The Corner

CARELESSNESS AND INATTENTION

Just to pick up–and here, sort of in defense of Jonah–on one of Noah Millman’s points.

Noah wrote: “To that end, I don’t think it’s adequate to simply say, ‘I don’t care’ when confronted with unfriendly scientific evidence. If one really wants to defend a particular proposition, one has to actually defend it, and grapple with what the science says that appears to undermine it.”

I totally agree in the matter of scientific evidence.  I’m not sure that that entirely covers what was on Jonah’s mind, though (if he’ll excuse my mind-reading efforts).  Underneath all this, as I keep saying  are some nontrivial metaphysical issues.  In that “Crisis of Foundations” piece I could think of no better approach to those issues than the one recommended by David Hume:  “carelessness and inattention.”  To the degree that Jonah had that in mind–which I feel pretty sure he did, to some degree–I’m with him in not caring.  Possibly it would make no difference to my kids’ life outcomes if I just stayed in bed all day reading watching old movies on TV.  I don’t though, and I can’t think of any hard-science results that would cause me to do so.  So far as the relationship between intellectualizing about life, and actually getting on with it, I think Hume (“carelessness and inattention”) and Goldberg (“I don’t care”) are definitely on to something.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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