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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Taking it too far: Philip K. Dick on Insanity

The Quotations Page has sent you the following quotation:

Sometimes the appropriate response to reality is to go insane.
--Philip K. Dick Valis

Comment from ernie.cordell: -----------------------------------

I have a friend who likes to cite the old staple from Alcoholics
Anonymous Meetings, "The definition of insanity is to repeat the
same behavior, expecting different results."

If this rule is extensible from repeatedly drinking with the
expectation that you won't get drunk to the notion that there is
no generic resumee that can be sent to two different employers,
then surely we can extend it logically to this principle:

Sometimes the only appropriate response to reality is to start
repeating the same behavior and expecting different results.

Also, I have always disagreed with the notion that "repeating the
same behavior" means that somebody else can spit in the wind with
impunity, but somehow it is an error when I do it. Maybe there is
an entirely different principle at work here, like "Just because
somebody else succeeds at something, it doesn't mean that you will."
Also using logic, if repeating that behavior isn't wrong as well,
"Because someone succeeds at something it doesn't necessarily imply
that you won't." Maybe the rule is just "Damned if you do, Damned if
you don't."

Maybe my friend is just demonstrating the dangers of generalization:
But I think it is a mistake to equate the dangers of generalization
to the dangers of genericization. Deriving a single principle from
a variety of observations is different than discovering that the same
construct may serve in different situations.

Of course, I could be wrong. It has happened before (but doesn't
that mean that it can't possibly happen again?). It is just possible
that the market-based economy, the standard practices of retail
operation and the basis for industrialization, "interchangeable
parts" are all headed for a bad end. The ideas behind all these operations
pretty much depend on the idea that you can do the same thing twice
and charge somebody again.

Why scientific method itself is in trouble: If you can't repeat the
same behavior and get different results, then why even check?

There's a new rule in town: Nothing is repeatable; Empiricism has
been proven useless.

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