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Why truth matters.
September 8, 2004 10:32 AM   Subscribe

Why truth matters.
posted by rushmc (41 comments total)

 
The total disregard for truth on the part of the current administration is mirrored in the contempt for truth shown every day in the world of professional and collegiate sports. I am especially appalled by the lying and treachery that characterize the sport of football, in which teams hold secret parlays right on the field, and execute deliberate "fakes," "reverses," and other deceptions right in the faces of their opponents. Defensive linepeople are frequently decoyed into the backfield thinking that they will have an opportunity to tackle the runner, only to be brutally blindsided by a blocker who has come cannoning over from the opposite side of the line. The fact that both sides attempt to deceive one another leads to a kind or moral relativism where "anything goes" as long as it means winning the game. Transparency would demand that the quarterback keep the ball in sight at all times, and make it clear which back he or she is handing it off to, and to be accountable for any linepeople who create false holes in the line, knowing full well that any defender taking advantage of them risks serious physical injury, or at best an unpleasant shock. There are also runners who "feint," or run in one direction, only to quickly change to another, purely for the purposes of "fooling" or misleading the defender. Is it too much to ask ball carriers to declare their intentions, and run in an honest, straightforward line, such as we have been accustomed to in Democratic administrations?
posted by Faze at 11:12 AM on September 8, 2004


Again, I ask the question--is Faze engaged in an elaborate bit of performance art, or is he really the biggest idiot on the Internet?

Inquiring minds want to know.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:15 AM on September 8, 2004


Great link rushmc. Thanks!

As the philosopher and social critic Michel Foucault aptly noted in an interview in 1984, unless it would impose "the silence of slavery," no government can afford to ignore its obligation to the truth.

Neither can intellectuals. By abandoning notions like truth and objectivity, many of us in the academy have forgotten the political value of those concepts. ... It is ironic that, in capitulating to many of the assumptions and labels of our conservative critics, we have conflated the pursuit of truth with the pursuit of dogma, pluralism with nihilism, openness to new ideas with detachment toward our own. We need to think our own way past such confusions and shed the cynicism about truth to which they give rise. If we don't, we risk imposing enslaving silence on ourselves. We risk losing our ability to speak truth to power.


Amen.
posted by nofundy at 11:17 AM on September 8, 2004


Oh man, Faze, that was great.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:20 AM on September 8, 2004


Disgusted by the right's lust for absolutes, many of us retreated from talk of objective truth and embraced the philosopher Richard Rorty's call for an "ironic" stance toward our own liberal sympathies. We stopped caring about whether we were "right" and thought more about what makes the world go round. That made us feel at once more hip and less naïve. The events of the last three years have put the lie to that strategy. The fact that our government has deceived us, misled the nation into war, and passed legislation that threatens to infringe upon our basic human rights doesn't call for ironic detachment. It calls for outrage.

"I liked using post-modernism as a club against my opponents, but now that my ox is being gored, suddenly I feel that truth is important."

By abandoning notions like truth and objectivity, many of us in the academy have forgotten the political value of those concepts.

Nobody sees the contradiction here? We should value "truth" only because (and, by implication, only when) it has political value? It's the same old "truth is illusory, only power matters" schitck, only updated in light of Leo Strauss (as portrayed by the mass media). The neoconservatives would be proud.
posted by gd779 at 11:26 AM on September 8, 2004


Actually somewhat funny, Faze, but I think you unwittingly articulated exactly the way the administration looked at making the case for the war.

You've Channelled pure Cheney!
posted by prodigalsun at 11:29 AM on September 8, 2004


Faze's post puts the phrase "end run around the Constitution" in a whole new light.

