objectivity

(Full) Excerpt of Excursion 4 Tour I: The Myth of “The Myth of Objectivity”

A month ago, I excerpted just the very start of Excursion 4 Tour I* on The Myth of the “Myth of Objectivity”. It’s a short Tour, and this continues the earlier post.

4.1    Dirty Hands: Statistical Inference Is Sullied with Discretionary Choices

If all flesh is grass, kings and cardinals are surely grass, but so is everyone else and we have not learned much about kings as opposed to peasants. (Hacking 1965, p.211)

Trivial platitudes can appear as convincingly strong arguments that everything is subjective. Take this one: No human learning is pure so anyone who demands objective scrutiny is being unrealistic and demanding immaculate inference. This is an instance of Hacking’s “all flesh is grass.” In fact, Hacking is alluding to the subjective Bayesian de Finetti (who “denies the very existence of the physical property [of] chance” (ibid.)). My one-time colleague, I. J. Good, used to poke fun at the frequentist as “denying he uses any judgments!” Let’s admit right up front that every sentence can be prefaced with “agent x judges that,” and not sweep it under the carpet (SUTC) as Good (1976) alleges. Since that can be done for any statement, it cannot be relevant for making the distinctions in which we are interested, and we know can be made, between warranted or well-tested claims and those so poorly probed as to be BENT. You’d be surprised how far into the thicket you can cut your way by brandishing this blade alone. Continue reading

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