File spoon-archives/phillitcrit.archive/phillitcrit_1998/phillitcrit.9811, message 7


Date: Wed, 11 Nov 1998 23:44:52 -0330 (NST)
Subject: Re: PLC: [H-BLOOM] Western Canon University 


Deaun -- Welcome back. Lots of interesting stuff in your post.I'm swamped
with my interns at the moment. Give me a few days to catch up. 
Best wishes,

Walter
================= 

On Wed, 11 Nov 1998, c moulton wrote:

> More on Truth.
> My comments are prefaced by "cdm"
> 
> 
> >W: Could you give an example of a language game that excluded the
> >expression "It is the case that ..."?
> 
> 
> cdm:  I do not know how to define a language game but then I'm not a
> rhetorician.  On the other hand, it is possible to have things which are
> true without having a cosmological sense of the Truth.  There are facts.
> The earth does turn (or the sun does rise); it is raining
> and there is a finite amount of oil and gas.   There is no ethical content
> in any of these things; there is no Truth only a material reality.  The
> problem for those of us who are willing to accept this is to structure an
> ethics on shifting ground.
> 
> cdm:  Now.  We create Truths.  We develop a God that tells us how to behave.
> We create notions of individuality and freedom that tell us how not to
> behave.  _We_ human beings invest ideas with their grandness.  They simply
> do not exist beyond us, except insofar as we imagine them to do so.
> 
> 
> However, in practice we must forget that the meaning of Truth is arbitrary
> or it loses its efficacy.  Sometimes it loses its efficacy anyway.
> Thucydides writes a long book about the effects of words losing their
> meaning.  Somewhere, perhaps in _Untimely Meditations_,
> Nietzsche talks about the movement of history in terms of remembering and
> forgetting.  There are times when the definitions are working and we can
> afford to forget completely.  Then there are times when working out of
> history cannot be contained within the definitions (Nazi Germany is a
> favorite example of contemporaries, but not of Nietzsche, of course) and the
> definitions have to be changed.  Hence, the nature of the Truth undergoes a
> change.  The change is codified through the work of philosophers and
> linguists as well as in the arena  of practical politics and then we can
> forget again for awhile.
> 
> >> Your statement is defensible only by saying, that if I wish to talk about
> >> truth as relative, or as a concept invented to serve a need, that I am
> not
> >> talking about the "real" truth.
> 
> cdm:  What is the measurement of "real?"  I hate to bring it up again, but
> once you posit a "real" truth then you have to grant the existence of a
> transcendent authority and we're into the question of God again.
> 
> >That DM continues the discussion about truth
> >> demonstrates, unarguably, that a language game can be played that does
> not
> >> contain your presuppositions.
> >
> >W:I think that what this shows is that an activity can be pursued without
> >explicit recognition of the presuppositons, conditions, and rules
> >constitutive of that activity. (I speak a few languages that way.)
> 
> 
> cdm:  Yes, well so do I.  I would suggest that most everyday life is lived
> "without explicit recognition of the presuppositions, conditions and
> rules...." On the other hand, list writing is not a thoughtless activity and
> I maintain that I have a perspective on the holders of "truth" that they
> themselves cannot see.  In other words, I allow the possibility that the
> Truth which is held dear is not true but conventional.  This demotion does
> not make that "truth" any less dear; only less majestic.
> 
> cdm:  Now.  I suspect that anyone who holds to "Truth" will find that I am,
> at best, mistaken or unenlightened or perhaps, on a less forgiving day,
> thoughtless or stupid.  So be it.  This is a disagreement on a fundamental
> level and I don't see how it can be reconciled.  The best one can hope for
> is the recognition that this disagreement exists and deal with the
> implications of it when a specific instance creates a confrontation.  This
> is a happy occurence in the academic landscape because it gives us something
> to talk about.  It is not so happy in the political field where some
> agreement is more than likely required.
> 
> cdm:  We're back to the problem of constructing ethics in a space where
> Truth is devalued.
> 
> >> Can you give me a true statement that a physicist might have that I
> cannot
> >> call  a) what current information supports, or b) a matter of
> defininition?
> >
> >W: Don't you end up epistemologizing truth with that question? Questions
> >regarding the nature of truth are different from questions as to how
> >(best) to go about procuring the truth.
> 
> 
> cdm:  I'm lost here.  What does this mean?
> 
> 
> 
> >W: Truth is absolute. It's like being pregnant and not like believing. But
> >such absoluteness holds originally in what we could call "the logical
> >space of reason". Whether there is a "still point" in the empirical
> >univers, I don't know. I'm prepared to believe almost anything from the
> >physicists these days.
> 
> 
> cdm:  not believing in what?  The material reality of the pregnancy?  That
> is
> a bit like not believing that being hit by a bus won't hurt you.  Even the
> quantum physicists accept that mechanical physics adequately explains most
> of the world as we know it.  There is a quantity of certainty in the world;
> but there is not complete or absolute certainty.   We can posit the form but
> it is an imaginary thing, the product of human mind, not of a transcendent
> authority.
> 
> cdm:  More to the  point, it seems to me that the existence of the still
> point in the universe is precisely the question.  There either IS one or we
