Hell if I know, but they are surely topics for a philosopher’s philosopher and have been making a bit of a round in a corner of the bloggiverse I occasionally hang out it. Start with Larval Subjects recent series of posts and take it from there.

Something about all of it reminded me of this quote from the first page of Horwitz’s Transformation of American Law, 1870-1960: “In social thought, belief in the explanatory possibility of very general “covering laws” capable of making “if-then” predictive statements has plummeted (except as economics deploys ever more elaborate tautologies to conceal this fact). The result has been a dramatic turn toward highly specific “thick description” in which narratives and stories purport to substitute for traditional general theories. Today there are scholars in all fields of social thought who view orthodox claims to objectivity as contests over the appropriate generality of discourse.” Horwitz admits to great value in all of this and in the resulting complexifying, but asks, I think with a lamenting tone, “But how does one explain anything objectively in a world of complex multiple causation?”, adding a few lines later that “There remains the serious question of whether the new cult of complexity does not simply avoid through fiat the admirable generalizing and simplifying goals of nineteenth century modes of explanation.” (vii-viii.)

Part of what I like in the quote is that it raise the question for me of appropriate analytical modes, which for academics ties in to the strengths and weaknesses of different academic disciplines and subfields.

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