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SOCNET  January 2006

SOCNET January 2006

Subject:

Satire and Criticism

From:

Edmund Chattoe <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Edmund Chattoe <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 13 Jan 2006 10:55:07 +0000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (98 lines)

***** To join INSNA, visit http://www.insna.org *****

Dear All,

I think this is turning into an interesting debate/discussion. My two
cents are that while I have no beef with satire (and really value
Sokal's use of it to destroy the credibility of PoMo with a nonsense
article) and don't think it devalues good research (which is after
all based on evidence not opinion), I am wary of mere flippancy,
following Malcolm Edwards. (See excellent Lewis quotes below.) What
we don't want is a situation where (as I sometimes worry is
happening), people are lazily snide about bad research in the
abstract but not concretely critical (or even cathartically rude) in
print about the surprisingly poor quality, pointless or parochial
research that gets published despite peer review. (See Goethe quotes
below.) Working in simulation, publishing is a lottery for me in
social science because journals often get reviewers who plainly don't
know what they are talking about. Conversely, profoundly dreadful
simulations get published because equally uninformed reviewers happen
to take a shine to them. Peer review only works with proper peers. It
is also harder than it should be to get rebuttals and other such
things published fast in the relevant journals so that rubbish is not
propagated. The difficulty is a mixing of levels between commenting
on content/quality at the "coal face" and commenting on the
quality/content of the research _process_ (which includes effective
reviewing and the creation of "research areas" which may prove to be
genuinely pointless: content free "social theory" which just comments
on itself for example.)

Actually, that turned into a dollar's worth!

Edmund

Goethe (1893) The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe, translated by
Bailey Saunders (London: Macmillan and Company).

"We must remember that there are many men who, without being
productive, are anxious to say something important, and the results
are most curious." (p. 154)

"Productions are now possible which, without being bad, have no
value. They have no value, because they contain nothing; and they are
not bad, because a general form of good-workmanship is present to the
author's mind." (p. 155)

Lewis, C. S. (1942) The Screwtape Letters (London: Geoffrey Bles/The
Centenary Press).

"The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction,
and it is especially promising among the English who take their
"sense of humour" so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is
almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame. Humour is for
them the all-consoling and (mark this) the all-excusing, grace of
life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man
simply lets others pay for him, he is "mean"; if he boasts of it in a
jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he
is no longer "mean" but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful;
cowardice boasted of with humourous exaggerations and grotesque
gestures can be passed off as funny. Cruelty is shameful - unless the
cruel man can represent it as a practical joke. A thousand bawdy, or
even blasphemous, jokes do not help towards a man's damnation so much
as his discovery that almost anything he wants to do can be done, not
only without disapproval but with the admiration of his fellows, if
only it can get itself treated as a Joke. And this temptation can be
almost entirely hidden from your patient by that English seriousness
about Humour. Any suggestion that there might be too much of it can
be represented to him as "Puritanical" or as betraying a "lack of
humour"." (pp. 59-60)

"But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place it is very
economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or
indeed about anything else; any of them can be trained to talk as if
virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed
to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious
subject is discussed in a manner which implies they have already
found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy
builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy
that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in the
other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it
deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no
affection between those who practice it, ..." (p. 60)
--
 ========================================================================
Edmund Chattoe: Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ tel: 01865-286174 fax: 01865-286171 Review Editor Journal
of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation (JASSS) "So act as to
treat humanity, whether in your own person or in another, always as
an end, and
never as only a means." (Immanuel Kant, Fundamental Principles) Nuffield
Foundation New Career Development Fellow and Research Fellow, Nuffield
College. More data here http://www.sociology.ox.ac.uk/people/chattoe.html
 ========================================================================

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