Monday, January 16, 2012

Klein says Marche's case is weak

Stephen Marche's vicious, NYT Magazine review of Roland Emmerich's film, Anonymous, earned brickbats from an atypical source last fall. On Nov. 16, 2011 the weblog Organizations and Markets ran a post titled "Shakespeare and Epistemology" in which economist Peter G. Klein chastised Marche for his hubris in excoriating the anti-Stratfordian viewpoint. 

"I don’t know anything about the issue other than what I’ve read in recent commentaries, but Marche’s case, in the piece linked above, is surprisingly weak," Klein wrote. He elaborated:
  • some Shakespeare products are dated after de Vere died, which only proves that de Vere couldn’t have written those;
  • the doubters are snobs who don’t believe a poor country boy could have written such beautiful verse, which could be true, but hardly establishes that the country boy did in fact write them;
  • and other circumstantial bits and ex cathedra pronouncements.
But his major criticism was for Stratfordians' intractable certitude, which Klein says is epistemologically unsound.
How can we possibly know with 100% certainty who authored every one of the literary works attributed to Shakespeare? Heck, we don’t know who really writes the stuff published under names like “Doris Kearns Goodwin” and “Stephen Ambrose,” and those appeared in the last few years, not the 17th century. There’s even a lively controversy about what Adam Smith wrote and what he copied. Intellectual historians are frequently reinterpreting and revising, and few cows are sacred. Regarding Shakespearean authorship, then, shouldn’t we expect a little Popperian or Hayekian humility? 
Recently, Klein explained to us his reference to Popper and Hayek:
On humility, I was referring the reader to prior posts on Organizations and Markets on Popper's and Hayek's methodological views. Both Popper (the philosopher of science) and Hayek (the economist) emphasized fallibility, skepticism, the conjectural nature of scientific knowledge, etc. Popper regarded as scientific only those propositions that are "falsifiable"; Hayek's [1974] Nobel Prize lecture was titled "The Pretense of Knowledge."
Klein said Organization and Markets is a business/economics blog focused on organization theory, entrepreneurship, and management. "The authors and most readers are social scientists, but we touch occasionally on literature, society, culture, etcetera, as they relate to our core themes." 

As for how Shakespeare relates to those core themes, Klein said, "I’m puzzled by the core epistemological issue: what do we really know about Shakespearean authorship?"