The point of critical disagreement is to test agreement, it’s not for the sake of argument itself. The point is to achieve progress on what can be agreed – to expand mutual knowledge, not to perpetuate and extend disagreement.
(Of course that doesn’t change the fact that ultimately everything agreed as known is contingent and could fall down like a house of cards, but the point is to build something, something of practical value, not to destroy anything. The wise never lose sight of the contingency, the potential destruction, but nevertheless work towards achieving value.)
When substantial disagreement is agreed, of course the point is to unpick that back to some point of mutual agreement so that constructive argument can resume. Agreeing to disagree can only ever be a temporary or localised truce; a difference of current priorities; a pause from progressive efforts. Disagreement is never an end.
Which leads to the criticism of what I refer to here as scientism (or SOMist thinking, as it might be called elsewhere). I say scientism to distinguish it from science itself – science is scientistic for good reason – but I’m talking here about scientism as the dominant or privileged approach to reasonable rationality generally for all human decisions of policy and value. Ethical, moral and value questions of what’s best.
When I refer to scientism as the prevailing, but flawed ideology, I’m referring to this.
- Decisions that privilege argumentation based on objectively defined entities and concepts, with relations that are amenable to logical (including arithmetical) manipulation, over any other kind.
- Considerations that may well recognise the existence of less-well-defined objects, relations and values, but nevertheless privilege “reduction” of decision-making considerations to models that may be “evaluated” according to the privileged mode of argumentation. (This isn’t to say such models may not be of practical value, it simply says they need not be privileged over any other kind as “the” view of reality.)
- Argumentation that, despite depending on creative theorising, imagining, conjecture and hypothesis, privileges sets of relations and premises that are falsifiable, those sets that exhibit incoherence, where pairs may conflict in truth value, over those that are coherent, constructive, and reinforcing.
All of which begs questions about what “other kinds” of valid consideration there are. However, the ideological dogma is effectively to say there are none; that is to say that the burden of argument on any consideration not meeting the above criteria is with those beyond the dogma to provide arguments about considerations beyond the dogma that nevertheless meet the dogma. (The denial of this point is Maxwell’s “scientific neurosis”.)
In summary, the dogma is:
Doing things scientifically represents high quality.
Doing things unscientifically equates to low quality.
A scientific argument always trumps a non-scientific one – in scientific knowledge obviously – but in any question of policy and value in human affairs.