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Thursday, June 04, 2015

The net is already woven


The most contagious feelings, the clearest thoughts, of others are clear or contagious only because I can readily make them my own.
George Santayana - Scepticism and Animal Faith (1923)

A typically spooky observation by old George. Clarity is not merely useful for comprehension but contagious too. Clear ideas are often clear because they are in some sense familiar. They slip so easily past our dozing right of veto. When it comes to language, clarity and familiarity are intimately linked, often to our ultimate disadvantage.

Quine likened our ideas to a network which cannot easily be modified without risk of unravelling the whole shebang. So we make sure it stays intact because we must. One idea links to the next in chains of what we think of as reasoning even if the first link in the chain was forgotten long ago or never even noticed as it stitched itself into the network of our predilections and allegiances.

Which links to the forthcoming UK EU referendum because the EU is familiar and life outside isn't. In one form or another we’ve been members for decades so the net is already woven.

Was that always the plan? I don’t know, but any passably competent bureaucrat could easily have foreseen the political advantages.


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