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By Gwynne Nettler

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Extra resources for Boundaries of Competence: How Social Studies Makes Feeble Science

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It allows citizens to be gulled by celebrities whose qualifications as entertainers do not certify their expertise in public policy. 4. 4 This kind of knowing derives from apprenticeship. It can come only from working with those who already know-how. Metis in this sense is the mode of knowing embedded in folklore. It is local, particular, and reckoned in the difference between acquired skills and abstract principles. Those who possess such know-how need not be able to reduce their art to textbook formulae.

The exercise that uses “culture” to explain itself is pretentious and uninformative. It employs one part of a web of life to explain other parts. But the explanandum—that which is to be explained—cannot be contained within the explanans—that which does the explaining. Despite the circularity of this practice it is popular among journalists and social scientists. If such application were to be useful, it would have to indicate that “culture” is a force—a cause—identifiable independently of how its 32 Boundaries of Competence carriers behave.

The American philosopher Willard Quine claims that “belief” must refer to propositions that “a reasonable person” holds to be true. ”44 Quine wins his argument by begging the question. He does so by appealing to the undefined qualifier, “the reasonable person,” an abstraction whom we regularly meet in courts of law. ” And more than that, to appreciate others’ reasons. One conceivable test of this ability, and yet a difficult test, applies “the Rapoport debate” (after its inventor, Anatol Rapoport, 1974).

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