Friday, November 22, 2013

Epistemology 101: Validity and Soundness

While reading this wonderful piece on how !!!racist!!! peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are--high praise to Maetenloch at AOSHQ for the link--I was reminded of something I divined several years ago about the nature of higher academia.
I posit that the reason you hear so many outlandish ideas from raging liberal sages--sex with animals is perfectly fine, or the above woeful tale of racist sammiches--is, at least partially, the result of the academic process itself.
Firstly, in order to earn a PhD, candidates must defend their theses through argument. Unlike with physics, mathematics or chemistry, in soft sciences like sociology, cultural anthropology, psychology, etc., there are few, if any, opportunities for the rigorous accumulation of experimental data (See Noam Chomsky and the "forbidden experiment" for one example that through happenstance actually materialized) that would confirm one's central assertion.
Secondly, because degrees have already been conferred for solving or disproving all the "big problems," candidates are forced to search further into the boundaries of their fields (See Benoit Mandelbrot for the most beautiful boundaries).
As a result, scholars must almost always invent new language to describe the phenomena they say exist, or doesn't, can be manipulated, or not, and how, and why their revelations on the matter positively contribute to the greater body of knowledge.
And there's the rub.
Once one establishes the new language from which the premise(s) proceed--and with no experimental data--the candidate need only construct a logically valid argument, it need not be sound. Reminder: a valid argument is one that logically follows from the premise(s); a sound argument is a valid argument that is true.
So the next time read an academic professing patent unreality and thinking they are not of sound mind, don't worry. You're correct. They made up the premise and the language that defines it. Truth has nothing to do with it (See Climate Science).
So there.


Eric Praline said...

And like every other problem in America, the population bomb of Liberal Arts psychotics is directly caused by progs taking over the government. Were it not for them giving out hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loans to anyone with a pulse, and brainwashing school children to think that "everyone needs a college education," in order to provide patronage jobs for their coreligionists who don't have the charisma to get elected, these pseudo-intellectual charlatans would be selling miracle cures to rubes on a street corner or going to law school with the rest of the gonifs.

Flaxen Saxon said...

Indeed Mr Green. A fine hypothesis. But before it evolves into a theory we need empirical evidence. As always, the devil is in the data.