war, and its terrible consequences for millions of people are made by
social science models which are simplistic and rhetorical to the point
of lunacy, simply because the politicians have the power to reject any
thinking but their own, and to act accordingly.

{N.B. A point
The social and psychological sciences are different, because any
human must have theories about the individual behaviour of others,
and about how societies work. So in addition to the immense
difficulty of these sciences, people have a built in rejection of those
findings and ideas which they find offensive or inappropriate.}

The attack on rhetoric from the Clifford and Marcus is bang on.
They are right. But the conclusion is the opposite - they make clear
how difficult the task is, and how far we have failed. But they do not
undermine the philosophical case for rigour.

‘Positions proliferate: Hermeneutics, structuralism, history of
mentmalieis neo-Marxism’ p 10. Not even a careful list. The items
are not of the same order.

6. Lame Attempt to Link it in.

This does not fit readily into the conference. Three ways.

1. Tamara Dragazdze - verbal communication. Foreign Offices
runs on a whole set of misunderstandings of the societies they talk
about, and of social processes in general. Diplomats confuse
intentions and conspiracies with non-intended processes, and
accidents. Very very dangerous. Athens and Syracuse, 1st WW, etc.

2. Credulity depends on vagueness, and fuzziness - indirection.

3. Takiye - the moral duty of concealment.


being ‘positive’, ‘beneficial’, ‘functional’.

So yes, without credulity on a massive scale the current dominance
of humans over the rest of the planet would not have been possible.
At the same time, I personally hold that truth is better than falsity,
and that now- whatever may have been the case in the past - credulity
is undesirable. Why do I hold that? I do not know. Just because I am
an academic and not a salesman? Perhaps my younger colleagues will
disagree, precisely because with the current admiration for images,
presentation, virtual reality, and the need to make a commercial
success of everything, deception is more important than truth.
Somehow I do not think that that is the point which ‘we’ have

5. The Social Sciences - Social Anthropology
{This section is absolutely hopeless to date.}

What troubles me greatly is the credulity of many practitioners of
the social sciences, and the way we social scientists mislead our
students, the general public and with appalling consequences, the
wielders of serious power. - politicians, government servants and
managers of the multinationals.

{Omit ? Some economists, - and some non economists like John
Davis - have recently pointed that economists do not agree with each
other; that their long term predictions are poor enough to lead the
conclusion that when they do predict reasonably correctly they get
there by luck. The main fallacies {grammar} the assumption made
about human motivation and the way that human societies work are
grossly simplistic. may also lie partly in the kinds of mathematical
models used - several models may fit, with changes of emphasis, a
given situation.

More important, leading economists have great power, earn very
well, and are able to do immense damage - witness the absurd British
boom of the late 1980s, or the pathetically simplistic assumptions
about, and policies for turning the ‘centrally controlled’ economies
of the former USSR into ‘capitalist market economies’ after 1989.}

But economics for the economists. What distresses me more is the
pseudo-scientist and rhetorical emptiness of social science, - political
science, sociology and anthropology. I hardly know where to begin.

One hair raising anecdote. from a recent seminar. At a high level
luxury seminar on Angola, a senior American policy adviser not
only held quite simplistic views about ‘African tribalism’ as the cause
of the civil war, but scorn on an invited academic expert who
suggested a more complex model. So policy decisions to support


Knowledge is closely related to power and prestige. People with
more power can normally decide if and when they are prepared to
be corrected by inferiors; and inferiors are often unable to alter the
knowledge of their superiors, even when the evidence and logic
points clearly to error. Contradiction is impolite, ( Josephides 1998)
and often leads to disputes or punishment, even to violence.

3.3 Psychology

I am ignorant of psychology. If I had time to read it up, I would
look into four areas.

First, fantasy. The marvellous ability of humans to make up models
and narratives; and also to invent practical solutions to problems.
Second, the comfortableness of knowing one is right. From the eager
pupil knowing that he or she can answer the teacher’s question,
through the truculent teenage know all, to the self assured cockiness
of the power wielding adult, being right, knowing best is just lovely.
Thirdly, as I have said - perhaps the same point, - being right gives
superiority over others; it is part of social identity in the social
network. Finally, how far is human individual’s ‘knowledge’ shaped
by desires, pleasures, fears?

4. Function and Evolution.

This section is truncated, again because of my ignorance. Credulity -
the whole capacity of groups to build systems of knowledge which
combine practical truths about surviving in the local environment
with both the validation of social rules and structures, and the
explanation of the physical and social totality which the local humans
experience - is obviously one grand ‘necessary condition’ for the
survival and evolution of human society. All societies have some
form of ‘religion’ because religion free societies have not survived.

But it does not follow from such a general idea that all credulity is
somehow ‘positive’ or ‘beneficial’ or ‘functional’. If someone thinks
up an idea not based on hard evidence and logical tightness, and
communicates to others, who, for any reasons of any kind accept it,
the idea that may become part of the transmitted ‘culture’ of those
people and their children. The consequences of this accretion to
culture are unpredictable, and absolutely was never in the past
predicted. So while the overall existence of careful observations,
religions, myths, fictions, hypotheses have contributed hugely to
human survival and growth, specific observations, religions, myths,
fictions, and hypotheses have all kinds of very complex
consequences, and whether someone holds that these consequences
are ‘positive’, ‘beneficial’, ‘functional’ depends partly on which he or
she is attending to, and on what he or she happens to think constitutes


is less available to and less widely distributed among the poorer and
less educated people of the ‘Third World”. This is not imperialism of
any kind; it is just plain fact. This statement is not inconsistent with
the possibility that ‘modern global’ societies may have lost some
kinds of admirable and desirable knowledge to be found in poorer
ones; legions of well educated people are certainly benighted,
arrogant, power hungry and even cruel. (Chambers 1997).

This leads to another obvious but in my view important point. With
Gellner, I (like in practice everyone else, including relativists and
Muslims) ‘believe’ in science, on what I hold to be quite unshakeable
arguments. There are very large differences between the ‘truth’
status and procedures of established scientific models and say
religious or social science models of the world. But all the same,
they all models have to be to some extent tested against experience,
have to avoid gaping inconsistencies; and most are used minute by
minute to guide human conduct . More important, between different
kinds of models there the usual wide fuzzy zones. For example,
between western laboratory and hospital based medicine, and so
called alternative medicine; for example, between psychology and
systematic study of the paranormal. Contrast the impossibility of
settling arguments between a Christian and an Islamic model of the
physical, social and ‘spiritual’ universe.

Knowledge is social; again.

May I repeat and re-emphasise that ‘knowledge’ is social? Almost all
knowledge is acquired from other humans, and in so far as any given
individual human has ever acquired knowledge totally unassisted by
others, that knowledge only becomes ‘knowledge’ in practice if it is
communicated to others. Purely private individual knowledge would
be unknowable by anyone else, and we could not discuss it.

With very few exceptions, the exchange of items of knowledge is
toughly controlled by others. Humans who live among, and interact
exclusively or largely with, a limited number of others - in villages,
stable networks, bands, pastoral groups, professions have to care
what others think; they cannot claim to know what all significant
others reject; they cannot remain ignorant of what others are
unanimous in knowing,. This ( see paper ) raises serious puzzles
about cognitive change, and poses difficulties for innovators.
(Rapport 1998) In ‘modern’ societies, the immensely more complex
networks of social relations and communication do not alter the fact
that individuals are still completely dependent on other people, and
on their reinforcement, for their knowledge; and that all knowledge
is social. As an account of knowledge, “individualism “ in any
serious form, is just plain wrong.

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