File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_1998/phillitcrit.9803, message 64

Date: Tue, 17 Mar 1998 14:08:18 -0700 (MST)
Subject: Re: PLC: [H-BLOOM] Western Canon University ( The Online  Renaissance

On Sat, 14 Mar 1998, Walter Okshevsky wrote:

Hey Walter,

still hanging out in mostly unoccupied buildings?  I used to do that at
UMASS but got a big scare one night on the walk home.  Being a woman has
its disadvantages..... 

Up front I think I have to say that we will fundamentally disagree on this
"truth" thing.  I do not believe that there is an eternal truth - or a
God, for that matter, though I understand and respect that belief.  I
think that such a belief can and usually is a basis for an ethical life. 
I do think that human beings do need to accept that there exists something
greater than (a) any single individual or (b) humanity in its totality but
that needn't be God or truth. 

You once accused me of laziness because I wouldn't engage in an exchange
where the disagreements were fundamental.  That unwillingness was based
more on my perception that the interlocutor wasn't interested in anything
I might say except "You're right."  Since I wasn't going to say that, I
figured, I'd be wasting my time.  I am certainly willing to have this
conversation with you.  (On the other hand, you're right.  I'm often lazy.

> But isn't there a difference  between asking whether a statement is true
> and whether it is relevant for some P? I suppose physicists have all sorts
> of true statements hanging around which nobody can figure out a use for
> yet. Also, some statements are true but irrelevant to some context of
> discussion or analysis.  

Aren't some "p" more significant than others?  Some so significant as to
serve as pure cases (as pure as they get, anyway?).  The point I was
trying to make is that when the sun ceases to come up then fundamental
questions of philosophy will cease too.  Truth is one of those questions. 
"Truth"  requires human beings to conceive of it.  When there are no
people, there will be no truth.

That is not to say the the world will cease to be or to function in some
form.  It is to say that the concerns of human beings, like truth, will
cease to be.

You argue that the truth is eternal.  This is an assertion which can be
demonstrated perhaps but never proven.  The idea that such a thing will
survive the agents of demonstration can only be a belief.

> > "Truth" is more formal - defined if you will- and is political

> I'm not sure what it means to say that truth is "defined." Truth can be
> established, determined, discovered. 

By whom and with what?  Priests?  On whose authority?  

Scientists?  Only when they already have the answers.  

Philosophers?  Well, I admit, I think they are our best hope but the best
ones have only vision, insight and imagination, albeit pretty amazing
insight and imagination.  Still, how do they know? 

"In the beginning was the Word..."  Without the words, we cannot know
"truth" and any attempt to establish, determine or discover the
truth constitutes a definition.

> But how is truth defined in any
> context other than a political one. In which case, you may be raising the
> problem of indoctrination in one of its many-faced guises.

Don't know what you mean by indoctrination.  Are you suggesting that there
is a right definition? or a political context which doesn't engage
in indoctrination?  Or a kind of pure knowledge of the truth which is
unsullied by history or context?  

> Not sure I'm getting all of that but one question I have is why you claim
> it is the case that any "understanding of the relationship between human
> beings" entails its political character. I'm thinking of Gadamer's notion
> of a conversation for example. People trying to come to an agreement on
> some Sache, or subject-matter. Why must the proceedings here be political.
> That they can be is, of course, not in dispute. 

Gosh, it's been awhile since I've read any Gadamer and what follows may 
earn me nothing but a lecture.  So be it.  

As I recall, I had some problems with the point of the conversation.  It
seemed to me that in *Truth and Method,* "understanding" and "agreement"
were co-terminus. If one understood, then one had to be in agreement. 
This seems to me to suggest that conversations are contests where, in
order to understand, one must be persuaded.  The persuaded "loses" the
contest and must capitulate her position.  (There is an entire school of
American Political Thought that believes that the Federalists won the
battle of the Constitution because their argument was better.)  This seems
to me to disallow the notion that one can see the point, that is
understand it, and still disagree.  The former kind of conversation
authorizes a kind of domination...s/he who persuades rules.  While the
latter kind of conversation allows for respect and choice.  These are
types of authority and judgement which is are fundamental concerns
of politics.

On could argue that a discussion about whether to buy this sofa or that
one entails a non-political "conversation" and the the actual purchase of
one or the other denotes an "agreement."  How is this political?  On the
face, it isn't.  However, the course of the conversation may reveal a
confrontational or argumetative course which ends with a capitulation.  Or
it may reveal a conversation that ends in a choice.  My recollection of
Gadamer's conversations is that they are of the former type.   

If you ask me what is non-political I would say "not much."  Probably
moments of ecstasy, other events which pertain only to a single soul/body,
perhaps thought and belief before it becomes action (even writing.) An act
taken in public (meaning more than one) situates a person within a
social framework of some kind.  The shape, operation, history and
implication of those social orders is the theater of politics. 

But I'm ranting now.  

By the way, I also wanted to ask you why you are fond of Rorty.  So, why
are you fond of Rorty?



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