatists have displaced the Greeks as exemplars of dramatic regularity but does not claim that they alone are capable of meeting the challenge of achieving verisimilitude while maintaining proper decorum and regularity. He concedes that the English have begun to come up to the French standard with more regular plays, such as Addison's Cato. Voltaire is generous enough to allow that the English have proved themselves capable of creating regular drama and that it would be in their best interests to do more of the same, and by doing so develop a level of artistic virtue comparable to that of their public life.
Voltaire sees a trans-national and trans-historical agon between writers. The challenge is to create works that meet the high standards set by exemplary classics and still engage contemporary audiences. Voltaire, writing to Walpole, is unambiguous in his assessment of which nation has produced the greatest champions:
[Shakespeare] is precisely like the Spaniard Lope de Vega, and like Calderon. His nature is beautiful but uncivilized; he has neither regularity, decorum, nor art; mixing meanness with grandeur, buffonery with terror; in his chaotic tragedies are a hundred flashes of light.” (”Letter to Horace Walpole” dated July 15, 1768)
The regularity and decorum of which the French are exemplars are to be understood in the terms established by the Classicists of the century preceding Voltaire's. Just as French rhetoricians such as Vavasseur displaced Italians as expositors of Classical standards, French dramatists outstrip those of England, Spain, and even ancient Athens. The Enlightenment dramatic critic is, in his partisanship for the French side of the agon for cultural pre-eminence, willing to turn Classical critical standards against Classical drama.
Voltaire credits Vavasseur with having liberated France from the burlesque and other stylistic barbarisms that failed to meet the standards set by the finest examples of Greek and Roman literature. The qualities Vavasseur expected from epigrammatic verse – “naturalness and simplicity, a witty and pointed turn, grace and delicacy" – are the very qualities Voltaire and other Enlightenment literati expected from all writing. The ancient Greek dramatists failed to exhibit regularity and decorum as well as French moderns have:
“I have believed. I do believe, and I will believe that in the composition of tragedy and comedy, Paris is quite superior to Athens. Molière and even Regnard seem to me to surpass Aristophanes as much as Demosthenes surpasses our lawyers.” ("Letter to Horace Walpole")
Voltaire makes an interesting move here: he proceeds from the assumption that contemporary rhetorical and literary criticism demonstrate true rationality, regularity, and refinement. Contemporary lawyers – as practitioners of oratory and as representatives of the French adminstrative apparatus – do not exemplify this qualities. Voltaire invokes the Athenian politician as an example of someone whose rational and refined discourse made a positive contribution to his political community, and was itself an example for later writers, speakers, and public figures. It is easy to proceed, by inference, to conclude that the democratic Athenian polis was able to provide a venue for a Demosthenes to be the model of discursive and political virtue that he became.
Voltaire could be read as implying that France's political life lags behind the enlightenment achieved in intellectual, literary, and dramatic life. The standards of regularity and decorum are not derived from the elaborate politesse required at court but from the ethos of Jesuit and Jansenist education.