Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When to Decide?

When trying to make a reasonably objective analysis of a problem, a good rule is to wait until the evidence presents itself before coming to a conclusion. And this works pretty well with physical problems. Once we enter the world of ideas this natural process can get bogged down. The rule has value in its attempt to leave the "me" in the closet. Once "I" have laid claim to something there remains an ongoing interest in seeing this viewpoint through. The strength of our interest grows with the depth of its network, but even if we have only declared the opinion to ourselves we can become powerfully committed to its success (or at least it seems this way to me, it seems like I have read good supporting evidence to this but I'd have to look into it).

So this leads me to a semi-obsurd view on just about everything these days. Basically my line is that "I am in fact gathering mode." Its too early to come to a decision. When we talk about deeply complicated issues, i.e. what drives growth?, there are experts that have been working for decades that still don't have clear answers. It seems better to error on the side of caution here than to pre-commit and bias a lifetime of research. My fear is that I will never deem it acceptable to get out of fact gathering mode, never being able to commit to a policy side. Bad thing?

But then again, I doubt people decide on their favored policies in such a logical Decartestian manner. For its when you get out in the real world and are forced to lay claim to something that you find out what your "beliefs" are. Only when we are constrained by career paths, families, and money do we find ourselves more clearly "understanding" the truth. A well financed student such as myself lives a comfortable life and has claimed little intellectual territory (needless to say I have publicly or professionably claimed no territory). I can't help but feel embarrassed by the favorable circumstances that allow such an attitude. But if your objective is to find some sort of truth in social science, there are advanatages to a leisured self-motivated lifestyle. (Unless of course you seek to justify this leisured lifestyle through your work.)

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