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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


For some reason I'm a person who finds thinking in terms of categories easier than thinking in terms of continuous measures. Maybe it's just an effect of getting into quantitative social science  without studying proper math in school - if you didn't take calculus in upper secondary school and had to mug it up yourself later thinking about continuous smooth change or differences sits uneasily on top of my instinct to chop the world up into discrete bits with distinctive labels. Maybe that piece of cod psychology is just nonsense. Anyway I'm always slightly disturbed or amused when people chop the world up differently from the way I would do it. Most of the time I come round and admit that my way is just as arbitrary as the next person's, but sometimes I just wonder what goes through people's minds.
At the weekend I was browsing the shelves of my local Waterstones (whiling away the time while partner and daughter had their hair cut) and found that they had put Philip Kerr in the general fiction section. I like Philip Kerr, but he is a genre writer and should be in the crime section! If I'd wanted to buy one of his excellent Bernie Gunther novels, which as it happened I didn't, I wouldn't have been able to find it. I know it is trivial, but worse was to come. Upstairs in the philosophy section they had put  George Polya's How to Solve it next to Karl Popper's Open Society and its Enemies. What's the matter with these guys don't they know the difference between mathematics and philosophy?
Still, there was one encouraging sign. My blood pressure always used to rise when I saw what was on the shelves in the sociology section. Problem solved. There is no longer a sociology section.

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