Sunday, January 18, 2015

where anecdotes rule

1. Let's not forget that universal statements can be refuted by a single anecdote.

A: "All apples are red"

B: "This apple is green."


2. Mythology works with universals. Perfection. Perfect heroism, pure villainy.

3. A single anecdote destroys, logically, any mythology.

But after the denial of anecdotal veracity comes the true scotsman to declare the bad appleness of the imperfection.

In any case, if you find yourself linking to anecdotal evidence disproving the existence of the mythologized cop, troop, etc., you're probably right.


d.mantis said...

Mythology's power is the ability to adapt. It is so ingrained that it can morph non-trivial evidence and corollary data points into merely 'anecdotes'.

Police, troop etc. is not a reflection of institutional racism, imperialism etc. It is merely anecdotes that must be dealt with at the individual level leaving the institution intact.

Devin Lenda said...

Given the resiliency you mention, the problem with rad critique isn't accuracy in the first place, which gives this post a certain neither-here-nor-thereness. Just something that occurred when I wondered "why am I linking to anecdotal evidence?" A self-reassuring post.

d.mantis said...

Yup, I see your point. I am guilty of reading too much into it, no doubt.

However, it does remind me that I am always interested in the point in a discussion at which counter (read: preponderance of) evidence morphs into merely an anecdote. It usually pertains to the continual necessary existence of some horrible institutional power structure. That it is basically good and just needs "tweaks".

The point at which an anecdote morphs into counter evidence is usually the moment that pertains to either initiating force by the state or eliminating systems designed to prevent/mitigate such force.

Devin Lenda said...

Same here. That point is a point of tremendous interest.

When I watch fiction or sports, I regularly watch myself watching, trying to figure out my own rooting behavior. They show the anti-hero in dire straights, about to be attacked by some other bastards, and just like that he becomes the hero and the attackers become the villains. I know the antihero is a bastard of course and fortunately I have some other cognitive tools to keep that heroization process somewhat in check, but the process itself seems to be hard-wired where self/other, ingroup/outgroup, friend/foe come as a package deal on the normative processing side independent of and elusive of awareness. Rationalization, (politically speaking, apologetics) is fallout from that split, where normative "intuitions" are taken as truth and justified post hoc. Whether an anecdote is designated as exception or case in point turns on its support for that hard-wired, normative, opaque, inside/outside "intuition." The notion of mirror neurons looks to be a key part of a solid explanation.