Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Here is another piece of that Tyler Cowen and Jonathan Haidt interview I linked to yesterday, about a new movement that I fully intend to join:
COWEN: Antiparsimonialism , underrated or overrated?

HAIDT: Antiparsimonialism, have you any heard anyone say that other than me, is that my term?

COWEN: No, that’s why I asked.

HAIDT: Oh good, then of course I think it’s underrated, because I think — so parsimony is overrated.

Rather here’s what I should say. The pursuit of parsimony is a bad idea. It becomes almost a religious quest, people think, “Oh, if I can explain this phenomenon with one principle, I have won, I have produced a better explanation.” That’s a disaster for the social sciences, maybe it works in physics, but again, people are really complicated, much more so than matter.

People who pursue parsimony, scientists who pursue it and think that the simplest explanation is better than one that’s a little more complicated, that’s a problem. I’m trying to advocate for what I’m calling antiparsimony, or antiparsimonialism.

COWEN: Normatively you’re a pluralist then, and not like a utilitarian, or — ?

HAIDT: Normatively I’m a pluralist, yes. That means that there are many human values, and this is straight from Isaiah Berlin. There are many human values, and if you take one, let’s take liberty. “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice.” Wrong.

Extremism in defense of any virtue becomes a vice, it becomes sick, it becomes something that leads to horrible inhumanity and brutality. Many people try to say well all that really matters is care and compassion.

But if you take that to its absurd extreme you get kind of close to what we have on campus, which is we will destroy anybody’s rights in order to protect these seven victim classes.
I am not sure I have ever read anything with which I agree more fully. When it comes to either social science or practical politics, simplification is destruction.

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

The world is too big for us, and so many of us feel compelled not to make ourselves larger, but to make the world smaller.