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Argument is more than saying interesting things

In post modernism on October 24, 2010 by macrofoundations

This is just a pet annoyance, but it seemed a good light way to start a blog. While this blog is going to be a critique of methodological individualism, which prides itself on saying for a theory to be rigourous it must have microfoundations on an individual level, this post is going to be a critique of those who do not have rigour and say things without providing any form of foundation. I’m not going to say that they require microfoundations, I am not certain of this myself, but what I think must be said is that making assertions without attempting to provide explanation other than references to theorists or concepts is not going to provide humanity with anything intellectually useful (although it might well have entertainment or propagandistic value).

Zizek is a good example. I am not too familiar with him having not read his books, although I get the feeling from videos of him that he may be doing this half-ironically. He makes bold claims, tries to substantiate them with references but with no coherent core, then makes a comment on society based on this. His attempt to substantiate his claims in videos often seem little more than intellectually dazzling watchers/listeners/readers into taking him seriously without providing any real coherent argument.

When reading this blog post {http://volume3blog.blogspot.com/2010/10/open-your-eyes.html} I got the same feeling. The post is full of references to theories, to authors, to culture. But what purpose do the references serve? They simply dazzle as they do not back up an attempt at coherent argument. This seems to take the same method of Zizek yet not even make an interesting (or at least obvious) bold statement or social critique. After reading the post several times I still can’t work out what the line of argument actually is, features of it are obvious but where it starts, travels through, and ends don’t seem to be on the same road.

The same is true of Jean-Luc Godard later films. As intellectual entertainment they are brilliant, as coherent argument they are not. To be presented with juxtapositions, random quotes from intellectuals and a culturally and philosophically referential plot line is great entertainment, but you do not come away from the films with more knowledge or convinced of anything different. The same applies to Zizek and the blog post above. The do not attempt to make an argument which can be tested or has evidence from past events or appears to be true based on a priori (non evidence based) argument, but instead just present interesting references to culture and, sometimes, make a statement based upon it. It fails at convincing those who think critically and perhaps is worrying leap into anti-rational mysticism.

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Towards a critique of methodological individualism

In Blog meta, Methodological individualism on October 24, 2010 by macrofoundations

The purpose of this blog is to encourage myself to work out my critique of methodological individualism. A strange reason to start a blog, but this is an assumption that I am constantly coming across in social science which I am not certain of my position on, yet have suspicions about. A blog seems a good way of getting feedback on my thoughts without the thoughts themselves taking on too much significance that I can’t later retract them. The blog might (and I expect will) become more than this, but inductive reasoning tells me that for me to start a blog without a purpose will end on its first post.