01 January 2012

On celebrating ignorance

The perpetual cry of all but the semi-mythical intrinsically-motivated student is, "What do we have to learn this for?"  Although I do recognise that it is a legitimate question and do try to answer it, on the whole I don't empathise with it.

(And I don't count, "Because it will be in the exam!" as a legitimate response. On the other hand, I'm sometimes hard put to, to think of anything else in the case of some silly syllabi)

I've built what there is of my distinctive career on encountering and exploring resistance to learning, so why am I extolling not learning?

Because there are some areas in which learning really is just loss. There is no ultimate upside.

A good friend once gave me a small cushion embroidered, "Life is too short to drink bad wine". Perhaps. But only if you know that it is "bad". And as this study shows, despite all the hype and bull, nowadays "it's all a matter of taste" is much more significant than so-called authoritative judgements (as reflected in pricing).

Several years ago, I argued slightly differently: why should I learn more about wine, when all that would achieve would be to make me dissatisfied with what I could afford, and spoil my enjoyment? Now it appears that my dissatisfaction would itself be a con!

I have no doubt that there are some people who can tell the difference which warrants pricing some wines higher than others. But is that the same as claiming that some wine is "better" than another? I do remember about twenty or so years ago when it was possible to buy really execrable wines--a judgement which would be shared by almost everyone. But, like the spurious research on IQ differences between various demographic groups, closer investigation apparently shows that nowadays intra-group variability is greater than that between groups; and that comes down to acknowledging that personal taste is what matters.

So--all I might achieve by studying wine-tasting (given that I have no business interest) is to acquire some spurious basis for deprecating some wine which I would previously have greatly enjoyed. In favour of spending a lot more on other stuff of very dubiously demonstrable superior quality?  Seems quite pointless.

Happy New Year, and feel free to enjoy cheap wine!

(in moderation, and qualified by all the weasel words of pusillanimous bureaucracy...)

And here is argument/evidence that the emperor's clothing effect may extend to musical instruments, too...

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