Tonsils, run over dogs and comparisons

April 28, 2008 at 8:05 pm Leave a comment

In evaluation, we often make judgements based on “feelings” or “gut reaction” without any proper inquiry or comparison with other data. That is why this story about Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Austrian philosopher appealed to me. Apparently he telephoned a friend in hospital, Fania Pascal, who told the following story:

“I had my tonsils out and was in the Evelyn Nurshing Home feeling sorry for myself. Wittgenstein called. I croaked: “I feel just like a dog that has been run over.” He was disgusted: “You don’t know what a dog that has been run over feels like.”

The point being that Fania Pascal (in the hospital) is making a comparison that she cannot possibly provide any support for – how could she know what it feels like to be a dog that has been run over?

In the same way, you often hear people saying “our results are terrible” – or “we are doing too much of XY”. But my first reaction is “How do you judge that – what are you comparing it to?” – often no real inquiry or comparative data are used (which reminds me of another quote from Groucho Marx).

For those interested, the above quote comes from the book “On Bullshit” by Harry G. Frankfurt – well worth a read.

Glenn

Entry filed under: General.

Perceptions of evaluation Event scorecard

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