Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sufficiency, Competence, Relevance

I returned to work after a refreshing and invigorating vacation in Wisconsin and greater Chicagoland. After marking random e-mails as "Read," I look over some notes I took in a prefreshed state, most particularly this line:

"Reality vs. ????"

I figure I was on track to bust my epistemological crisis wide open, and instead I caved into some ontological audit chasm. Not quite a zombie, but brains are starting to smell real good.

"Reality vs. ????" I think I was getting into a Rashomon fugue state, with folks skating around conflicting stories, but nodding in agreement. I wanted to know: When evaluating perception, what evidence is more reliable than testimonial evidence? Is the written as as important as the thought which drives the action? Can or should the common testimony of a dozen individuals be sufficient to assert a common perception, and be used to predict a likely action?

I searched the Red Book and Yellow Book for the answer. To make sure I didn't miss anything, I checked the Blue Book, too. (Man, that Mazdaspeed3 looks SWEET!) Their answers rang as hollow as a Sturtevant kringle, just not as tasty. "Sufficient and appropriate," "competent and relevant," "better if supported by documentary evidence," "yada yada yada." Not helping me out.

I was looking in the wrong places, of course. In my backpack was the unfinished beach reading: King of the Jews by Nick Tosches. I dig Tosches in a serious way; he is a relentless researcher with a full appreciation of the negative case. From the Book of Esther to Abe Lincoln to Mayor Bloomberg, Tosches makes clear that evidence - competent, appropriate, sufficient or otherwise - winds up as whatever is said most often, and what is said most often is often enough wrong. Still not much of an answer. Really sort of grim.

Nonetheless, with that cryptic fugue out of my system, I'll go back to work. Less episteme, more hax0rme.

No comments: