Gödel rides again
Saw a reference William Gibson's latest blog entry on John Robb's website, (of global guerrillas fame) and I am going to reproduce it in full because Gosh Darn It, it is educational.
HAMMER, MEET WASP'S NEST
posted 1:35 PM
'I'm not sure I really get why the US and Israel haven't yet come to terms with the fact that this fourth generation war cannot be won with classic military action. I suspect it is the neocon influence which, throughout many decades, never gave a passing thought to terrorism or assymetrical warfare. They have been stuck in a cold war mindset (a mindset that was wrong about the cold war too) and have consistently seen the world through the prism of rogue totalitarian states. This is why, in spite of the fact that everything is going to hell in a handbasket in a hundred different ways, they persist in focusing on Iran (formerly Iraq) and ignoring all the moving parts that make their aggressive plans to "confront" these regimes simpleminded and doomed to failure.'
Myself, I keep going back to my no doubt sloppy and imperfect understanding of Thomas S. Kuhn's The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions. If the theory of "fourth generation war" is viewed as a new paradigm (and it seems to me to meet the criteria) then this is more than a failure of perception on the part of neoconservatives.
Consider the following, from the Wikipedia entry on SSR:
'According to Kuhn, the scientific paradigms before and after a paradigm shift are so different that their theories are incomparable. The paradigm shift does not just change a single theory, it changes the way that words are defined, the way that the scientists look at their subject and, perhaps most importantly, the questions that are considered valid and the rules used to determine the truth of a particular theory. Kuhn observes that they are incommensurable — literally, lacking comparison, untranslatable. New theories were not, as they had thought of before, simply extensions of old theories, but radically new worldviews. This incommensurability applies not just before and after a paradigm shift, but between conflicting paradigms. It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms. Advocates of mutually exclusive paradigms are in an insidious position: "Though each may hope to convert the other to his way of seeing science and its problems, neither may hope to prove his case. The competition between paradigms is not the sort of battle that can be resolved by proof." (SSR, p. 148).'
This would explain, it seems to me, the apparently literal impossibility of explaining the fundamentally counterproductive nature of the United State's invasion of Iraq, or of what's currently going on in Lebanon, to those who disagree. Or, literally, vice versa. If you're behind the curve on the paradigm shift, if I'm reading Kuhn at all correctly, you're literally incapable of getting it. Or vice versa. "It is simply not possible, according to Kuhn, to construct an impartial language that can be used to perform a neutral comparison between conflicting paradigms, because the very terms used belong within the paradigm and are therefore different in different paradigms."
The bad news is that the policy-makers of the United States and Israel apparently (still) don't get the new paradigm, and the bad news is that Hezbollah (et al, and by their very nature) do. Though that's only bad (or double-plus-ungood) if you accept, as I do, that the new paradigm allows for a more effective understanding of reality. So if you still like to pause to appreciate the action of phlogiston when you strike a match, you may well be okay with current events. So many, God help us, evidently are.
I've heard that Kuhn fiercely lamented the application of SSR to anything other than the structure of scientific revolutions, but that's how it usually is, when the street finds its own uses for things.