Answer to a cryptoepistemological question • 17 October 2008

Intellectual honesty is its own game in social science, where truth and falsehood are scales rather than dummy variables in mathematical models.

An interpretation that is more truthful is internally consistent, informed, engages counter-explanations, and speaks meaningfully to new evidence and interlocutors. One can articulate the conditions under which the interpretation would fail. Fewer qualifications make for more elegance; and my aesthetic preference for understatement seems be tied to something deeper—to the way a person weights argument vis-à-vis evidence. It’s difficult for me to disentangle truthfulness from a moral sense of integrity, and I’m ok with this.

Most of the sensemaking I do as a writer takes place within practical brackets set by the literatures in which I work. The explanations we piece together depend on a web of shared tacit assumptions that it's not always useful to articulate. How can we build a web of knowledge if the first half of every treatise is theroetical introduction? Sometimes it's actually more honest to act as if a background of shared understanding, since every effort to map the meta-realm will be windmill-tilting anyway. I find that bracketing more abstract questions returns me to practical questions, which in turn expand the universe of abstract questions.

Nietzsche in On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense

“Truths are illusions which we have forgotten they are illusions… coins which have lost their faces and are considered now as metal rather than as currency.”

But, some coins exchange at a higher rate than others.

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