The Certain vs. the Boring

Contra many forms of Naturalism and Analytic philosophy, problems are not more tractable when narrowly defined. They do, however, tend to become more boring and so generate less controversy and counter-argument. With less of that, they seem far more certain.

Ditto for sciences. Let them hit on a conclusion that affects what people actually care about: human equality, corporate power, cherished taboos, or whatever, and all of a sudden the science becomes more controversial (read “less certain”) and is seen to suffer from “obvious flaws”. It is no longer published, and is viewed as “outside the mainstream”. It doesn’t matter how narrowly defined the problem is, though this is often a help in making sure the conclusion won’t step on anyone’s claims.

It goes too far to press this to a Nietzschean conclusion about the social character of truth. Real certitudes happen. But if you want to get universal agreement about something no one cares about, you don’t have to do much more than announce that it’s true. Everyone will play along. One can do this in a classroom, a journal, or a broadcast/ publication all day with problems that are indefinitely universal and broadly defined.

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