Monday, October 19, 2015

Words, Words, Words*

Scott Aaronson has continued to offend a certain sector of the social scientists.

Scott Aaronson, quoting himself:

[W]hy not dispense with the empirically-empty notion of “privilege,” and just talk directly about the actual well-being of actual people, or groups of people? If men are doing horrific things to women—for example, lashing them for driving cars, like in Saudi Arabia—then surely we can just say so in plain language. Stipulating that the torturers are “exercising their male privilege” with every lash adds nothing to anyone’s understanding of the evil. It’s bad writing. More broadly, it seems to me that the entire apparatus of “privilege,” “delegitimation,” etc. etc. can simply be tossed overboard, to rust on the ocean floor alongside dialectical materialism and other theoretical superstructures that were once pompously insisted upon as preconditions of enlightened social discourse. This isn’t quantum field theory. Ordinary words will do.

Brutish physicist that I am, I say Amen, amen, amen*.

So how respondeth the social scientists:

Prof. Laba derisively commented:

Might as well ask you to explain calculus without using fancy words like “derivative” or “continuous.” Simple number arithmetic will do.

Scott calls bullshit on this, at considerable length, which anybody interested should go to the link to read.

Like Scott, I think lots of cool stuff is being discovered in the social sciences, but I would guess that almost none of it is being discovered by the jargon obsessed.

Scott hints, but doesn't quite say, that the SSers haven't quite gotten over their infatuation with the delusions of Marx and Freud.

*Because most of my brain is song lyrics.