Just a bit more. Because I promised, and because there are more that are too good not to share.
…it is perhaps worth drawing an analogy between the demarcation lines in science and the borders between hierarchical taste cultures – high, middlebrow, and popular – that cultural critics and other experts involved in the business of culture have long had the vocational function of supervising. In both cases, we find the same need for experts to police the borders with their criteria of inclusion and exclusion…[F]alsifiability is often put forward as a criterion for evaluating scientific authenticity…But such a yardstick is no more objectively adequate and no less mythical a criterion than appeals to, say, aesthetic complexity have been in the history of cultural criticism. Falsifiability is a self-referential concept in science, inasmuch as it appeals to those normative codes of science that favor objective authentification of evidence by a supposedly dispassionate observer.
Isn’t that lovely? There’s so much in it. It’s like a big ol’ treasure chest. That ‘it is perhaps worth drawing’ – more of that caginess our sharp-eyed readers have noticed. Sure, ‘perhaps’ – that’s safe to say. Then again perhaps not. And ‘worth’? Well, that depends what you mean by ‘worth’. If you mean in the sense of ‘worth because likely to produce interesting, true, useful lines of thought,’ then no. If you just mean ‘more fun than having your teeth cleaned,’ possibly. Okay and then ‘demarcation lines’. Right. That’s what science is all right, it’s kind of like a football field. And then borders. He has a bit of an obsession with borders, Ross does. He seems to think that every distinction and every value judgement (except the ones he makes) equates to establishing and patrolling borders in a peculiarly compulsive, anal, property-hugging, pedantic way. And then ‘supervising’ to underline the point. Right – people who pay attention to culture (slightly more perspicuous attention than Ross pays, one hopes) spend all their time supervising borders; that’s what ‘culture’ is all about. And then, skipping lightly over several more lovely items (experts, police the borders, criteria, inclusion and exclusion) we come to that loopy phrase about falsifiability. Put forward? Scientific authenticity? Oh never mind. And then all the rest of it, all that bilge about normative codes and ‘a self-referential concept’ and ‘objective’ and ‘authentification’ (he seems to have science confused with stamp-collecting) and ‘supposedly’. I’m exhausted now.
But just a little more, because there is one very sly item.
A more exhaustive treatment would take account of the local, qualifying differences between the realm of cultural taste and that of science –
Oh it would! It would notice those differences would it? Well that is a relief!
– science, but it would run up, finally, against the stand-off between the empiricist’s claim that non-context-dependent beliefs exist and that they can be true, and the culturalist’s claim that beliefs are only socially accepted as true.
There, that’s the one. That’s what Susan Haack calls the ‘passes for’ fallacy. That’s that rhetorical trick where epistemic relativists substitute the word ‘beliefs’ for words like ‘facts’ or ‘truth’ and hope we won’t notice. And he follows that up with our last sentence for today.
Ultimately, the power of science rests upon making and maintaining that distinction, and we ought to recognize that science’s anxiety about authenticating its belief in truths is, in the truly Foucauldian sense, a question of power.
There you have it – the making of a celebrity cultural critic.