[lit-ideas] Re: Valid-Some Thoughts

  • From: "John McCreery" <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: wokshevs@xxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2008 07:47:52 +0900

The answer to Walter's question is simple. He has thrown about words like
"transcendental" and "epistemic" in a way that suggests that he is talking
about assumptions that are universal, which I take to mean both necessary
and sufficient in all cases whatsoever. I am asserting that, unless he can
produce a demonstration that one or another of the distinctions he has
labeled in this way is, in fact, both necessary and sufficient in all cases
whatsoever, his words are, as Rorty suggests, mere misleading puffery.
I have already said repeatedly that I agree that for any argument whatsoever
some assumptions are necessary. But there is long way between "some
assumption is necessary" and "these particular assumptions" are necessary
and sufficient for all arguments whatsoever.

I have, in the discussion of scientific method already demonstrated to my
own satisfaction that the  categorical distinctions Truth vs. Belief and
Right vs. Wrong are neither necessary nor sufficient to account for what
scientists do and can be replaced by Better or Worse Fit (where the precise
nature of fit varies with available data, types of measurement, and the
precision of theoretical claims).

So, yes, I do start from a position of skepticism that Walter is able to do
anything more than bandy big words like magical spells and demand that we
read his sacred texts. I am annoyed that, when given the opportunity to say,
"OK, we agree to disagree," he insisted on calling me wrong and slandering
an author whose work I like (noting that he didn't demonstrate errors; he
only claimed they exist).

So as my Missouri ancestors would say, "Show me." I am educated enough to
understand proofs by contradiction (assume the opposite and show that it
leads to contradiction), which is the form of proof that I imagine could
apply in this case. Perhaps I am wrong and simply do not understand what
"transcendental" reasoning is. I assume the student's position and ask for
the teacher's assistance. A demonstration, please.

Waiting for transcendence (unless the Rapture gets here first).


On Jan 5, 2008 4:33 AM, <wokshevs@xxxxxx> wrote:

> I'm not clear why John McC asks for yet further articulation of the
> "logic"
> underlying transcendental claims after all that has been said on this
> matter
> over the past couple of weeks, at least. Most recently I offered as an
> example
> of a transcendental claim the one Rorty makes in the quotation John
> offered us
> ... yesterday I think it was. I also briefly outlined the logic underlying
> Rorty's claim. Part of that logic involves the performative
> self-contradiction
> Rorty's claim displays - a feature which renders his claim false.
> For the record, I can't recall ever saying that I knew, or was confident
> in
> knowing, the "Truth." Indeed I don't even understand what it means to say
> that,
> either in attribution or self-description. (Religious views were always
> unintelligible to me philosophically. Though I appreciate the aesthetics
> of
> certain religious celebrations, narratives and liturgies.) And it should
> be
> said that I have stood corrected many times; indeed some claim I only
> stand in
> order to be corrected.
> John offers us an interesting biographical sketch, and I'm sure we are all
> grateful to him for such convivial disclosure. But biography has no
> epistemic
> relevance to philosophical argument, as far as I can see. It may help to
> explain how one comes to hold a set of beliefs, but no justification of
> judgement or action is possible via such description/recitation.
> Walter O
> Quoting John McCreery <john.mccreery@xxxxxxxxx>:
> > On Jan 4, 2008 5:53 AM, <wokshevs@xxxxxx> wrote:
> >
> > > For some time now, I have wondered what exactly the allure of Rorty's
> > > writing
> > > was all about. He was a very articulate writer, no doubt, and very
> > > well-versed
> > > in the major texts of a number of philosophical fields. But it is
> > > specifically
> > > his attraction to people outside of philosophy that intrigues me -
> > > students of
> > > history, sociology and literature, for example. Is it that he is
> basically
> > > saying what many of us intuitively believe to be the case, but
> rendering
> > > it in
> > > prose more rhetorically elegant and philosophically informed than we
> are
> > > able
> > > to produce ourselves?
> >
> >
> > Consider the role of uncertainty in people's lives. I will use my own
> case
> > as an example but suggest that it illustrates larger trends.
> >
> > I grew up in a pious Lutheran home where going to church was a fact of
> life.
> > The only possible reason not to was being sick in bed. In our happy
> corner
> > of the 50s, heroes were heroes and villains were villains. The United
> States
> > of America was, no doubt about it, the greatest country in the world.
> >
> > My first taste of disillusionment was noticing the discrepancy between
> what
> > was preached on Sunday and how people behaved the rest of the week,
> > especially during a traumatic time when, contrary to such scriptures as
> > "Blessed are the meek," "Turn the other cheek," "Love them that hate
> you,"
> > my father was engaged in a nasty faction fight that split his church and
> > left my mother repeatedly in tears. Like Walter, if only in this one
> > respect, he was a man utterly confident that he knew the Truth and would
> > never back down.
> >
> > I went off to college still hoping, however, that, while religion had
> failed
> > me, I might still find Truth in philosophy. Instead, I found logic,
> > analytical philosophy of science, and enough Aristotle and British
> > Empiricism to persuade me that, far from finding the Truth, what I had
> > learned to do was parse philosophical statements, identify their
> weaknesses,
> > and continue an endless debate with no end in sight. Meanwhile, around
> me
> > the world was changing. The Vietnam war, the Hippies, the assassinations
> of
> > the Kennedys and King, the Civil Rights movement, feminism, the Great
> Leap
> > Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the
> > collapse of the USSR. More and more of my friends had directly
> experienced
> > divorce, single parenting, step-parents, step-siblings. Here and there
> the
> > certainties with which I'd been raised endured, especially in my parents
> > generation, in the South where most of them lived, in Bible-beaters and
> > race-baiting politicians. Later, doing fieldwork in Taiwan and living
> and
> > working in Japan, I found people every bit as nice (and as nasty) as my
> > parents could be, whose fundamental assumptions were, in fact,
> dramatically
> > different. But that, I suggest, was only confirmation of what our
> century
> > has taught so many of us in so many different ways. Beware the man who
> tells
> > you, "I know what the Truth is."
> >
> > Rorty speaks to that experience and persuasively tells stories with
> which I
> > (and, it appears, many others) easily identify. To a man convinced that
> he
> > knows what Truth is, we can only appear irrational, illogical, seduced
> > instead of convinced. He can, as other Bible-beaters do, insist that he
> > knows the Truth and that we can read it right here, pointing to his
> sacred
> > texts. Why these? his audience asks. "Because they contain the Truth" he
> > says. But, his interlocutor replies, that's what the people who want me
> to
> > read the Bhagavad Ghita, the Lotus Sutra, the Koran, The Interpretation
> of
> > Dreams or The Little Red Book also say. Why are you right, and they're
> > wrong?
> >
> > Walter might, for example, having claimed that his transcendental
> > demonstrations are convincing, offer a demonstration. I am very
> interested,
> > indeed, to see how he gets from "Some such assumption is necessary" to
> "This
> > assumption is always and everywhere true." But appeals to authority
> won't
> > do. Let's see the logic.
> >
> > John
> >
> > John McCreery
> > The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
> > Tel. +81-45-314-9324
> > http://www.wordworks.jp/
> >

John McCreery
The Word Works, Ltd., Yokohama, JAPAN
Tel. +81-45-314-9324

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