> decide to define one.  If we choose one, then we choose to believe in the
> transcendent authority.  If we choose the other, then we are stuck with the
> human mind as the author of its own ethical controls.
> 
> >difficult to act for the intentionality of belief. What would the content
> >of a belief be?
> 
> cdm:  a definition of the still point in the universe?  God, Natural Law,
> etc.
> 
> >W: Evidence is an indicator of truth. Any statement that is true is
> >established via "current evidence." But it could also be established via
> >"past, currently-deemed-to-be-mistaken" evidence. Consensus has no
> >necessary relationship to the truth.
> 
> 
> cdm:  Here we seem to be touching the relationship of truth to knowledge.
> Mechanical physics ruled the boundaries of scientific knowledge for
> centuries.  The political world operated on those rules too insofar as it
> believed that science was the method for achieving true knowledge and
> political ideas were generated using applications of science.  The
> evidence of the truth of mechanical science was manufactured in a way
> through this application of what was believed to be true.  If evidence is
> the indication, but the evidence is a product of the truth, then aren't we
> running around in circles?  quantum physics has not destroyed the truth of
> mechanics but expanded it.  The political world is now trying to figure out
> the implications of uncertainty in that field that was supposed to provide
> knowledge - certain knowledge.
> 
> >> WO, have you seen _Pi_? Rent it and come back to the discussion. It is
> >> philosophically stunning.
> 
> >
> >W: Who's in it and who directed it? Blockbusters around here are stafffed
> >by former librarians.
> 
> 
> cdm:  It won the director's award at the [run by Robert Redford, in Utah]
> film festival.  As George says, it is stunning.  It is also painful to
> watch.
> 
> >> If there _is_ order in the universe, there must needs be a pattern in Pi,
> >> worked our far enough. Banks of computers have not found it, having
> worked
> >> it out to powers for which we have to invent words they are so large.
> >>
> >W: I don't know if that conditional is true. But if there were a pattern,
> >wouldn't it exist independently of needs and definitions?
> 
> 
> cdm:  It is the premise of the film.  It is interesting not necessarily
> because it is true but because mathmaticians believe it and math is the
> language of science and science is our means to the truth.   The film is
> interesting because it foregrounds the assumption about patterns in the
> universe and deals with some of the implications of such an assumption.
> 
> 
> who wrote the following paragraph(s)?
> 
> >> I've had a great deal of trouble with the concept of respecting ideas
> that
> >> are wrong. For instance,  I  cannot say, "Wow, I know you are a white
> >> supremacist, and I respect that, but......"  And the idea that truth is
> >> absolute and eternal is wrong. Indeed, regardless of the Pope, it is
> >> self-contradictory. Like elephants all the way down. I can still like a
> >> person who so thinks, but I cannot " respect"  their opinions on the
> >> matter.  I can even understand such a person. But so also can I
> understand
> >> a Klanswoman, the Pope, and Mother Theresa.
> >
> >I agree with you on that one. But I would use the term "tolerate" and
> >this, under certain conditions. It is patronizing, as Taylor rightly
> >suggests, to accept a-priori that all cultures and tribes deserve equal
> >respect from us.
> 
> 
> cdm:  Hmm, interesting.  When I say "respect" I don't mean tolerate.  I mean
> that
> I will undertake to determine the terms and conditions upon which human
> beings base their decisions.  That is, I respect the possibility that they
> think at least as well as I do and even use this capacity as often and as
> effectively as I do.  In other words, I approach an "other" from a position
> of humility rather than arrogance.  This does not mean that I grant the
> rightness of "white supremacy" or of any other heinous act that humans can
> manage to inflict on themselves and the world around them.  It is unlikely
> that an argument which deteriorates into "you're wrong!"  "Am not!"  "Are
> so!"  doesn't get very far.  It is far more persuasive to use the opponents
> terms against him and you can't do that if you don't know how he uses them.
> In order to understand, you have to be willing to forego judgement long
> enough to understand.  That however, does not mean that you forego judgement
> all together.
> 
> I do not understand why it is patronizing to assume that other people have
> worked out a system of ideas and practices as we have.  It seems, rather,
> that the patronization comes from the assumption that our favor is something
> worthy to be desired by them, and critically bestowed by us.
> 
> I've just moved to a foreign country.  I went to see the doctor - a
> south-Asian Indian educated in Britain.  He's a garrulous type and wanted a
> chat about "being American."  Ok. I can do that.  What he really wanted was
> to front his opinion on the matter.  He thinks that Americans are energetic,
> ambitous, good-hearted and naive.  This last stems from the inability of the
> average american to understand why the rest of the world doesn't want to be
> like the U.S.  I have to agree with him.
> 
> geez this is long.   enough
> 
> 
> deaun.
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> >
> >All best wishes,
> >
> >Walter
> >================> >
> >
> >
> >     --- from list phillitcrit-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu ---
> 
> 
> 
> 
>      --- from list phillitcrit-AT-lists.village.virginia.edu ---
> 



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