About Dave Marsay
I blog at djmarsay.wordpress.com.
From an early age I wondered at the range of different ‘adult’ reasoning styles and the confidence with which they contradicted each other and took it upon themselves to assume superiority over mine. ‘Might is right’ and ‘because everyone thinks so’ did not appeal. Even Darwinian socialism, which says that evolution favours the ‘best’, so those who have done best must be right, has never had much intellectual appeal for me. (We seem to be swept by fashions in at least some of the details of reasoning – how can we tell that things have stabilised?)
The old argument that ‘westernism’ is superior to ‘easternism’ because we have been more favoured by ‘the markets’ has lost its force post the crash of 2008 and the rise of Asia. So how do we recognise the ‘real deal’ for reasoning? Can we transcend the accident of our history that had us raised in a particular culture?
I was born and raised in suburbs of London, UK, that stood out as mixing pots of cultures on social maps of the time. No culture had a clear superiority, but the engineers, scientists and mathematicians (of various ethnic backgrounds) stood out as at least making an effort to reason well, and in having methods that stood up well in certain (narrow) domains. And at that time, such reasoning skills were widely appreciated and the development of them a recognized means of advancement.
At that time anyone who kept just half an eye out for debates on mathematics and its significance to settling society’s questions found much of interest. For example, mathematics is obviously about counting things, and one of the most important things to count is votes. So what do we make of Arrow’s Theorem? Do we conclude that mathematics is useless outside a narrow domain, or do we think that mathematics has helped to uncover some limitations of ‘common sense’, and think that it might be useful to uncover some more?