Follies of the Wise
I’m reading Frederick Crews’s Follies of the Wise, which is terrific; don’t miss it. I thought I would give you a bit that resonated strongly with me.
When I began distancing myself from Freudianism around 1970, it was because of a growing, and personally vexing, sense that psychoanalytic ‘knowledge’ is acquired and certified by fatally lax means. I realized at that juncture that my deepest loyalty was not to any particular doctrine but to empirical rationality itself – the ethos that characterizes not just science but every investigative discipline worthy of the name. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated by irrationalist movements that make a strong appeal to educated people who ought to know better. [page 344]
Well. It may be obvious why that resonates with me. It’s a pretty succinct and eloquent statement of the point of B&W. First the fact that my deepest loyalty is not to any particular doctrine but to empirical rationality itself, and then the fascination with educated people who ought to know better (and who teach other people, so ought to be especially careful and responsible) playing with irrationalist movements and failing (often flatly and explicitly refusing) to give their deepest loyalty to empirical rationality itself. That’s B&W, in a nutshell.
That has prompted me to ponder a little the question of why my deepest loyalty is not to any particular doctrine but to empirical rationality itself. It’s perhaps a slightly strange way to assign one’s deepest loyalty – loyalty usually seems like the kind of thing that is owed to more passion-inspiring entities than empirical rationality. It usually seems like the kind of thing that goes with inspiring doctrines but not so much with methods of inquiry. And yet deepest loyalty is the right phrase; that does describe it; it’s cognitive but also emotional; the two are thorougly entwined. So the question is why is that? I’ve come up with one version of an answer; I might write a book around it; but I’m not sure I’ve completely explored the question. We’ll see.