(otherwise, interesting reading in that link)
posted by Joey Michaels at 11:36 AM on September 8, 2004


Nobody sees the contradiction here? We should value "truth" only because (and, by implication, only when) it has political value? It's the same old "truth is illusory, only power matters" schitck, only updated in light of Leo Strauss (as portrayed by the mass media).
Not that I've ever had any patience for pomo relativism, but I think the point here is "we should value truth because we now have an excellent object lesson in what happens when people with real power don't" -- as opposed to academes, who can throw sand in each other's eyes without folks in the real world getting hurt.
posted by adamrice at 12:23 PM on September 8, 2004


Well said Adamice, thanks Rushmc!

The possibility for objective truth is all that can ever hold us together. Would that both fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalist Jihadists could understand the distinction this article makes between truthand belief.
posted by ahimsakid at 12:36 PM on September 8, 2004


Great link, rushmc. I keep trying to tell people that, but I don't manage to put it as coherently. And adamrice put it in a nutshell.

So, Faze (and sonofsamiam), you don't think truth matters? You think wars are morally equivalent to football games? What?
posted by languagehat at 12:56 PM on September 8, 2004


Again, I ask the question--is Faze engaged in an elaborate bit of performance art, or is he really the biggest idiot on the Internet?

Faze is a genius, even when he says things that make me feel like I'm going crazy. Actually, especially then.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 12:57 PM on September 8, 2004


great link.

Faze, your satire is quite apt, but you do realize that the role of "the opposing team" is being played by the American public, right?
posted by jeffj at 1:12 PM on September 8, 2004


I would argue that truth matters far less in a game of football, than in a political system in which the person who will be the ultimate civil servant for the next 4 years will be chosen. You really can't have democracy without accountability.

So while I'm pounding a dead horse, my decision that Bush needs to be removed from the White House came far before 9-11 or the war. It happened when Bush appointed key players in the Iran-Contra scandal such as Elliot Abrams and John Poindexter to positions where they would once again be able to make decisions about public policy. The Bush administration's contempt for democratic accuntability was demonstrated from the very first months of the Administration.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:45 PM on September 8, 2004


languagehat, Faze was making a joke, as far as I can tell. It was pretty funny. I don't think the war is a joke.
But talking about the dishonesty of football players feinting, when they should have ran straight ahead? Come on. That's funny.
posted by sonofsamiam at 1:53 PM on September 8, 2004


the point here is "we should value truth because we now have an excellent object lesson in what happens when people with real power don't"

This does not contain an intellectual argument about whether or not truth exists and can be comprehended.

So if, like the author and his intended audience, you are starting from a post-modern belief that truth does not exist, you can rephrase that argument as:

Truth is illusory, only power matters, but "bad" things will happen if we don't pretend that truth exists.

That's exactly the sort of reasoning you find attributed to Strauss and the neoconservatives.

Still don't believe me? Here's the author in his own words:

In particular, it is important [to believe that truth exists and matters] for anyone who is looking for a rational platform on which to criticize a democratic government's lack of truthfulness on a particular issue.

Oh, that's why it's important to believe that truth exists and matters. I see. You can't very well criticize a government for not telling the truth if you don't believe that truth exists, can you?

"Prior to Bush, I believed that truth doesn't exist. But truth must exist in order to criticize Bush on Iraq. Therefore, truth exists. QED."

So the author, by his own tacit admission, is simply pretending to believe in and care about truth because it is a convenient club with which to beat his political enemies. That's ironic, given that he criticizes his political enemies for doing the very same thing.

And you can't argue that I'm misinterpreting the argument, because the author is kind enough to structure the whole article around intellectual arguments for the existence and importance of truth! No, that's not right, is it? The author structures the article around different political ends which can be accomplished by pretending that truth exists, and that it matters, and then getting others to believe that too.

Would that both fundamentalist Christians... could understand the distinction this article makes between truth and belief.

Fundamentalist Christians understand this better than anybody. They are, in fact, the single biggest opponents of post-modernism and relativism in America today. They simply contend that their belief is supported by the evidence. (It's liberal Christians, by contrast, that aren't as picky about making claims based on objective evidence).

You can accuse fundamentalist Christians of ignorance, and you can accuse them of stupidity, and you can even accuse them of choosing a different epistemology than you, but you can't accuse them of not believing in objective truth.
posted by gd779 at 2:00 PM on September 8, 2004


Faze, faze, faze.

Oh well, you've been corrected and mocked enough already this thread. But your response is nevertheless instructive. In linking analogically the pursuit of truth in politics to the pursuit of ground in football you've actually highlighted one of the larger problems with the article. Different fields of argument require different grounds of proof, and it is the grounds and not the ultimate conclusions based on those grounds that are functions of power. There can be a truth to the administration's policies in Iraq, but that truth will be determined primarily by the assumptions that operate when assessing those policies. In other words, the different truths of Iraq will never entirely be reduced to a single instance of "the" truth.

Lynch (the author of the piece) might pay closer attention to the fact that even standards for the truth (what constitutes truth as such) vary with time. In today's media environment, with information in abundance, we have what Habermas coined a "legitimation crisis." The standard argument structure looks like this: a claim is made, a warrant for the claim is offered as a reason to believe the validity of the claim, and then data is provided to prove the validity of the warrant. But these days, the idea of data is in crisis, and it's a crisis of excess and not of scarcity (scarcity was the genesis of the need for data, since the earliest theories of public argument figured that empirical and evidential proof would sway their interlocutors). Today, we here two (and more) sets of data: John Kerry was in Cambodia, he wasn't in Cambodia, we have records, the records are wrong, and so on and so forth. The problem is not that records cannot be deployed to resolve the debate, it is that the validity of the records are no longer trusted, and that as a consequence, resolution is never complete.

In addition, the grounds of this particular question represent a rigged game. Not only does it perform an end-run around its own agenda (truth becomes a function of its political advantage), but it also treats truth as a transhistoric (perhaps even ahistoric) object, one that justifies (indeed, it necessitates) a response without acknowledging the fact that its categorizations are routinely overturned. And I'm not talking about the obvious questions here, for example when gravity gets rewritten from Newton's "truth" to Einstein's "truth." I'm talking that the idea of truth has changed over the millennia. As Heidegger noted, the early Greeks thought truth as aletheia, or unconcealment. Which is to say that truth was a sort of epiphanic moment when something that wasn't clear became so. At some point (Heidegger blames Plato) the idea of truth as alethiea became displaced by a notion of truth as verisimilitude, where object A had to correspond to the form or reality that made object A possible to identify as such.

Instead of confronting these issues, Lynch (and Faze, in his performative and ironic way) moves instead to truth's contemporary political scene, and sidesteps Fish critique of the discourses of Truth by supplanting the straw-concept of absolute Truth with the "plain unadorned truth", he simply avoids doing the hard work of critical and radical thought. Note how awkward is the binary Lynch draws: cynicism of truth is relativism, unadorned truth allows for political judgment. This is an easy way out, but it is insufficient. Skepticism regarding the power of truth is not an ironic detachment in the face of power (though there are some who might adopt that stance); it is rather the acknowledgment that power should never be able to lay claim to truth as a justification for its actions, because truth is always already determined by the grounds generated through certain discourses. In other words, it's not just that certain leaders lie and spin the truth, when really all they have is power. It is instead that leaders use a language that already carries authority for their own purposes (intentionally aware of its force or not): the phrase "weapons of mass destruction," for example, did not originate with the Bush administration. The survivalist hysteria that makes terrorism so powerful a response to the west and that simultaneously demands that as few soldiers die for their cause as possible is not due to the chicanery of conservatives or liberal, but rather emerges as a product of increasingly hegemonic social science and medical discourses that stress longevity, reductions in morbidity and mortality, and so on.

