What knowledge is useful?
Professor Kenneth Andrews on the gap between the concrete and abstract
But it also has to do with the intellectual difficulty of bridging the concrete and the abstract, and the art of useful generalization. . . . .
There’s no such thing as “truth” or “truths” about particular things. And truth is constantly in the making. So you have a useful generalization which is going to be supplanted by another one. And you go along.
Well, the lack of glamour in that process is one thing that makes this unsatisfactory to the criteria applied to scholarship. And the tenure chase is one problem, but also just the sheer difficulty of, once you pay attention the concrete, then you get harassed by its complexity. And the whole business about model-building is to eliminate the complexity of the concrete so that you can abstract. The problem is, the abstraction cannot then be related to any particular concrete complexity. And that is unfortunate.