>While the desire for crystal clarity as it relates to conceptual
>development is admirable, can't a certain degree of "fuzziness" be the
>result of the contradictory character of the phenomena being investigated
>rather than the fault ("fuzziness") of the investigator?
Yes, of course. The whole concept of dialectics for instance is based I
think on the insight that reality is constantly moving and developing
whereas in formal logical thought we must "freeze" an object and used fixed
symbols in order to follow a train of reasoning. In this sense, statistical
knowledge certainly has its pitfalls as well. If, for another instance,
you analyse the speech pattern of working class kids you often find there
are lots of "processual" and "doing" words in it, a lack of exactitude in
any formal sense and that a lot of the meaning may be implicit or depends
on context. To the outsider it's vague, but if you observe carefully it's
>E.g. when one is examining a topic that is determined not by one variable
>but by several, any attempt to linearize the relationship might appear at
>first blush to be an advance towards the development of a "crystal clear
>concept". Yet, in that case while the theory may be simpler and clearer,
>it would also be misleading.
>Similarly, as we have seen in our debate on productive and unproductive
>labour, although we certainly want clarity, we want -- first and foremost
>-- to understand the phenomena better. Therefore, much of the discussion
>precisely centered on examples from the margin where there was dispute.
>This represented not a lack of clarity, but an attempt to clarify our
>positions more precisely by looking at and evaluating specific examples.
I have no objection to that whatever, I just wonder where it leads sometimes.
>The most non-fuzzy way that conceptual ideas can be advanced is in
I disagree. The most nonfuzzy way that conceptual ideas can be advanced is
through an unmistakable action. But I agree mathematical rigourousness is
useful and necessary.
Yet, can we not think of phenomena in political economy
>that can not be accurately expressed in mathematical form?
Yes. Human labour in all its forms and manifestations.
>Although you profess the desire for crystal clarity in theoretical
>development, you also suggest elsewhere that metaphysics is both useful
>and required. Are these not contradictory concerns?
I have said I think it's a mistake to think you are operating without
metaphysical elements in your scientific thinking. I think dialectics is a
metaphysical theory although these days we have some more scientific
corroboration of dialectical-type patterns in nature and society. Standards
of clarity and precision also apply to metaphysics. The difference is that
metaphysical statements include statements which are not even in principle
testable, or verifiable, or even fallible statements.
When I said I hate fuzzy concepts, that is my personal predelection. But I
also said I have to use them, I know I have to use them. I mean to say -
and this is obvious from some of my contributions to the list - sometimes
my thinking is as clear as mud. Some people would say it is always muddy,
because if it wasn't I wouldn't be writing this stuff. But I don't go quite
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