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The Technology of Epistemology

June 30th, 2009 by Jim May · 3 Comments · Politics

Over at Big Hollywood, Andrew Breitbart makes the oft-noted observation that modern-day bills such as the stimulus bill and the Cap and Trade bill just passed are huge (973 and 1200 pages, respectivel) — while the ostensive ultimate law of the land, the Constitution, is only 12 pages long.

Sadly, he does not grasp that the difference is due entirely to the fact that the Constitution was and is a magnificent expression of principled thought, while modern laws are expressions of pragmatism.  From an epistemological standpoint, the Constitution is like an artifact of a long-vanished, advanced civilization, incomprehensible in its nature, origins or workings to the primitives who venerate it without comprehending it.

I am reminded of the third and most famous of Arthur C. Clarke’s “three laws“:  “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”   What we are seeing dramatized now, here and elsewhere, is the philosophical root of what Clarke said: any sufficiently advanced product of principled thought is, in the eyes of pragmatists, indistinguishable from luck.

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