[lit-ideas] Re: Valid-Some Thoughts

  • From: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • To: jlm@xxxxxxxxxxxx, John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2008 17:37:25 -0330

My thanks to John McC for requiring me to articulate and justify further claims
I made last year. 

Replies to John McC -------------------------->

Quoting John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>:

> On Dec 31, 2007 6:39 AM, <wokshevs@xxxxxx> wrote:
> >
> >
> > But epistemic concepts and principles - such as the
> > ones involved in differentiating between truth and belief, valid and sound
> > inference, uninterestedness and disinterestedness, inference and
> > implication,
> > ethical norms and moral norms - refer to transcendental elements of the
> > very
> > possibility of inquiry and argument, and this at whatever slice of time
> > and
> > space such activity is pursued.
> Here is where Walter and I part company. I am willing to follow along to the
> point that I agree that the issues to which what Walter labels "epistemic
> concepts and principles" point to perennial human issues.Thus, for example,
> debates over truth and belief, valid and sound inference recur because as
> social animals we human beings repeatedly find ourselves in situations where
> we must ask those around us, "Are we persuaded strongly enough to act
> collectively on these conclusions?" On the other hand I see no particular
> utility in fetishizing the answers that people have come up with at various
> points in history as a special category of "thingies," whose borders must be
> endlessly defended to maintain a difference of particular interest only to
> those organizing academic departments.

-----------> Let's be clear on an important distinction here. Attempts to
understand the difference between belief and truth, ethics and morality, etc.
constitute fallible contributions to the analysis of transcendental concepts
and principles necessary both for inquiry and argument as well as for critiques
of the offered accounts of these distinctions (such as John's.) We understand
John's criticisms here only because we make, and cannot but make, the epistemic
distinctions I refer to. In other words, there are ingredients of rationality
that cannot but be presupposed within any form of justification or critique. As
such, their validity rests not in their perennial character, as if their
status were contingent upon communities agreeing on such status repeatedly over
the course of human history. 

Today, this argument is made within a clear recognition of the limitations of
the metaphysics of simple presence. We live in a postmetaphysical age where
"thingies" possess no metaphysical or epistemological privilege.

I am not engaged in organizing academic departments, nor have I ever been. 

Back to John McC. He quotes me:

> > These are not matters to be decided via
> > convention, though of course communities of inquiry and argument may adopt
> > these concepts and principles within their conventions and practices.

-------------> This is a very clear and astute statement of the distinction
involved :). I'm glad I put it that way.

John McC:

> If by "convention" one means appeals to authority or settled custom and
> habit, again I would agree, but only to a point. The fact that the questions
> are perennial means that our debates are endless. I would certainly agree,
> too, that attacking illogical inferences and appeals to weak evidence have
> proved enormously valuable as ways to clear the ground for better solutions
> to the problems that face us--yes, I do believe in scientific method. 

-------> I don't. "Scientific method" is yet another "thingie." I believe it is
a myth we tell secondary students in public schools strictly for pedagogical
purposes. We debrief them in 2nd year university. Most science educators I know
in Canada, US, and UK would agree. (Though we're not Feyerabendian Anarchists
Dadaists, of course.)

> But
> nothing in the history of philosophy persuades me that a set of universally
> valid concepts and principles exists outside the conversations in which
> people talk about them.

----> Nobody said such concepts and principles exist "outside" the
pursued within cogent argument and inquiry. Since last year, I have been
consistently and continuously maintaining the opposite all along: such
conversations could not be pursued in an epistemically legitimate manner
"outside" the space created by apriori concepts and principles. John and I seem
to be passing each others silently in the night.

Back to Walter, quoted by John McC from last year: 

> > An epistemic distinction of particular importance these days is that
> > between
> > ethical and moral norms.  The fact that a culture or community does not
> > recognize some moral norm does not invalidate that norm. The fact is
> > simply a
> > description of the behaviors of a group of people. Beat your kids with
> > hairbrushes or broomsticks and social services will take your kids away
> > from
> > you. The justification here, as "justification" is not "We don't do that
> > sort of
> > thing here" or "It's against the law" - rather it is philosophical, making
> > reference to moral principles and argumentation.

To which John McC replies:

> I would say, rather, that appeal to moral principles and argumentation is
> the move by which authorities justify the exercise of their powers, a move
> to which I have no objection so long as I agree with the principles and
> arguments to which they appeal. 

----------> This surely puts the horse before the cart, or whatever. I believe
John here misubderstands the fundamental holistic structure integrating
education, rationality, morality and constitutional democracy. (Why or how
these are so integrated, I can't get into at this time.) John must read Kant's
*Groundwerk,* his second Critique and the central texts of Habermas's Discourse

The justification of validity claims to moral rightness has nothing at all to
with strategic bargaining or power relations. Note that when John says he is
able to concur with certain policies implemented by authorities in power, he
states that he appeals to principles and arguments for the justification of
such policies and his agreement to them. John must view these to be justified
not in terms of the exercise of power but rather in terms of epistemically
relevant criteria. Otherwise, John situates himself into the sophistic space of
a Callicles - a "space" utterly different from "the space of reasons."

John noch ein mal:

> In the case at hand, the discussion is how
> far the writ of law applies and how far people with different laws are
> willing to go in imposing them on others. 

--------------> There are at least two separate issues here. The former issue
concerns the question of the universal validity and applicability of particular
laws. The latter issue concerns the question of when a community is justified
imposing its will on other communities. The former is concerned with epistemic
matters of moral (and subsequently, legal) justification; the latter with the
legitimacy of holding communities accountable for violations of morally
justifiable laws which the community itself does not deem to be valid. I have
said nothing of the latter matter regarding legitimacy.

Back again to John:

> These are serious questions. As C.
> Wright Mills points out, the absence of a shared vocabulary of motive leaves
> no alternative to force. The notion that I or anyone else can solve them
> once and for all by invoking principles and arguments that we, in our
> historical moment, find convincing? I don't find that convincing at all.

----> I don't understand John's point here at all. Mills' "sociological
imagination" is a coherent virtue and scholarly project only on the grounds of
the possibility of cogent inquiry and argument. Nothing Mills ever wrote
contradicts this claim.

My thanks to John for raising important, interesting and challenging points
relevant to the issues I raised and claims I made.

S novom godom, tovarishe! Pey dodna, pey dodna ...

Walter O.

> John
> -- 
> John McCreery
> The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
> Tel. +81-45-314-9324
> http://www.wordworks.jp/

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