Re: MD When is a metaphysics not a metaphysics?

Date: Fri Feb 27 2004 - 19:01:46 GMT

  • Next message: MATTHEW PAUL KUNDERT: "Re: MD When is a metaphysics not a metaphysics?"


    Matt P said:
    I would just like to comment on the Vocabulary issue. ... But it is the vocabulary which is a direct reflection of mindset, rather than determing it (besides the affects your words have on what is going to happen).

    Matt K:
    The parts that the ellipsis skips over are all stuff a pragmatist can agree with. However, this last bit that makes a distinction between "vocabulary" and "mindset," the pragmatist has trouble with. For the pragmatist, there is no difference between vocabulary and mindset. When you make a distinction between the two, the spectare of the correspondence theory of truth arises. If language is thought of as expressing something inside of us, our mindset, then the question of representing your real mindset correctly arises. Language comes to be something in between your mindset and other people. For pragmatists, language isn't something that is in between anything, it is a tool for coping.

    This is why I think Pirsig's lens analogy is misleading in Lila. Pirsig says that our static patterns, our personal histories, are like differently colored lens with which we perceive the world. This a pragmatist can agree with, like parts in the above ellipsis. We all agree with Clifford Geertz that we use lenses of our own grinding. However, its when Pirsig goes on to suggest that we can _discard_ the lenses entirely, that the pragmatist wishes he hadn't pressed the analogy too hard. The suggestion is that we can get rid of our static patterns, that we can shed our personal histories. In terms of expression, it would be like trying to find a pair of clear lenses, a search for the kind of clarity in which your words don't get in the way of what you are trying to say. For Wittgensteinians, "clear words" wouldn't express anything, they would be completely empty. It is only because they are opaque that they can mean anything. Language isn't a gateway into what we are
    thinking, in which the clearer the gateway, the better in which another person can rub elbows with our thoughts. Our thoughts are our language (this is what is meant by the "linguistic turn") and what you are rubbing up against is the language we use. There's nothing behind it that you can't get to, that is trying to be expressed.

    On the rest of your e-mail, I'm not quite sure what you are saying in some places, but I do completely agree on the idea of revolutionary change and in trying to influence people. When I read people suggesting that philosophy (or in particular, the MoQ) be at the forefront of change, I think it as slightly impractical. You can nudge people along in certain directions and part of the nudging may include philosophy and/or ZMM. But I don't see anything inherently special about philosophy or ZMM in making these nudges. The nudges are what are important, not the tool you use. You use whatever comes to hand, whatever works. If somebody doesn't respond to philosophy, then try something else. If they didn't like ZMM, suggest a different book you like. When people suggest that philosophy should be _the_ instrument we use for social change, I see it as an exclusionary device. I hear, "If you don't talk philosophy, then you must not want real social change." Like I said in th
    e last post, the idea of Western politics is that we only set practical boundaries to political conversation. Philosophy is moreorless excluded because over the course of history it has become more and more out of touch with social problems (roughly paralleling the increasing professionalization of philosophy). So when I say philosophy is impractical as an instrument of social change, it is because most people are unfamiliar with the distinctive conversation that is philosophy.

    You can lament this fact. Like Alasdair MacIntyre, you can recognize the current situation philosophy is in and deplore this fact and try and encourage its reversal. For Western political thinkers like myself, however, we think these suggestions and lamentations are fruitless nostalgia. We think them fruitless, not necessarily because the situation couldn't be reversed (though that is sometimes the case do to structural circumstances outside of the way we speak), but because we think the gains of our current situation outweigh the losses. We think the freedom to choose whether you do philosophy or not outweighs the benefits of everyone having Plato's Republic memorized. We don't think philosophy itself is useless or fruitless, we simply think it sits alongside with all the other tools we use for social change. Philosophy is a good handmaiden to politics, but a poor master.


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