MD Contextaholics Anonymous

From: David Buchanan (
Date: Sun Apr 13 2003 - 22:12:45 BST

  • Next message: Wim Nusselder: "MD God relieves from suffering?"

    Steve asked:
    Platt, do you disagree with the statement "truth is context dependent"?
    Matt, can something be "absolutely true" within a given context?

    Ken Wilber butts in:
    "I agree with Habermas's sharp criticism of Rorty's overall stance: the fact
    that cultural values and 'truths' are not reducible to reflections of
    'unchanging' nature does not mean that cultural productions are shifing
    conversations with no validity claims of their own. There are better ways to
    steer a path between mindless objectivism and objectless subjectivism." SES
    footnote#39, page 588.

    "In the course of historically tracing the curious rise of this curious
    stance, Charles Taylor notes that 'the more one examines the motives - what
    Nietzsche would call the genealogy - of these theories, the stranger they
    appear. It seems that they are motivated by the strongest moral ideals, such
    as freedom, altrusim, and universalism (i.e., universal pluralism). These
    are among the central moral aspirations of modern culture, the hypergoods
    (strong hierarchies) which are distinctive to it. And yet what these ideals
    drive the theorists toward is a denial of all such goods. They are caught in
    a strange pragmatic contradiction, whereby the very goods which move them
    push them to deny or denature all such goods. They are constitutionally
    incapable of coming clean about the deeper sources of their own thinking.
    Their thought is inescapably cramped.' They are, Taylor says, morally
    superior in a universe where nothing is supposed to be superior." SES page

    "The same problems, of course, beset the 'cultural relativists', who
    maintain that all diverse cultural values are equally valid (in a functional
    sense), and that no UNIVERSAL value judgements are possible. But that
    judgement is itself a universal judgement. It claims to be universally true
    that no judgments are universally true. It makes its own universal judgment
    and then simultaneously denies all others, because universal judgments are
    very, very bad. It thus ignores the crucial issue of how we go about making
    valid universal judgments in the fist place. It EXEMPTS its own universal
    claims from any scrutiny by simply claiming they aren't claims.
    The extreme cultural relativists thus maintain that 'truth' is basically
    what any culture can come to agree on, and thus no 'truth' is inherently
    better than any other. There was a certain vogue for this type of stance
    during the sixties and seventies, but its self-contradictory nature became
    apparent with, to give the most notorious example, Michel Foucault's book
    THE ORDER OF THINGS. In this work Foucault maintained, in essence, that what
    humans came to call 'truth' is simply an arbitrary play of power and
    convention,... All truth, in other words, was ultimately arbitrary." SES
    page 37

    "Jurgen Habermas and numerous others have launched devastating critiques of
    these positions, pointing out that they all involve a 'preformative
    contradiction': another way of saying that they are implicitly presupposing
    universal validity claims that they deny can even exist.
    In short, extreme cultural relativity and merely heterarchical value systems
    are no longer enjoying the vogue they once did,. The word is out that
    qualitative distinctions are inescapable in the human condition, and
    further, that there are BETTER and WORSE ways to make our qualitative
    In many ways, we want to agree with the broad CONCLUSIONS of the cultural
    diversity movements: we do want to cherish all cultures in an equal light.
    But that UNIVERSAL pluralism is not a stance that all cultures agree with;
    that universal pluralism is a very special type of ranking that most
    ethnocentric and sociocentric cultures do not even acknowledge; that
    universal pluralism is the result of a very long histroy hard-fought against
    dominator hierarchies of one sort or another.
    WHY is universal pluralism better than dominator hierarchies? And HOW did we
    develop or evolve to a stance of universal pluralism, when most of history
    despised that view? These are some of the many developmental and
    evolutionary themes of this volume. HOW we arrive at that universal
    pluralism, and how we can defend it against those who would, in a dominating
    fashion, elevate their culture or their beliefs or their values above all
    others - these are the crucial questions whose answers are aborted by merely
    denying ranking and denying qualitative distinctions in the first place."
    SES page 38

    MOQ.ORG -
    Mail Archives:
    Aug '98 - Oct '02 -
    Nov '02 Onward -
    MD Queries -

    To unsubscribe from moq_discuss follow the instructions at:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Apr 13 2003 - 22:13:12 BST