And I might add that the danger here is more severe that simply letting banal observation and political anger govern our thinking - the danger is, we might say, empirical: the Bush administration convinced us that Iraq was a threat by a recourse to (potentially) objective truth. It was truth that cost us, and a return to truth is not going to return the investment, nor will it set us free.
posted by hank_14 at 2:28 PM on September 8, 2004


Go hank_14!
posted by kenko at 2:55 PM on September 8, 2004


gd779, try as I might, I don't see the author of this piece saying anything that you are trying to attribute to him. Acknowledging political ramifications to pretending that truth doesn't exist doesn't imply that those ramifications are, in fact, the reason we should believe that it does.
posted by rushmc at 3:08 PM on September 8, 2004


So, Faze (and sonofsamiam), you don't think truth matters? You think wars are morally equivalent to football games? What?
I understood it as Daily Games People Play, the politics of lies in our lives.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:14 PM on September 8, 2004


So if, like the author and his intended audience, you are starting from a post-modern belief that truth does not exist, you can rephrase that argument as:

Truth is illusory, only power matters, but "bad" things will happen if we don't pretend that truth exists.
Uh, err, what?

Well, for one thing, I'm not starting from a pomo belief. For another, I suppose you can rephrase the argument that way, but a more productive way would be "Hey, that whole pomo relativism thing? Turns out we were wrong." Not that academes need to pretend that truth exists, they need to acknowledge that it does.
posted by adamrice at 3:22 PM on September 8, 2004


Maybe this will help explain my reasoning, rushmc.

Many Christians argue that if God doesn't exist, then life is meaningless. Assuming, in arguendo, that this is true, is it a valid reason to believe that God exists in fact? Of course not. "It would be nice if X existed, therefore X exists" is not valid.

Similarly, you must agree, the "political value" of truth is not a valid reason to believe that truth exists in fact and can be comprehended. The author argues that various good things (including the ability to speak truth to power and guard against tyranny) would occur if truth existed and were capable of being comprehended. This is essentially "it would be nice if truth existed, therefore truth exists". That is not a valid argument.

So here's my argument, finally: the author says the he used to believe, on intellectual grounds, that truth does not exist and does not matter. He now believes the opposite. What changed his mind? It must either be: A) a valid intellectual argument, B) the author is choosing to believe on emotional grounds alone or C) the author didn't actually change his mind, he just wants to pretend that he did.

Since the author presented no argument for A, but instead spent the entire article on B, the answer must be either B or C. Since the author holds himself forth as an intellectual, I choose to assume he was above B, and therefore concluded C. I could be wrong. But it's certainly not A, right?
posted by gd779 at 3:33 PM on September 8, 2004


The author argues that various good things (including the ability to speak truth to power and guard against tyranny) would occur if truth existed and were capable of being comprehended.

More precisely, the author argues that various good things will occur if we all either agree that truth exists or at least pretend that truth exists and act accordingly. That, of course, is not an argument that truth exists. It is an argument that we should act as though truth exists (and matters). The fact that the arguments are presented in this way might strengthen the presumption for C over B.
posted by gd779 at 3:37 PM on September 8, 2004


yes, but ruth is not subjective, observation and interpretation of those observations is subjective. truth is what it is, what happened. in keeping w/ the football theme: instant replay will show you what happened even after you observed and concluded. the key is to not believe a conclusion prior to the observation, as fanatics tend to do.

this whole discussion of truth as a term within a formula is troubling to me. why is it so much more entertaining to us to navel-gaze than it is to be done with a thing and move to the next?

truth is good, next?
posted by bluefish at 4:09 PM on September 8, 2004


why oxygen rocks, news at 11
posted by Satapher at 4:29 PM on September 8, 2004


logic = sisyphus
posted by Satapher at 4:31 PM on September 8, 2004


Thanks, gd779, for the clarification...I see what you're saying now.

I guess the author's past views just don't interest me much; what interests me are the views he presents in the article. He pretty much explains his previous error as a political overreaction anyway: Disgusted by the right's lust for absolutes, many of us retreated from talk of objective truth and embraced the philosopher Richard Rorty's call for an "ironic" stance toward our own liberal sympathies. And he's not saying that truth matters because denying it has political results, but that philosophical debates over truth matter because truth and its pursuit are politically important, which seems to me a pretty important distinction.
posted by rushmc at 5:14 PM on September 8, 2004


Because, bluefish, instant replay only tells you what happened from the perspective of the camera (or 2 or 3) that let you rewatch the scene. Because, as so many challenges conclude: the review is often inconclusive.

Truth is good, yes, if and only if you know what it truly is, which we don't. Being done with a thing is a tricky proposition - just when you think you're out, they pull you back in.
posted by hank_14 at 5:31 PM on September 8, 2004


Academics who use post-modernism as a tool generally aren't saying that there is no truth whatsoever, but that usually it's much more complicated than simple TRUE and FALSE. It's like when you have an argument, and Person A says Person B was baiting him - well, B didn't mean to bait, but what he was saying had the effect there of. So was B baiting A? Yes, and no. That's post-modernism in action. It's about seeing the way that stuff is complicated - at least, it is when it is being useful. And it's for paying attention to the importance of language. Like how, there was a middling sort of people before there were words for the "middle class" - were they the middle class without a name? Or were they something else, something much less concious of its own existence or importance. It existed, and it also didn't.

I'm not a post-modernist myself, but I have to give the movement respect for making people think twice about their surety. It says "the world is complicated, and doesn't fit nice patterns, deal with it". It says, hey, the truth changes depending on your point of view. Best place in the world to live? Everyone knows that is West End Toronto, and it's true. Well, at least everyone who lives there knows that. Maybe if I were a Londoner or an Alaskan, I might have a different answer.

Many questions just don't have "right answers" and "wrong answers"; many questions do, but sometimes those right answers are damned complicated. Sometimes there are multiple truths - sometimes there are not. And sometimes we all disagree about which is which.

What academia should do is develop a more mature relationship with post-modernism. It shouldn't be valorised or made into dogma, nor should it be thrown out without evaluation. It should be treated like a tool, a way of thinking that can be useful or not, depending on what you are looking at. Once we get there, then things will be much better.
posted by jb at 6:50 PM on September 8, 2004


I guess the author's past views just don't interest me much.

There's the rub, and the heart of my criticism against the author. You're not his intended audience, because this is a persuasive piece and you already believe in truth: you don't need persuasion.

No, this article, it seems to me, is aimed at other post-moderns. People with a belief system similar to the author's. And the article therefore does not argue that truth exists and matters. Instead, it is a call to dishonesty and sophistry. The author is implicitly saying, "hey po-mo intellectuals, let's all take a page from the neocon playbook, and appeal to that stupid sense of 'truth' that so many sheeple seem to have. We're beyond all that, of course, but if we pretend we're not then we can attack Bush more effectively".

This is what he means by the "political utility" of truth. Not that truth is "true", and not that truth is inherently valuable. Those statements I would agree with. No, the author is calling on the post-modern Left to pretend to believe in truth in order to wield their political will more effectively.
posted by gd779 at 6:51 PM on September 8, 2004


The author is implicitly saying, "hey po-mo intellectuals, let's all take a page from the neocon playbook, and appeal to that stupid sense of 'truth' that so many sheeple seem to have. We're beyond all that, of course, but if we pretend we're not then we can attack Bush more effectively".

Which is exactly what you'd expect someone who didn't believe in truth but saw his side getting creamed to do, no?

Anyway, bluefish, you cannot just say "truth is good, next" because truth is not something so simple as "truth is what it is, what happened." As hank_14 (who I am now so in love with) says in his own way, even if you believe in truth, you have to admit that it can hard to uncover or can differ according to your point of view.

Further, what do you do once you decide truth is good and them manage to uncover the truth in a particular situation? Do you pursue it singlemindedly, regardless of who gets hurt? If a truth is essentially individual, how do you decide which truth takes precedence? What do you do if, to use gd779's example, you think life is not worth living if god does not exist, but then come to the conclusion that, truthfully, you cannot agree s/he exists? Do you delude yourself?

Those are just the simplest questions my wine-addled mind can come up with, but you do see how you cannot just say, truth is good and move on. In fact, I found the day I decided truth was ascertainable & worth pursuing was the day I parted ways with a number of my better friends.
posted by dame at 7:57 PM on September 8, 2004


It strikes me that most of this thread misses the point. Lynch is far from arguing that truth exists; that is assumed. Rather, he is examining:
"Does the truth itself really matter?"

He posits that in our political system:
"...we need a way of distinguishing right answers from wrong ones." and that "Cynicism about truth is confused."
He points out that the logical extension of Truth just being another name for Power is that the government, if powerful, must therefore always and everywhere be right . . . which would eliminate simple declarations that those with the power are wrong.

To those who would say that truth doesn't matter, he points to the mendacity of Bush and argues that in the real (non-academic) world cynicism about truth is a non-affordable luxury if we are to defend ourselves and our country from the ideologues who would sell belief as truth.

When the ref has a history of being on the take, and all three cameras clearly show the ref to have made the wrong call, it is mental masturbation to argue that there might have been a view by which the call would not be overturned. Simple unadorned truth. It's good. It matters. We may not agree on how to arrive at it, but we surely must proceed on the basis that collectively we can think past the confusions, shed the cynicism, and when necessary use the notion of objective truth to call out a liar.
posted by ahimsakid at 8:40 PM on September 8, 2004


Let me skim over the minutia of this excellent discussion to insert a short assertion :

American conservatives became secretly enraptured, during the late 1960's or early 1970's, with the notion of Relativism, the lure of that land where nothing was true and and everything was permitted : and, later, they told themselves they had fought off that beast. But, in fact, they had merely held it at bay and so, a few years later as their attention shifted away from the conflict and their wariness faded, the beast made a final soul consuming lunge and, then, they were different. Conflicts faded until all that remained was a simple, pure goal : power.
posted by troutfishing at 8:54 PM on September 8, 2004


And ahimsakid, where does that history come from? What would 'being on the take' entail? When is it that the rules of football are so overwhelmingly clear-cut? And further, assuming we can agree that all those things are easily identifiable and decidable, it's useful to note that in this example the collective complaint does not change the call.

Of course, even pretending that the football analogy is useful simply returns us to the simplification Faze employed at the beginning. It's neither productive nor appropriate as an analog to the argument in Lynch's piece.
posted by hank_14 at 8:58 PM on September 8, 2004


Troutfishing's Notes For An Unwritten Essay :

"The New Republican Cargo Cult

NOTE: couch essay in an analysis of the "Cornucopian" argument as the new religion of the american business class - draw in Reg Morrison's argument that their fundamental faith in the ability of human inventiveness to overcome all constraints ( Malthusian constraints - the depletion of resources, etc.) may be a genetically driven behavior which has served the species well - UP TO THIS POINT. But emphasize that Cornucopianism is really a religious faith

NOTE: threads of essay -

1) The collapse, degeneration or slide of sectors of american culture into Postmodernist solipsism and, related threads -

a) Arthur C. Clarke's principle that any sufficiently complex technology becomes indistinguishable from magic -

b) include my observation that this process is also driven by the occupational hyperspecialization of industrial society. - knowing more and more about less and less, so that a dwindling few have a larger sense of the whole picture (not that anyone ever actually DID, but anyway...) CITE C.P. Snow's essay.

c) The role of business in fueling, for it's own purposes, conspiratorial theory, solipsism, distrust of science, confusion about what science can tell us, and so on
(CITE: Global warming agitprop paid for by Exxon Mobile and others, funding of climate "Skeptics", CITE:Sheldon Rampton, "Trust Us, we're experts CITE: GE spends 60 million to convince natives that PCB's in the Hudson river are not a problem)

Also CITE: "group Polarization" (NYT article, grist file)

2) Among techno lovers, and Gingrich type Repub intelligensia, "Cornucopianism" as a religion"..........
posted by troutfishing at 9:00 PM on September 8, 2004


Are we tired of this yet?
posted by ParisParamus at 9:16 PM on September 8, 2004


ParisParamus: no, we're not.

Dame: thanks for the compliment. if you get bored and ant to see more of my odd ramblings, i'd be curious if you still 'loved me' after reading one of my more random efforts. feel free to let me know what you think :)
posted by hank_14 at 9:27 PM on September 8, 2004


Hank_14: Where does the history come from? From the participants in the event (players/refs/broadcasters/and fans). Thousands are watching the game, the receiver drops the ball, it bounces twice, and the receiver scoops it up and carries it across the line. The ref declares a touchdown. A handful of partisan fans cheer, but most make noises in reaction to the refs obviously blown call.

The following week the scene is essentially repeated, same team, same ref, same result. People talk, but to preserve the integrity of the game ($$) the broadcasters and players fail to make public the facts of the matter.

The same thing goes on all season and the favored team goes undefeated.

To the many fans in the stand, who are watching carefully, reality is being denied, the fix is in. Now we could argue that there is not yet any objective proof of that the ref was paid off. But the man who stepped of the Clapton Omnibus into the arena, and thousands like him, know the game is not what it should be. The truth is, the game of honest competition has been lost to the vested interests, football is endangered if this continues, and the fans know it. The rules exist to be followed . . . that much is clear. An entertainment put on with continued disregard for the rulebook ceases to be a football game. This can't be disguised as "well there have always been some bad calls."
Something radical has happened. Sure "the collective complaint does not change the call" but so what? Something truly did happen . . . the question before us is "does the truth matter?"

Bad calls don't threaten football, until there is a pattern that is clearly discernable. Then it becomes like pro-wrestling--lacking its purported integrity. Politicians lying don't bring down the republic immediately. But a pattern of lies that become discernable to the electorate impacts democracy.

Falluja once, shame on you; Falluja twice . . .
posted by ahimsakid at 9:35 PM on September 8, 2004


gd779: You seem to be reading a heck of a lot into something that comes out of a single paragraph statement, "I was wrong." That is, I don't think this was intended to be a piece to take a position on "what is truth." Instead, I see it as a call to actually examine what truth is.

The problem is, (and perhaps the primary reason why he didn't go there) is that you can't just jump from po-mo criticism to a naive assertion of objective truth. Postmodernism is at its base just another twist in a 2,000 year old debate about the existence and knowability of objective truth. Even if we reject the extreme form of relativism that treats everything as equally valuable, there is still the elephant in the bedroom, the basic problem that we are not rational animals, but rationalizing animals.

You don't have to be a believer in objective truth to be justified in saying that Bush mislead the public he serves.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:11 PM on September 9, 2004


Truth may not be absolute, but that has little to do with seeing that someone is obviouly covering up evidence to push an opposing positoin.
posted by Space Coyote at 3:07 PM on September 9, 2004


As an example, contemporary science has, following pragmatist epistemology, largely abandoned the idea that a scientific theory is absolute objective truth. Instead, a theory if supported by the evidence is considered to be "true enough" in order to move forward with other forms of inquiry. We may not know the absolute objective truth behind what makes gravity work, but we can know enough that jumping out the window can be called a bad idea.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:38 PM on September 9, 2004


Go with it trout.
Looks like a great outline.
Cornucopianism, the religion.
I see the makings of an entire novel.
E. L. Doctorow "City of God" style. :-)
You can do it.
posted by nofundy at 5:42 AM on September 10, 2004


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