Saturday, February 05, 2005

Taking my ignorance to a new level

The longer I live the more I become aware of my own ignorance.
It began when I left home and saw how much I had not learned. The old quote attributed to Twain applies here. (You know, the one about how dumb my old man was when I was sixteen, but how much he had learned by the time I was twenty-five.)

There were advancing stages of awareness as I grew older. College was a real eye-opener. Every course I took showed me how much there was to learn about the subject and how little I was able to ingest in the restricted space of a five-hour undergraduate course.
I always knew and accepted vast areas of ignorance about everything from sports and card games to computer programming and learning a foreign language.

But this morning I came across something new to me that reveals a vast intellectual chasm of ignorance on my part.
I am so ignorant about it that I don't even know how to describe it.
All I can do is direct the reader to the link to see what I mean. Maybe someone with a gift for language will be able to break it down for me in plain English. I think it has to do with macro-economics or the construction of language or philosophy or something else wonderfully important, but I'm not sure.

Here is a single sentence...

As I see it, the key difference between Rawlsian contractarianism and Buchanan/Gauthier rational choice contractarianism is not just that Rawls posits a sense of justice, a capacity enabling agents to be motivated by considerations that nicely allow for the choice of non-Nash, Pareto-improving strategies (Gauthier’s "constrained maximization" gets you this, as does McClennan's closely related "resolute choice") but that Rawls has something of an account of endogenous preference change that accounts for the convergence of the right and the good and thus the stability of social ordered according to the principles of "justice as fairness."

At first I thought I had tripped into the postmodern generator.
Even the comments are opaque! Ther must be a whole clutch of other people who know what that is about. They all seemed serious.
I think it is another language. It makes me feel like one of the dullest students at the wrong end of the curve in Good Will Hunting, with this kid out there in the hall, pushing a broom, working out the challenge in his spare time.
It looks like something postmodern, but I think it is meant to be serious.
Don't know.

Jacques Derrida, where are you when we need you?


bob (a.) said...

Hoot -

Just wander over to the prof's library at and bone up on it a bit.

You could also read "A beautiful mind" to be a little more up on in.

With a Nobel Prize and a bunch of Oscars it can't be all hooie ya know.

While your at it, watch out for those rat holes!

Hoots said...

Gee, thanks, Bob. That's a big help.
But I'm still stumped on another sentence from the same piece. It's not as long, but every bit as cryptic (no pun intended).
"Rorty, for example, reads his relativist crypto-Marxism into Rawls and interprets him as allowing the sense of justice to vary with institutional structure."
When I read more Rawls and Marx I'm sure it will all come together.