Re: MD Irrationality

From: Wim Nusselder (
Date: Tue Sep 17 2002 - 08:43:22 BST

Dear Platt,

You wrote 16/9 17:01 -0400:
'Any suggestion that we should go "beyond" rationality is not only
misguided, but dangerous. When a society discards standards of reason and
defiles criteria for distinguishing facts from fictions and truths from
falsehoods, what remains are arguments by ad hominem personal attacks and
mindless struggles for power among groups by appeals to "solidarity".'

I think you too easily identify 'discarding standards of reason' with
'defiling criteria for distinguishing facts from fictions and truths from

Remember Pirsig in 'Lila' chapter 8 wrote: 'if Quality or excellence is seen
as the ultimate reality then it becomes possible for more than one set of
truths to exist.'

It is not necessarily dangerous to put criteria for distinguishing facts
from fictions and truths from falsehoods ('objective' from 'subjective'!)
into perspective. It only is when we don't complement them with criteria for
distinguishing Quality (Dynamic from static, inorganic & biological & social
& intellectual from each other, high and low at each of these levels).

The MoQ (i.e. its criteria for distinguishing Quality, with intellectual
quality put into perspective) can be applied rationally. It is founded
however in an element of post-rationality: the distinction of Quality in
Dynamic Quality and static quality. This is not a real/rational distinction,
because it can only be grasped in metaphors like 'DQ being the cutting edge
of reality'. It requires Nishida/Scott's 'logic of contradictory identity'.
(See Scott's 16/8 20:53 +0000 post for explanation. I can repost it if it is
not in the/your archives.)

A society that sticks to existing criteria for distinguishing facts from
fictions and truths from falsehoods ('objective' from 'subjective') tries
(vainly) to insulate itself from DQ.
As long as a society is open to discussion about the best way of applying
these criteria, about the necessity of adapting them to changing
circumstances (to new ways of discovering 'facts' and 'truths') and about
what constitutes 'fact' and 'truth' in the experience of all involved, it is
firmly latched on the intellectual level (but unable to jump to a next
higher level of static quality that requires 'transcending and including'
intellectual quality).
To the extent that a society closes discussion about these criteria, it
degenerates to social level, 'habitual' application of these criteria that
prevents adaptation to changing circumstances and dooms itself to lagging
behind in social progress.
Islamic societies are a case in point (i.e. societies defining themselves as
such, not societies in which people adhere to the islam but are open to
including other elements in their collective identity). So called 'modern'
societies founded in scientism (closing discussing about 'science' as
preferred method for distinguishing facts from fictions and truths from
falsehoods) are another case in point.

[A sidenote:
I hesitate about 'societies' latching on the intellectual level. Any society
that seeks self-preservation risks degeneration to the social level, because
staying to itself and separating itself from other societies requires
closing the discussion about 'who belongs'.
E.g. a society founded on criteria for kinship runs into identity problems
and internal and external strife when increasing mobility of people distorts
traditional ways of recognizing kinship ties. Take for example the German
nation until at least 1945 and still to some extent. It 'ran into' in
attempts to exterminate nationless Jews ('accidentally' another group
strongly founding its identity in kinship) and more recently risked and
risks internal strife by welcoming immigration of citizens from the
disintegrating Soviet-Union with German ancestry (but with no cultural
ressemblances left) and hampering integration of its citizens of Turkish
I leave it to Americans to find out for themselves under what circumstances
a society founded on identification with symbols ('stars and stripes') and
uncritical acceptance of quotes from historic texts runs into problems.]

Reversion to ad hominem attacks results from inability (or laziness) to
openly discuss criteria for 'facts' and 'truths', not from 'transcending and
including' them in a MoQish, post-modern, ironic, pragmatist etc.
Uncritical 'solidarity' with one's 'own group' (the labor class,
MoQadherents whatever) indeed leads to 'mindless' struggles for power
(social level competition). As long as it is possible to discuss openly whom
we should show solidarity with, to what extent and until what circumstances
have changed, appealing to solidarity is a healthy and necessary
counterbalance against class/national/ethnic/whatever selfishess.

With friendly greetings,


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