File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9803, message 24

Date: Wed, 25 Mar 1998 14:06:53 +1000
Subject: Responding to Tobin was Re: BHA: Re: Truth and Objectivity Problems

At 10:03 PM 3/23/98 +0200, you wrote:
>Thanks for posting your debate with Plantinga on documentary films.  It's a
>bit difficult to respond to it essentially out of context (not having read
>Plantinga's book, or the rest of the debate).  I am of course in sympathy
>with your desire to develop a critical realist approach to matters of
>aesthetics, genre, etc.  However I do want to raise a couple points.
>First, at times you seem to slide between truth claims and the reasons we
>might have for accepting them.  These are Bhaskar's "normative-fiduciary"
>and "warrantedly assertable" concepts of truth, respectively.  Clearly, a
>documentary (or anything else) can make a claim to truth while being in fact
>erroneous or even a total fabrication.  At times you seem to suggest that
>this disjunction isn't possible.  But since you make the distinction
>elsewhere (by quoting RB), this may be an issue of how you stated a few of
>your arguments.

Hi Tobin,

Again thanks for taking the trouble to wade through my posts.  Yes of
course this is simply a matter of my presentation.  I will go back over it
and try to tighten it up.  Thanks.
>More worrisome, however, is the following:
>>        In other words a film is objective
>>when it uncovers the truth.
>I don't think this works.  As I read it, this is as if to say that because
>the theory of phlogiston was false, it was therefore subjective, or
>politically motivated, or "bad science," rather than a scientific theory
>that happened to prove wrong.  Your assertion thus implies a sharp
>science/ideology distinction which doesn't hold water.

Tobin, this does not follow, surely. True = objective does not imply that
false equals=subjective.  Certainly it would be nonsense to suggest that.
Again I need to make this clearer.  

 what valence "objectivity" is carrying in
>the discussion.  It seems at times to be more of a value judgment than an
>epistemological one.  Can't "subjective" statements be true?

Here Tobin you are putting your finger on a real problem.  I read Bhaskar's
discussion of the problem of opposites - subject versus object,
subjectivity versus objectivity -  in DPF but do not have the page
reference.  It is of course very dense but is also very interesting indeed.  

He uses the concept of totality and the dialectical figure of
constellationality to assert the unity of subject and object within
subjectivity within objectivity.  He gives the example of the fact that we
can only talk about the relationship between the world and language through
the medium of language but it is the existence of the world which
guarantees the possibility of this.

This is also one of the instances in DPF when the diagrams are actually
helpful. So in reply to your specific point I would say that all true
statements must of course be subjective but that not all subjective
statements are true.  

The point is that all statements are necessarily subjective.  But we can
get to objectivity.  We can achieve referential detachment.  Really that is
the whole point in my insistence on an ontological definition of
objectivity.  Otherwise the situation is hopeless and we are left with the
Plantinga solution which is for a relative objectivity- the kind of
objectivity you have when you are not having objectivity.

Outhwaite is correct here- the neo-Kantians abandon ontology.  They plumb
for epistemology and end up as a consequence with the fetishization of
An American student (of Carroll's perhaps) has written a piece on my
comments here and I will reply to them and will cc you as well. He alleges
that Carroll argues that we can be objective without being true.  I see
this as the kind of aporia you get into if you do not have a firm grasp of
ontological depth.  I tell you Tobin it is the absolute key weakness in the
whole field of nonfiction film studies.

Of course I could not really get all that into my review.  The
film-philosophy list has only so much tolerance for philosophy!

Now you ask about the 'valence of objectivity'.  I would have thought it is
one of the great problems that CR has solved.  I think Plantinga brought it
up because he recognizes it as a problem and thinks I cannot solve it.

warm regards


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