I don’t mean to throw out all of economics or game theory. My target is scientism. Today, scientism is more like an attitude (a prejudice) than a consciously-held idea or argument, although it began with explicit, elaborate formulations in philosophy and in economics. The vanguards of scientism formed cabals and we’re still in the midst of their fallout.

Logical positivism is obsolete, but analytic philosophy retains some of the spirit of positivism (although Western philosophy as a whole isn’t so culturally relevant anymore). Highly-mathematical economics that entails the market should be deregulated because it finds its own optimal equilibrium may in turn be obsolete, as far as the new breed of more genuinely scientific economists (and perhaps some game theorists) are concerned. But that ideology (which was supposed to be a scientific conclusion!) is still very much alive, thanks to libertarian think tanks, Fox News, social Darwinian billionaires, and so on.

I agree that free-market ideology can be rejected without thinking of it as a cult. But I think it’s important to see that even secularists who dismiss religion can act in cultish ways. Perhaps you might be more inclined to substitute “tribal” for “cultish.” When I see the Randian spin on free-market capitalism, I see a cult. Those that enable that agenda look to me like the dupes of a cult. The ideology is cultish because it’s wacky and because its proliferation relies on self-deception, specifically about its alleged scientific basis. Instead of performing miracles, the saints of this cult pull the wool over our eyes with pseudoscientific presentations of their foolish ideas.

This sociological perspective may be secondary in the political context of combatting their economic policies, but I write from a philosophical perspective that’s meant to encompass everything. For example, I like to highlight existential absurdities and situational ironies to shake us out of stale conceptions.

On some less central points, I agree it would be unreasonable in the sense of being imprudent to attempt to read inside a dog (although Luke Skywalker might have done so inside a Tauntaun, in Empire Strikes Back.) If reasoning is involved here in the narrow sense, it’s because this point about reading inside dogs is an implication of more relevant generalizations, such as that it’s hard to get inside solid things. We actively appeal to some such generalizations all the time, and Groucho’s point would be only a farfetched application of the same sort of reasoning.

If there’s no such reasoning going on, the explanation of why we don’t try to read inside dogs would be physical and causal. Physical or evolutionary (instinctive) limits constrain us and prevent us from doing the impossible or the foolish. Causal explanations aren’t the same as rational ones, unless we’re diluting “rationality” and treating all regularities and patterns as though they were decided upon by an intelligent mind (or by a spirit of rationality like Logos, Wisdom, or the Zeitgeist).

You refer to my political agenda, but I don’t think you need to have any particular political stance to recognize a cult when you see it. I’m aware some of my rhetoric in this exchange of ours could be mistaken for rabidly left-wing, but in fact I criticize both liberals and conservatives (links below for evidence of that).

Perhaps the Federalists designed the Constitution with lofty, rational purposes in mind. Nevertheless, they might have been motivated unconsciously to make excuses for American savagery, as a Marxian might expect, given her analysis of how ideology tends to make excuses for the upper class’s material advantages. Why again is it “irrational” to get hung up on early American savagery? Are you saying the genocide, imperialism, slavery, and Puritanical Christianity were irrational or that the recognition of them as such is irrational? Not sure how the latter point would follow (to understate the matter).

The fact is the American power structure is meant to protect the freedom of the individual “person,” which permitted the colonists to brutalize those they could conceive of as subhuman. Even when the racism was mostly done away with, the American enshrinement of personal liberty permits the US to act as a superpower, because of the alleged need to preserve that higher culture at all costs.

So game theory can focus on the Enlightenment defense of the structure of American society. That hardly means no other political interpretation is viable. How do we know game theory’s take on the matter isn’t just a rationalization? I agree we shouldn’t fall for the genetic fallacy, and if game theory gives us good reasons to believe a certain type of society is superior, that’s worth knowing. But it’s not obvious to me American liberalism is sustainable or that a rationalist metanarrative wouldn’t actually be serving as a distraction or as an excuse for what actually tends to happen in a free society, namely the return of a secular equivalent of theocracy, based on the private concentration of power in the poorly regulated marketplace.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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