March 7, 2013

On Establishing A Consensus

If a physicist runs a complicated new experiment and concludes that the results support the Theory of General Relativity, she will not be called backward-looking and traditional. It will be seen as yet another piece of important support for an already robust theory. But to many colleagues in the humanities, “cutting edge” means “in line with trendy theoretical works”. I don’t care about trendy theory. – Martin Rundkvist at Aardvarchaeology

In his penultimate sentence Rundkvist says, “I think any academic subject that can’t establish solid consensus and move on to new questions should be defunded. That’s not science / Wissenschaft / vetenskap, that’s art criticism, aesthetics.” What he doesn’t say, is that it’s also theology.

I think there is a place for art criticism, aesthetics, and even theology among the academic subjects. But that place is as meta-study. Why do people hold this or that opinion? How do (did) they come to have such an opinion? What is the history of such an opinion?

By the way, I wonder from time to time if there is an objective, if biological, basis for opinions concerning the beautiful. The same has been posited for opinions about god(s) and religious practice in some generalized sense. There are worthy academic subjects in these areas too - areas of inquire in which consensus is at least in principle possible.

Posted by Duane Smith at March 7, 2013 4:06 PM | Read more on Science - General |

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