Monday, 17 November 2003

Radical Interpretation of Matthew Yglesias

Up until today, if I had been asked to name the blogger that I most agree with (not necessarily my favorite blogger), it would have been Matthew Yglesias. This shouldn’t be surprising: we both have a background in analytic philosophy, both fans of David Lewis, we’re both consequentialists, we’re both liberals, and we’re both proponents of free trade.

But today he’s said something so outrageously false that, like Donald Davidson’s hypothetical man who says “There is a hippopotamus in the refrigerator” (from "On Saying That"), I have to wonder whether I’ve misinterpreted him.

Blogging about this list of the top ten albums of all time from Rolling Stone magazine, Matthew writes:

I would suggest that if you come to the conclusion that The Beatles are responsible for four of the top ten albums of all time, then your methodology is probably a bit off (they’re not, after all, the best band by whole orders of magnitude).

At first glance, he would seem to be saying here that not only are the Beatles not the best band of all time, they’re not even in the top ten.

But since this is self-evidently false, I must excercise Davidson’s "principle of charity". Like Davidson’s man who says “Look at that hansome yawl” while pointing at a ketch ("On the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme"), I must conclude that Matthew uses the term “Beatles” to refer to some group other than John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Perhaps he’s confusing them with the Monkees.

I must, however, agree with Matthew that Rolling Stone’s methodology must be a bit off. Not for the reason that he cites, but because Abbey Road is not one the four Beatles albums they put in the top ten.

Update: Brian Weatherson, resident philosopher at Crooked Timber, weighs in with his top ten list. His methodogy is a bit off too, since he also leaves out Abbey Road.

Just for fun, here's my top eleven list (I just couldn't winnow it down to ten), in no particular order, except Abbey Road is at the top: