And, here...I should make a confession - upfront, as it
were - about my mathematical illiteracy. Lord knows, I
tried - repeatedly - but, I could never actually think
mathematically. The numbers simply remained dead upon
the page - I may have been able to manipulate them, and
memorize the techniques - but I certainly didn't fool
myself that there was any real understanding
going on within...
So...despite being torn between the arts & sciences
as a teenager, there was only one route I could (properly)
take. Nevertheless, I - honourably - refused to disdain
the lover who repulsed my advances, and have remained
an attentive reader of science, throughout...which is
why I was then so horrified to encounter the postmodern
version of the "Humanities".
Because "Science" - writ large - is probably the area
most travestied by the stupidities of current "Theory"
in the Humanities...as, rather than some "method" ripe
for deconstruction, or whatever...the crucial means of
science are social & pragmatic - dominated by public
testing of results documented via publication, and hard-won
knowledge about means to limit variables... Everything
else - and I do mean everything
else - is merely superficial, and yet that is the
level upon which postmodern "critiques" invariably operate...
Science, to put it bluntly, IS the art of answerable questions
- which is why it can never
truly be in conflict w/the arts...whose proper domain
is things that can't - strictly speaking - be formulated
clearly, let alone answered definitively. To resuscitate
the necessary word, the (lost) domain of the arts is that
area where even casuistry does not suffice, as it does
in history and law...and, where there is simply no possibility
of one correct response, however nuanced - so that evocation
is our only recourse.
And, this is why the study of the arts must itself remain
a hybrid - a
well-informed by the sciences (where relevant), structured
through an exhaustive knowledge of any applicable form
of history (and,
cultural history), and then fed through
the multiple subjectivities of varied practitioners...who
can damn-well communicate
rather than merely mouth accepted platitudes to brainwashed
Sorry to get so far off the track, here...but - if you'd
seen your mentors mostly driven-out of academia by idealogues,
and had to live with the fact
that there was no career for anyone locally that didn't
play the pomo game, no matter how well-read, you'd be
Real problem was, absolutely no-one seemed to know the
key information I drew upon in wholeheartedly rejecting
postmodernism, and - since it came from outside the sainted
"Humanities" - it didn't "really" exist...in the current
And, well before said mindset was fully in operation,
there was - funnily enough - ample reason for this attitude.
After all, prior to the multiple breakthrough of cognitive
psychology (let alone the even more important advent of
neuropsychology), there were only two models in this crucial
link discipline (in the English-speaking world, at least)
- Freud...and "behaviorism".
So...no contest - and, despite the fact that Freud has
not been taken seriously by yer actual scientific psychologists
for decades (due to multiple & firmly-established
findings), his last - academic - home remains "Theory"
in the "Humanities"...a backward child...overly impressed
by mythmaking and, by anyone who can successfully empire-build/especially
if'n they damn "narrow-minded scientists" in the process.
Funny thing is, scientists themselves have exactly the
same term for both this last attitude...and its inverse
(the inappropriate demand for exactitude). They call it
- a phrase everyone in the humanities badly needs to learn...and
USE, on every appropriate occasion!
Because, the entirety of post-Saussurean cultural theory
suffers from it - as did Freud and Watson (the originator
of behavioralism)...not to mention both Marx & E.O.
Wilson (founder of sociobiology) and many, many others...
To return - penultimately - to mathematics. To be sure,
I (still) can't understand
maths. But, there are ways around this disability, for
we illiterate who - nonetheless - are willing to learn.
First one is - in any area you want to understand,
that is heavily dependent upon maths - read widely, but
only entire books by authors that can actually write.
Skip the maths itself, but pay very close attention to
the assumptions behind it. This is pretty frustrating
at first...because you seem (initially) to be buying-in
to multiple/incompatible arguments - without having any
real understanding of same. But, soon you'll begin to
pick up the key terminology...and develop a real feel
for the basic assumptions...
Then - Eureka! - the next well-written book you read'll
seem like gospel...and, the biggest
(and most common) mistake you can - then - make, would
be to buy same wholeheartedly. Instead...try re-reading
the best-written books which you read earlier, that came
to different conclusions. Because, now that you've actually
got some real handle on the field - however imperfect
- you'll be surprised at how much more sense these dissenting
works now make...and, how all of them - to some extent
- probably do have something to offer.
Reason is, mathematics is (purely) about relationships.
But - and this is crucial
- only those relationships which can be expressed in exact
terms. So, if your mind refuses to admit the existence
of these, you'll never
actually get your head around maths. But...this doesn't
mean you can't understand the thinking behind it - the
assumptions that underly the choice of variables, in particular
- which is why I (now) consider myself a good critic of
same, even though I'm still a dunce when it comes to any
feel for maths itself...
The other key aid is very simple - mathematicians that
can write well. There are many of them out there...and
several now write regularly for the mathematically-impaired
audience. Read them amidst your dives into the area you
want to explore (note to all leftists: please...start
w/economics), and you'll probably be surprised at how
quickly the important things start becoming clear enough
to really think about.
Because, that's the beauty of science for the genuine
humanist - it actually answers things clearly, albeit
in a limited fashion...thereby helping us w/those things
that, simply, cannot
be so dealt with. Science is, and always will be, "merely"
a handmaiden in the humanities' realm...
But, please remember...sovereigns are nonesuch without
John Henry Calvinist