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March 30, 2006


Robert Jubb

Yeah, there seems to be something of a trope of claiming that empiricism is somehow strongly related to liberalism/democracy. I remember Chris Dillow once saying something similar. Have these people not read Hobbes or Hume?

i hope you get cancer™

Always heartening to see Jacques getting an all-too-rare kicking. Don't you think his byline photo on Comment is Free has more than a little of the latter-day Gary Glitter about it?

Anyway, as you probably already know, the Virtual Stoa has some good stuff about the Enlightenment. Just scroll down past the pictures of his bloody cat!


Empiricism is democratic because it enables anyone and everyone to compare data with results. If a totalitarian party wants to rig the data or the results, then by definition that is not empirical methodology. Fetishising dogma and state-controlled orthodoxy have nothing to do with empiricism. You might as well say that astronomy makes no sense because astrologists keep getting their predictions wrong. They both deal with stars but they are not the same thing. Reason is not magic. It's method. Do you know of a better method?


empiricist, I think what jamie k is saying is that Chinese thought is inherently _practical_ as well as empirical - there has been little room for ideals, such as the equality of man etc. that kickstarted the Enlightenment.


In purely philosophical terms, empiricism is not unproblematic. Put crudely, how do you experience the knowledge to interpret experience? But in political terms, in allowing an individual the same rights of observation as anyone else, empiricism is innately democratic. Similarly the anti-democracy of, say, Mao was innately anti-empirical. If it was announced that an initiative would deliver certain results, then those results were reported, regardless of observed experience. Thus bumper crops were announced as famine raged and millions died of starvation. Jamie K is worse than an idiot if he cannot grasp that basic principle.


Look, there's nothing that prevents a dictatorship from getting facts right should this be necessary for it to hold on to power, and nothing that prevents a democractic government from lying to the extent that it thinks it can get away with it. And who says that empiricism involves *everyone* having the same rights of observation? That follows from liberty; it's not a precondition.

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