George Walford: What’s Wrong with S.I.? (53)

Systematic ideology distorts its subject-matter. It cannot avoid doing so, for any attempt even to sketch out, however lightly, the assumptions underlying intentional behaviour attributes to them a firmness, coherence and explicitness they do not possess in their original condition.

Other disciplines suffer corresponding difficulties. Sociologists distort their subject-matter when they use questionnaires, for the situation they set out to study did not include these devices or their effects. Ethologists who set out to study animals in their natural habitat attempt the impossible, for that habitat does not include ethologists.

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WHEN news of the latest mugging has you fearing the collapse of civilisation, remember that not much over two hundred years ago men normally carried weapons in the streets of London.

from Ideological Commentary 53, Autumn 1991.