Saturday, January 30, 2010
Harkening Unto Authorities
Where demanding references seems to be non-productive!
Why not let ideas stand on data gathering, analysis, logic and satisfactory presentation rather than citing authorities ad nauseam? Authorities come in numerous stripes---ethereal; practical; heavily biased ideologues; narrow expertise; untested by reality; tested and rejected by reality but still used; untestable at all, and so on.
Interjecting an "authority" into an argument merely moves the issue a full step backwards, since now the given authority must be validated and incorporated as well. This often leads to a seeming infinite regression, where either parallel or ever earlier authorities are cited on the subject, till the trail is lost in the foggy past, somewhere around Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, or, sometimes, back into much older Grecian philosophers. Then, too, for each "authority" named, from two to ten others spring up to refute him, causing others to rise in defense, thereby creating a voting atmosphere not unlike the Supreme Court on a Constitutional issue.
This denial of references does not apply to specific facts, of course, just to the opinions of so-called experts or intellectual authorities whose basis for their opinions can be seriously questioned to begin with.