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The Sea

In neurath, skepticism on 15/09/2011 at 7:14 am

We are like sailors who on the open sea must reconstruct their ship but are never able to start afresh from the bottom. Where a beam is taken away a new one must at once be put there, and for this the rest of the ship is used as support. In this way, by using the old beams and driftwood the ship can be shaped entirely anew, but only by gradual reconstruction. (Otto Neurath)

The epistemic pessimist values avoiding error over acquiring information. As a result, the pessimist is unwilling to ask information on Prom Night to dance for fear of the potential rejection. Don’t forget your inhaler!

The epistemic optimist values acquiring information over avoiding error. As a result, the optimist falls in love with information, even if the information should be erroneous. There’s gold in that thar valley between her thighs. What of a communicable disease?

What if one were to resolve this tension not as Neurath did, but as follows: one neither fears nor loves information; one depersonalizes information. One feels no attachment or repulsion: one uses the information and sees where it leads. Only then can one decide if the information is worthwhile. One uses information, for that is all one has.

You’re lost at sea during a great storm, grasping floating wreckage. No need to be picky. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps or replace beams one by one anymore. Everything you’ve built is gone now, most of it sinking quickly below the waves. You catch anything that passes within reach. It’s life or death. You need a raft, or a lifeboat, or anything to jury-rig a sail. You need to make it through the storm. Anything will do, until it doesn’t. Any information will work, until it doesn’t work. And if it doesn’t, if it begins to pull you under the waves, cast it aside and replace it with another piece of flotsam floating by in the storm.

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