Guru George on Grand Systems

P. George Stewart has a good entry up on the ability of theory to seduce and then imprison the mind because it gives the thinker the feeling of knowing. The whole thing is short and worth reading, but here are some choice passages anyway.

Like Ayn Rand's thought ... the nature of Marxism as a "closed circle", prevents interlocutors from getting a word in edgeways - in order to properly counter any random Marxist or Objectivist point, one would have to explain one's own whole philosophy, which would just be too tedious and impolite in most circumstances.

The situation is made all the more difficult by the fact that these grand systems do have truth flashing through them here and there, sometimes great truth; one always wants to say "yes, but" - in the same breath, one sees a point of agreement, but one also sees complicated rifts of disagreement. ...

The feeling of knowing is too easily bought by these grand systems, possibly at the expense of the possibility of knowledge discovery - precisely because the anomalous is more valuable to the process of knowledge discovery, and showing where we are wrong is often more of a step in the right direction than showing where we are right.

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