DMB and Me (or, a Typology of the MD), Part III (B)

From: Matt Kundert (
Date: Wed May 18 2005 - 03:12:48 BST

  • Next message: Matt Kundert: "DMB and Me (or, a Typology of the MD), Part I (A)"


    You say that you "don't use [FRH] as a rebuttal." Perhaps you don't. But
    the array of assumptions that have to be behind the position statement, "By
    'fully-realized' I mean a human being in touch with our common humanity, a
    realization that arises from within as naturally as compassion," I can't
    imagine you not thinking a regular motion to use it as a rebuttal. And to
    commit me even further to this view of you, after saying you _don't_ use FRH
    as a rebuttal, you choose to deny my argument against FRH, which doesn't
    make any sense if you're already denying it has the function I'm arguing
    against. As its not immediately apparent how your denial and my denial link
    up, you must be doing it for other reasons, but I'm not at all sure what you
    are arguing against in my interpretation, as it seems to barely hook up to
    my argument at all.

    Matt said:
    I should like to argue, though, that the introduction of the notion of a
    “fully realized human being” as a rebuttal in an argument begs all the
    important questions, just as supposing that some ideas are “immediately
    accessible” whereas others are not. We can fill in the blank behind “a
    fully realized human being would _________” with whatever we want, say, “be
    a penguin,” and whatever denial or argument your opponent comes up with, you
    can always reply “Well, they aren’t fully realized human beings,” which for
    all your opponent (or, as importantly, you, for that matter) knows, is true.

    Mark said:
    This ignores my contention that we judge the realization level not by what
    someone says but by what they DO, or by the results we observe if what they
    say is translated into action. Remember, a fully-realized human being is
    defined as one who recognizes our common humanity, (see Einstein) so anyone
    who deliberately acts in any way detrimental to humanity is, by definition,
    not an FRH.

    My argument has very little to do at this point with the difference between
    "saying stuff" and "doing stuff," (though I do have a few things to say
    about that). It has _everything_ to do with questioning the definition
    process, which you again abruptly take for granted. The
    fill-in-the-blank-with-whatever-you-want comment is about how _defining_ the
    FRH _begs_ the question, which you promptly did by saying, "a FRH is defined
    as one who recognizes our common humanity, so anyone who deliberately acts
    in any way detrimental to humanity is not an FRH." But say we even agree
    with that thin definition of a FRH. There doesn't seem to be anything
    immediately wrong with it. The _fight_ occurs when you start to define what
    acting detrimentally to humanity is. I'm arguing that the strategy of
    laying out a notion of a FRH and IAs is not very good for arguing about your
    differences with somebody who disagrees with you because they fill in the
    blank of what our "common humanity" is differently. Its an impasse because
    you're both defining everything in the area of argumentation differently,
    thus making communication, let alone connections of argumentation, almost
    impossible. As per your definitions, you will be fated to win any argument
    you have with your opponent, because what your opponent wants to argue about
    are your definitions.

    This all brings me back around to "philosophology," or intellectual history.
      If I think your constellation of assumptions are all wrong, how am I to
    convince you? I start arguing against one, you rely on the others to rebut.
      That's why they are a tightly wound constellation--they come and go, more
    or less, as a group. The only way to do it, as far as I can see, is to
    offer you an _alternative_ interpretation of intellectual history, one that
    will give you a different constellation of assumptions, and play the two of
    them against each other. But if you've disbarred intellectual history from
    the field as an "academic diversion," how am I to do that? The reason you
    would do so, to my mind, is one more part of that original, Enlightenment
    constellation of assumptions and metaphors, which basically tells you that
    wrong assumptions _can_ be overturned individually, unlike what I just said,
    by deploying damning arguments and evidence. But I don't think history
    bears out this description of _how_ intellectual history has changed, nor do
    I think it does a very good job of describing how individual minds are
    changed. For instance, did Pirsig just throw out an array of arguments
    against SOM in ZMM? No, not at all. He spent very little time arguing
    against SOM, and in fact he admits at the end of one of those moments that
    none of the arguments were very persuasive, and the whole thing was pretty
    inconclusive by itself. What he _did_ do is dig into intellectual history
    and uncover the working assumptions that the reigning constellation was
    using and call them into question, thereby offering a reinterpretation of
    intellectual progress to shunt the old one aside. Without the alternative
    being offered, without the digging, I doubt he would have been so

    So I don't know where this leaves us, Mark. At first blush, you seem to
    think that some of my arguments are about your "style," when they are all
    commonly arrayed against the same set of Enlightenment-style assumptions
    that let's you call _anything_ universal, anything that sets up
    epistemological or metaphysical foundations. And when you want me to engage
    you, you deprive me of some of the weapons I consider fundamental, basically
    claiming they are just part of my "style." I don't think they are.

    At any rate, I don't know if our conversation can go on because I don't even
    know what we could talk about. The last three stages of our conversation
    have left me so befuddled on what I'm supposed to think of where you are
    philosophically, that I don't really want to venture anymore guesses. I
    have almost no bead on how to interpret you philosophically. We could start
    again from the beginning, but we'd have to pick some topic to start talking
    about, and I don't have any suggestions. I know you'd much rather be
    talking about politics, but I'd much rather be talking about (the very idea
    of) epistemology/metaphysics. I thought we were talking about some
    intersection between the two, but I'm not even sure about that anymore.

    I guess (possibly the last) thing I have to say is that, when you mentioned
    that "I think Pirsig opened a can of worms when he left his Holy trinity of
    SOQ and tried to make Quality the primary source," it might interest you
    that Thomas Op de Coul said things along those lines in his Forum essay,
    "Herds of Platypi," and I made a few comments about that idea in my review
    of his paper.


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