I wouldn't claim to know nearly as much about the philosophy of science, or vice versa, as Prof. Hacking. I do, however, know something about H.L. Mencken, having read as much of his work as came to my hand over the past thirty-five years, as well as roughly a half-dozen biographies. When the Professor accuses Mencken of "monstrous self-confident complacency" in his dispatches from the Scopes trial, I can hear HLM's shade begin to chuckle; and when he takes the Sage to task for failing to tailor his writing so as to promote "uptake by the people," the chuckling turns to outright guffaws. If there was ever an ambition which Mencken regarded as futile, it was any ambition to remedy the endemic credulity of our species, and so I am quite sure that he would find Prof. Hacking's criticism inapposite (not to mention hilarious). As for the Professor's dictum to the effect that "that part of the American population that believes God made man in His own image has a heartfelt contempt for know-it-alls"... surely the Professor intended a qualifying footnote: "That is, know-it-alls who aren't popes, bishops, evangelists et al."?
Mencken was never very popular among academics, nor were most academics very highly regarded by him. It's good to see that some things remain unchanged.
Sep 28 2007 - 9:21pm