Reading Notes for Joel Mokyr: A Culture of Growth
Being a long time historical materialist of some flavor or another, I am by orientation hostile to arguments like Mokyr's that it was ideas and culture that ultimately mattered. I find myself very suspicious of arguments that give a unique value to cultures, especially when they are my own. I tend to appeal instead to principles of representativeness—that I should not assume that I or anything of mine is special without very good reason—of non-cherrypicking—do not accentuate the positive while neglecting the negative—and of visibility—that of requiring concrete causal mechanisms, rather than waving one's hands, saying "it was in the air" and "there are lots of other ways it matters besides those that have been mentioned here".
That does not mean that I am right.
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