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Unreal Estate August 5, 2009

Posted by dailyegg in 1.
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While it is important to recognize the distinction between the descriptive and the prescriptive—between the quantitative and the qualitative—we have to recognize that at some meta level the firewall between the two is porous or in some cases invented purely for the sake of mimicking the authority of the so-called hard sciences. Behind the presumed oppositional polarity lurks the quandary of the false dichotomy. One cannot pose a question without offering the suggestion of an answer, and one cannot describe without proffering a whiff of prescription. Language is not neutral enough to do justice to the task. Nor is the mind a democracy of facts. Non-physical phenomena—words, intentions, beliefs—cannot be apprehended objectively. Surveys and polls and “research” regarding the contents of the mind can never be as solidly quantitative as the measures of the physical, exterior world. Quantitative data is an echo chamber of wish fulfillment; proceeding from fact to axiom to law in a universe of nuance and association is accomplished only through an unconscious willfulness to appear value-free. The urge to technocratize the mind and survey its contents as squarely as one can weigh and measure the folds and fissures of the brain suggests an obsession with the how rather than the why. And evidence from the last century’s obsessions shows just how insipid such instrumentalist nihilism can be. Isn’t it time we backed off the issue of How and instead began to look afresh at the preposterously under-researched venue of Why?

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