- Dec 2021
Hobbes and Rousseau told their contemporaries things that werestartling, profound and opened new doors of the imagination. Nowtheir ideas are just tired common sense. There’s nothing in them thatjustifies the continued simplification of human affairs. If socialscientists today continue to reduce past generations to simplistic,two-dimensional caricatures, it is not so much to show us anythingoriginal, but just because they feel that’s what social scientists areexpected to do so as to appear ‘scientific’. The actual result is toimpoverish history – and as a consequence, to impoverish our senseof possibility.
The simplification required to make models and study systems can be a useful tool, but one constantly needs to go back to the actual system to make sure that future predictions and work actually fit the real world system.
Too often social theorists make assumptions which aren't supported in real life and this can be a painfully dangerous practice, especially when those assumptions are built upon in ways that put those theories out on a proverbial creaking limb.
This idea is related to the bias that Charles Mathewes points out about how we treat writers as still living or as if they never lived. see: https://hypothes.is/a/VTU2lFvZEeyiJ2tN76i4sA
Most of the people we will beconsidering in this book are long since dead. It is no longer possibleto have any sort of conversation with them. We are nonethelessdetermined to write prehistory as if it consisted of people one wouldhave been able to talk to, when they were still alive – who don’t just
exist as paragons, specimens, sock-puppets or playthings of some inexorable law of history.
This is similar to a problem that Charles Mathewes has pointed out about history and historical writing: Too often we act as if the writer never died and also we forget that the writer ever lived in the real world.
Peoples' context matters.
Cross reference: Lecture 1 of [[[The City of God (Books that Matter)]]
- social theory
- historical context
- modeling behavior
- adjacent possible
- scientific method
- Charles Mathewes