File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9810, message 70


Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar's theory of truth
Date: Wed, 14 Oct 1998 22:05:42 -0400


Hi all--

I'd like, first, to thank Ruth for an excellent response to Mervyn's post,
which pinpoints many of the key issues.  I would like to restate a couple of
these, mostly to underscore the facet concerning me, but I'll get to that
shortly.  I also want to thank Ruth for understanding what I have--and have
not--been saying this whole time.  I thought my reminder about my "devil's
advocacy" was sufficiently clear, but clearly, it was not clear enough for
Mervyn.

Mervyn:

(1) A "metacritical" comment: I strongly recommend you think twice about
what you assume regarding the participants on the list, particularly about
me.  I don't know what your day is like, but twelve solid hours of my day
are given over to getting ready for my McJob, traveling across town,
performing my trained monkey act for eight hours plus a brief breather for
lunch, traveling back across town, and eating the quickest possible thing I
can come up with for dinner so I have at least a modicum of time for the
3000 other things I want or have to do with my life, even though by then I'm
completely exhausted.  Simply reading my in-box and other correspondence is
a pretty sizable chore; every post I send out is a *major* commitment.
Frankly I should join Colin and revert to lurking.  I already have three
writing projects to worry about, all of which demand reading all sorts of
stuff.  I have lots of other things to do (buy groceries, wash the clothes,
try to have a personal life, etc) which I consider mandatory.  So: Re-read
Bhaskar?  I'm going to say this as politely as I can manage at the moment: I
DON'T HAVE THE FUCKING TIME!  I'm glad you have the leisure to do it; but I
think your attitude toward the rest of us is presumptuous, to say the very
least.

(2) You write that you don't take the idea that truth has multiple meanings
as a given, yet you proceed to do exactly that.  Basically you just
regurgitate Bhaskar.  Does RB say truth has four aspects?  Why yes he does.
Does that make it true?  Not intrinsically, no.  (And if I fail to be a
Bhaskar-thumping fundamentalist, too bad.)  Does he specifically argue
against the *strictly* propositional concept of truth?  Well, I just scanned
the "Dialectic of Truth" section of DPF, and as far as I can see, his
argument is at most *implicit*, whereas I would like one that was
*explicit*.  Does asking for such an argument mean I'm a bastion of
relativism engaged in attacking Bhaskar by every means available?  Not even
close.  So, to restate: How is it proper to use the term "truth" (roughly
equivalent to "veracity," "verity," "correctness" etc) for something that's
non-propositional?  How, *precisely*, does one define the term "truth" such
that it can rightly apply to the propositional and non-propositional alike?
Simply saying that according to Bhaskar it does, is to assume what I think
has to be proven (for the greater glory of dialectical critical realism,
okay?).


(3) I concur with Ruth that the issue concerns, not a mere terminological
quibble, but how we understand certain key concepts.  As I see it, the
problem is showing (a) that it is incorrect to define "truth" as strictly
propositional, and (b) that there is a coherent way of understanding it
which embraces the propositional and non-propositional.  Actually, you
approach such an argument at the one point where you stop rehashing Bhaskar
and speak for yourself:

>It seems to me that, if anything, the boot is on the other foot here:
>those who want to confine the theory of truth to the TD are reifying the
>divide, such that any crossing of it is equated with collapsing it. But
>we cross it all the time in performing referential detachment.
>Not to see this is perhaps to head in the direction of losing sight of
>the ID altogether, as the realm of unknowable things-in-themselves for
>us poor prisoners in the world of propositions and discourse.

I'll take this as a step in the right direction.

(4) Ruth rightly questions your assertion that

>        First, what is being resisted is the apparently
>non-relativist implications of truth as ontological and objective.


Watch that passive voice!  You speak as though everyone who has a question
must be a relativist.  So far as I've seen, only Howie has said anything
that can reasonably be construed as relativist, and even he qualifies those
statements.

(5) Again with Ruth, regarding your statement:

>    But truth is still relative to the processes in the TD (now
>'metacritically extended to include the whole material and cultural
>infra-/intra-superstructure of society' 218). Even alethic truth has to
>be expressed in language, and is subject to revision as our theories
>change or are superceded.

In the first sentence, truth *must* be propositional.  Alethic truth
*cannot* change with the transitive tides, or else it isn't alethic.  Nor
(second sentence) can alethic truth be subject to revision.  I assume what
you meant to write was that its *expression* is subject to revision.  I hope
this exercise in error gives you a glimpse of why I think it's important to
clarify precisely how alethia can constitute a *truth*, rather than just
name a state of reality.  (Again: if "alethia" simply *names* reality,
natural necessity, etc, then why choose a name connected with *truth*?)

(6)  You write:

>But secondly, there is an (open) political agenda too, dating back to
>Tobin's queasy stomach in the present discussion, and beyond that to the
>Frankfurt school, Heidegger, Nietzsche etc. This broadly equates
>scientific reason with domination, control, violence.

Good lord, sir, what are you on about?  What have I said in the present
discussion--what have I *ever* said--that could even accidentally be
interpreted as believing that scientific reason should be equated with
domination etc.?  And how could my REPEATED declarations that I am raising
questions about a position that I probably AGREE with possibly amount to a
political agenda contrary to critical realism (whatever that agenda might
be)?  Maybe someone in this discussion is attacking CR (at its strongest
point or not), but that someone ain't me.

Likewise, you commented:

>    Colin baulked at
>the dynamic character of science.

I hope Colin will forgive me for speaking in his place, but I don't remember
him saying anything like this, nor can I even imagine him thinking it.

Mervyn, you're reading Bhaskar too religiously (sic), and the rest of us not
very well.

Now that I've blown away a couple of my few free hours, I think I *will*
lurk for a while.  (A week or two I think.)

---
Tobin Nellhaus
nellhaus-AT-gis.net
"Faith requires us to be materialists without flinching": C.S. Peirce




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