Indelicate Perturbations

As it turns out–a delightful surprise–many of philosopher Joseph Agassi’s short essays are linked to his Wikipedia entry.

Agassi, provided one of my most cherished reading forays many years ago, with his ironically (and also subtly,) titled collection The Gentle Art of Philosophical Polemics. There, in a chapter, Popper’s Hopeful Monsters, Agassi wrote:

The modern scientific tradition is permeated with inductivism. And inductivism is the admonition to avoid jumping to conclusions, i.e., to avoid the invention of bold conjectures.

This is a set-up, for Agassi is driving home a point about Popper’s ideational boldness in relationship to ‘inductivist’ provisionality. Like Wittgenstein, Agassi is a keen debunker of: leaping to conclusions; unwarranted presumptions to clarity; incoherent propositions, concepts, operations; illogical synthesis.

I’m working through the essays. For example, The Theory and Practice of the Welfare State (1996) contains:

The present discussion already includes a bias, and one that practical people should oppose. It is one characteristic of many discussions of matters of principle. It rests on the assumption that the principles in question, whatever it happens to be, must guide action, that practical activities are (or perhaps should be) the outcome of a choice between alternative principles and its application. This very bias makes practical people shun discussions on basics, and with much justice. For, practical activity need not be guided by principle, especially when basic matters of principles are controversial or unclear and practical matters are pressing. Also, action may be more judiciously guided by eclectic deliberations that take the best from each basic option without thereby crystallizing into a new one. Moreover, one may recommend not the application of a basic doctrine but the effort to come closer to its teachings, especially in times of crisis. For example, one may preach innovations yet fall back on tradition in times of crisis. For another example, one may stick to the welfare state but from time to time attempt at the reduction of waste and of government involvement by privatization and budget cuts.

Ahhh, another set-up. The author proceeds to inspect the basics. Closely.

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