Re: MD Begging the Question, Moral Intuitions, and Answering the Nazi, Part III

From: Scott R (
Date: Wed Oct 22 2003 - 04:21:22 BST

  • Next message: Scott R: "Re: MD Begging the Question, Moral Intuitions, and Answering the Nazi, Part III"


    > > So you have indirectly found a quote that does not say that "truth
    > > doesn't exist" but says "truth is what your contemporaries let you get
    > > away with". I don't know the context from which that quote was taken (do
    > > you?), but let's consider it as given here.
    > Good. I'm glad you accept the quote as a given. Here is another quote,
    > this time from Roger Kimball:
    > "In brief, Rorty wants a philosophy . . . which 'aims at continuing
    > the conversation rather than at discovering truth.' He can manage to
    > abide by 'truths' with a small t (like in your Rorty quote above) and
    > in the plural: truths that we don't take to seriously and wouldn't
    > dream of foisting upon others; truths in other words that are true
    > merely be linguistic conventions: truths, that is to say, that are not
    > true." What he cannot bear--and cannot bear to have us bear--is the
    > idea of Truth that is somehow more than that."

    I think you and Kimball are misunderstanding the concept of truth with a
    small 't'. That a tiger is coming at you is a small 't' truth, yet one takes
    it extremely seriously. That totalitarianism is evil is another small 't'
    truth, which Rorty thinks should be foisted upon others. All that Rorty is
    saying that he doesn't expect *philosophy* to be a means of coming up with a
    sure-fire method to distinguish the true from the false. The methods already
    exist. Philosophy may help in making them more explicit, but it won't
    establish them, in the sense of providing unshakable foundations.

    Big 'T' Truths are things like "God exists". If someone does not agree with
    it, there is no way to "compel" him to believe it through logic or
    experience. See below about logic and Truth.

    > So permit to amend my remark about Rorty not believing truth exists to
    > to his belief that "Truth (with a capital T) doesn't exist." As for
    > some things being better than others, I think you'll agree that in his
    > quote above, Rorty's acceptance of "morally praiseworthy actions" is
    > half-hearted at best.

    I don't think I'll agree with that. What Rorty says is that one can be just
    as morally committed to something without believing in Morality (as in "God
    says so", or Kant's Categorical Imperative) as with such a belief.

    > Refer to the difference between truth and Truth. Rorty denies he has a
    > concept of Truth.

    Correct. Rorty's point, though, is what difference that makes a difference
    (e.g., in practical matters) does it make to have a theory of Truth, as
    opposed to Rorty's concept of truth?

    > > Apparently you think that if one does not have a philosophically
    > > interesting theory of truth, then one must think that the word "true"
    > > has no meaning. Since the vast majority of people have no interest in
    > > philosophy at all, yet all use the word 'true', it should be obvious
    > > that one does not need such a theory.
    > Agree. People don't need a theory of truth any more than they need a
    > theory of value. Just as they have a sense of value, they have a sense
    > of truth.

    So what is your difference from Rorty?

    > > > I consider Rorty and his fellow travelers dangerous to a free society
    > > > because without confidence in the concept of truth (and it's
    > > > companion, logic), the public is disarmed against lies. ("I did not
    > > > have sex with that woman . . ." is still being defended by many as a
    > > > statement of fact.)
    > >
    > > Are you also one who blames Nietzsche for the Nazis? What -- in Rorty,
    > > not in his "fellow travellers" -- do you find illogical?
    > His denial of Truth.

    Logic (Aristotelian or mathematical) only makes deductions from assumptions.
    It can only work when the terms in the assumptions are clearly defined.
    Capital 'T' Truth cannot be clearly defined, since it attempts to be
    absolute, and any definition will limit it, and hence be less than absolute.
    Therefore, it is illogical to argue from Truth. So Rorty, by dismissing
    Truth, is in fact being more logical than those who attempt to argue from

    >> Can you distinguish between those (like
    > > Rorty) who say diversity is good in that we can learn from other
    > > cultures, and hence increase the dynamic in our lives, versus those
    > > (unlike Rorty) who say that all cultures are equally good?
    > Does Rorty offer any evidence that we can "increase the dynamic in our
    > lives" (whatever that means) by what we can learn from other cultures?

    Pirsig does: the brujo story.

    > > On the "power elite" business. The same people who speak political
    > > correctness were by and large against the war in Iraq. They were unable
    > > to stop the war. So how powerful are they?
    > Not as powerful as they'd like to be. To you deny they seek political
    > power?

    No. I suppose you are emphasizing this since as they are supposedly
    anti-power, this makes them hypocrites. I agree, and I will agree that they
    are thereby being illogical. Rorty (and Derrida, for that matter) are
    smarter than that.

    > > > Naturally the individual voice that's
    > > > raised against such "conventional wisdom" is pilloried.
    > >
    > > As it always has been. Used to be the individual who disagreed with
    > > conventional wisdom was burned at the stake, in part because the
    > > "conventional wisdom" was not thought to be such, but thought to be the
    > > word of God. Do you find that preferable?
    > Is that a serious question?

    Yes an no. No, I don't seriously think you would find burning at the stake
    acceptable. Yes, in the sense of reminding you that belief in Truth has
    killed many people, and still does.

    > Fine. Life would be awfully dull if we agreed on everything. You have
    > your views, I have mine. But let's both fight to make certain we are
    > always free to express them, no matter how dumb, spurious, distorting
    > or illogical we may consider the other's views to be. Can we at least
    > agree on that?

    I don't think we ever disagreed. My previous post was to correct your
    impression of Rorty, in particularly to separate what Rorty says from what
    the campus extremists say.
    > > Do you know of some absolute standard by which one can determine whose
    > > opinion is closer to the truth?
    > My standards are the same as Pirsig's:
    > "The tests of truth are logical consistency, agreement with experience,
    > and economy of explanation."
    > The absolute arbiter of those tests is me.

    > What are your tests of truth?

    Depends on the statement in question. Different kinds of true statements
    require different methods of verification. Being true by correspondence
    works for sense-perceptible particulars (e.g, "It is raining"). Physics
    theories are true by the tests you mention. Metaphysical theories I do not
    consider true or false. Rather, they are more likely or less likely to lead
    one to Truth, that is to be salvific (salvation making, in a theological
    sense). (By Truth I mean something indefinable, and so not amenable to
    Aristotelian logic.)

    - Scott

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