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Uncommon Knowledge: Thomas Sowell and Conflict of Visions

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Previous FORAtv comments:
Ken Cluck Avatar
Ken Cluck
Posted: 08.10.10, 06:01 AM
In other places and books, Sowell has shared his problems with the Brown decision and the problems it created. And of course, since he decries the unconstrained view of the intellectuals, he does not include himself there but would define himself as an exception, so why ask. As for the interviewer, this is an ad for the book, so his track in his questions is to get out what the book says and to build it up to those who might buy it.
CMears Avatar
Posted: 03.08.10, 12:35 PM
Interesting interview, though like anything4ai, I wish it had been conducted by a more capable interviewer. Some of the comments here strike me as humorous in that, while attempting to find flaws with Sowell's thesis, they simultaneously make it obvious of how they fit neatly within his broad category of Unconstrained Vision. Adding to that, we see an unnecessarily lengthy and wordy response that begins with a complaint towards "an excess of language." Amusing indeed. How about debating the merit of what was said during this interview, especially since many of the statements may now be viewed in light of President Obama's election and policies enacted during the previous year?
Boycetalbert Avatar
Posted: 09.01.09, 12:42 AM
Perhaps you have never read or fully understood the Constitution of the United States of American. Is it imperfect? Certainly. All human documents are imperfect. But is "human flexibility" to be a more trustworthy standard for the common good? God help us if it is. It is human flexibility which created the holocaust.
ascilto Avatar
Posted: 08.29.09, 06:43 AM
Discussions such as this suffer from an excess of language. Definition can be viewed from a certain perspective as merely an "indefinite error" (Foucault). However, in the spirit of intellectual discussion, the word "constrain" seems to elevate a debate that is essential about the application of power. constrain, v. 1. trans. To force, compel, oblige: a. a person to do anything. (The usual const.), b. a person to (into) a course of action, state, place, etc., etc. (OED, 2nd Edition 1989) This discussion is, like so many others, a discussion about power relations taking place under a veil of rhetorical musing and conceptual bias. It's absurd to claim that diplomacy failed to prevent World War II after economic policies precipitated an environment hostile to reason (the application of bad "diplomacy" is incompatible with effective diplomacy, which is inherently constrained by this relation) . Because he is an economist, I cannot understand his bemusement in deriding this optimism so vacantly, as though he is unaware of the facts surrounding the economic collapse of Germany. His claim that "[d]efending yourself is not belligerent" is axiomatic if incorrect. It is actually an excellent example of an "indefinite error". If I took this axiom for literal truth, I would have to reconcile the fact that before hearing it I can easily envision a "belligerent" defense, and afterward would have to characterize this relationship in another way. belligerent, a. and n. 1. A nation, party, or person waging regular war (recognized by the law of nations). (OED, 2nd Edition 1989) To acknowledge and confront a threat is, at least from a formal or linguistic perspective, inherently belligerent, with which I suspect anyone actually engaged in hostilities would likely concur. In fact, sources from the late nineteenth century seem to indicate a certain level of honor pertaining to belligerency: "1863 Boston Commw. 11 Sept., The absurdity and wrong of conceding Ocean Belligerancy to a pretended Power." (OED, 2nd Edition 1989) However, beyond this, I am very willing to assert that the government military response or "defense" of the country in the past decade has indeed been an "aggressive defense" pursued with the bellicose alacrity that was surely the intended usage. Aside from this, it is necessary only to consult the actual evidence regarding this defense in order to evince more telling conclusions. At any rate, what would be more facile and agreeable, as well as less arrogant, would be to say that defense should not be criticized for it's belligerency, which is clearly the concern that motivates his outright dismissal. As for the person attempting to bend continuum theory into a Manichean paradigm, moral reductionism aside, I think it would go something like this (which I get lazily from Wikipedia): "Continuum theories or models explain variation as involving a gradual quantitative transition without abrupt changes or discontinuities. It can be contrasted with 'categorical' models which propose qualitatively different states." Therefore the question is not a judgment or a decision making model. There are several imperatives, chiefly to define what is and is not rape. Then one plots various figures on the continuum. Many individuals are not associated with 4 year old children. Then this distinction is divided by gender (i.e. not associated with 4 year old boys/girls, which complicates a linear continuum somewhat). Eventually, you reach a point around the "wholesome" middle, shall we say, of giving your own 4 year old child a bath, which contains certain elements of the act in question. Beyond this I do not really wish to delve conceptually, but you get the idea. It is not the continuum model's job to tell you what is okay and what is not, it is your job to define rape as (conceivably) a certain threshold or point along the continuum, and after which to condemn it and enforce it's condemnation, assuming this to be your prerogative.
cjandersen Avatar
Posted: 08.09.09, 10:54 PM
Respnding to parkflies comment: "One is either constrained or unconstrained, according to Mr. Sowell." Let me quote from Sowell's book itself: "Rather than attempt the impossible task of following all these ramifications in each of the myriad of social visions, the discussion here [in this book] will group these visions into two broad categories—the constrained vision and the unconstrained vision. These will be abstractions of convenience, recognizing that there are degrees in both visions, that a continuum has been dichotomized , that in the real world there are often elements of each inconsistently grafted on to the other, and innumerable combinations and permutations." (A Conflict of Visions, pg 19, emphasis added)
Logician Avatar
Posted: 01.24.09, 06:27 PM
Sowell is one of the precious few black intellectuals who hasn't succumb to the economics of interventionism and unreason.
MeMyself+I4life Avatar
Posted: 01.24.09, 10:56 AM
From comments posted here... Pjokk --"Good/bad, black/white and right/wrong isn't a reality in today's world." parkflies --"One is either constrained or unconstrained, according to Mr Sowell. I disagree. I think choices are made from points along the continuum." Give me the continuum (or the relative circumstances) for the following.. When it is okay for You to rape and kill a four year old child? Please don't respond, "Never", because that would state an actual right/wrong dichotomy, and I wouldn't want you to be "constrained" by an "either/or".
Xpertpcnet Avatar
Posted: 12.15.08, 09:36 PM
This was a waste of time.
Pjokk Avatar
Posted: 11.09.08, 09:27 AM
Good/bad, black/white and right/wrong isn't a reality in today's world. For me there seems to be a rather diverse world with a lot of different working solutions. The ability to see that a problem can have different working solutions, that differ from the conservative american way, is something I would consider crucial to everyone, yet it is lost on this man. Well, I am probably just skewed by living in Norway, a social democratic state, and as such probably has socialist propaganda on every corner of life. :-)
parkflies Avatar
Posted: 11.04.08, 09:03 AM
For whatever reason many initiated into conservative thinking convert an otherwise dynamic reality into an either/or dichotomy. One is either constrained or unconstrained, according to Mr Sowell. I disagree. I think choices are made from points along the continuum. What I hear, implicitly from him (and passively from Peter Robinson), is that conservatives are right and liberals are wrong. I hear the opposite from many liberals, by the way. I hear commentary on the continuum, our dynamic reality, from people like Barack Obama. The Constitution, however essential, is a limited and imperfect document, at once vulnerable and durable to the future. Human flexibility by all concerned remains it's salvation. One need not be unconstrained to arrive at this conclusion, only thoughtful and attentive to reality.

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