Caputo: Chapter Five—Postmodern Prophets—Part Two

In contrast to Kant who lived, wrote, taught, and died in the same place, with little or no travel abroad, Friedrich Nietzsche was probably the first European philosopher of note to extensively use the modern railway system.  He did his philosophizing on the road, or rail as it were.  He was on the go.  For Caputo, this is a metaphor for understanding how “truth” is on the go as well, although this travel and this “homelessness” may have impacted Nietzsche’s reflections in very real ways as well.  Again, this doesn’t mean “truth” changes—it means we change when we move.  We “see” differently when we look from different perspectives.  It’s an interesting contrast to Kant and it hearkens back to the beginning of Caputo’s book, where he speaks to the very pace and scope of modern life as affecting the way we “see” things.
Nietzsche was appointed a professor of classics (University of Basel) in 1868 at the remarkably young age of twenty-four (he is still on record there as one of its youngest professors).  He was clearly brilliant and, under most circumstances, would probably have enjoyed a successful and long lucrative academic publishing and teaching career.  However, his health was not good and he had no real love for academia.  His first book, The Birth of Tragedy (1872) was not received well by the powers that be and he would never return to the university setting in any permanent sense.
After Basel, he began an almost gypsy-like existence traveling from city to city.  He sought the south of France and Italy in the winters and the mountains of Switzerland in the summers.  While his physical health still remained, he also liked to hike and walk.  Again, he did his thinking and writing on the go and in some of the most beautiful retreats and resort locations in Europe.  Again, perhaps the very flow and speed of modern life at that time worked to help give Nietzsche’s work part of its radical nature and power.  So what did this confluence of modern travel and respective power of intellect bring us?  Under the heading, “Truth is a Fiction we Have Forgotten is a Fiction”, Caputo (Unless noted otherwise, all quotes from Caputo) notes:
“Given what the Platonic and Christian traditions were calling truth—he once called Christianity ‘Platonism for the people’—Nietzsche said he would prefer fiction, falsity and opinion, thank you very much.  He took his stand with life and he held that whatever truth means, it must serve the purposes of life or else it had no purpose, or worse, had a purely destructive purpose.”
One of his most memorable and radical (for the time) summations of truth came from an essay he wrote entitled, “On Truth and Lies in the Nonmoral Sense”.  Nietzsche wrote that truth was:
“A movable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: In short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical and binding.  Truths are illusions which we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have been worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are now considered as metal and no longer coins.”
One can only imagine how shocking this must have seemed at the time.  And yet, Nietzsche had no doubt tapped into something latent and hidden—something simmering just below the surface.  We see a loss of innocence here and especially Enlightenment innocence—the thought that “reason” was pure and universal.  Here is the end of the moral or ethical as “truth”, even if those morals or ethics are grounded in pure “reason” or nature.
“Nietzsche didn’t put truth first.  He put life first and put truth to work in the service of life, which he took in the full range of this word, from its deepest biological sources up to the sheer joi de vivre.  He thought knowing the truth was like having teeth: it must serve some life-function, help promote the exuberance and flourishing of life…he concluded that what is called truth in philosophy, where Greek philosophers like Plato have been allowed to call the shots, is more like death.  It is useless for life, or worse than useless, and must be replaced with its opposite.  In the history of truth, Nietzsche was a bombshell, a torch thrower, a ‘hammer’, has he described himself.  No one before or since has launched an all-out attack on truth.  Nobody ever dared to come out against truth or to claim truth did not come first.”
Many atheists read something like this, and say, “Amen!” Fred.  But most of them don’t get what a radical thing Nietzsche was really saying.  He was not just speaking about notions of “truth” in an objective, platonic, or religious sense.  He would say the very same toward the liberal humanist’s notions of “truth” and ethical positions, no matter how progressive, egalitarian, democratic, economic, or environmentally sensitive.  If he thought these “abstract” notions were to get in the way of “life” and those powerful enough to “seize” the moment, then they were false too.  He knew that one could not have his cake and eat it too.  If truth is as he described, then there is only power; there is only matter-in-motion.  To make any appeal (even if the appeal is to “reason” “logic” or “science”) beyond the motivation of pure will and power is to lie—to be false.
“Nietzsche got the attention of the pious by famously saying ‘God is dead”…by this Nietzsche certainly did mean God, but not only God, if we may say such a thing.  He meant the whole order of truth that had been put in place by the Greek philosophers and joined in unholy matrimony with Christianity to produce the dreaded (for him) Platonic Christian tradition of opposites: being/becoming, truth/opinion, eternity/time, soul/body, super-sensible/sensible.  He sought to throw these oppositions into reverse and take the side of the body and change, time and becoming, the lower or more disreputable member of the pair.  This does not mean he always took the side of the underdog, since there were other opposites in the old order he warmly embraces, such as master/slave, aristocrat/commoner, male/female.  In fact he was famously elitist, patriarchal and anti-democratic, and he decried the French Revolution for giving the aristocracy a bad conscience.”
Nietzsche was honest enough to admit that if there were no God, nothing transcendent, no eternal forms, no purpose, and no meaning to existence then such also touched upon abstract notions of “reason” “logic” and such ethereal terms as “progress” and the “common” good.  It meant that “better” or “worse” as terms of description melt away into meaninglessness.  Yes, we could make up our own “meaning” but in such a world it only meant that whatever the powerful said was “meaningful” was “true”, even if that meant a master/slave environment of “meaning”.  If Exxon says it is “meaningful” and “true”, then it is.  And to rail against such, in the name of terms like “fair” “better” “good” or “evil” or “reason” was simply a loser’s (or slave’s) way of saying, “I want the power, —I want to be the master—I want to be Exxon”.  All is power.  Most liberal humanists and atheists do not get this about Nietzsche.  If Exxon, or Hollywood, or the Republicans (name your boogey-man) define “life” and living in and for this world as this one thing: ______ (fill-in-the-blank) and are powerful enough to push and narrate that definition of “life” and living, then more power to them—they are the “winners” in Nietzsche’s view. Those who oppose them are losers, who simply want the power the “winners” hold.  All the rest, all the “movable metaphors” like “moral” “ethical” “reasoned” “logical” “progressive” “fair” “better” “scientific” are simply metaphorical poetic covers for what is really always a naked grab for power and an attempt to change whatever the current master/slave relationship’s is at the time.
“So what could it possibly mean for a philosopher to deny truth…?  First of all, in any straightforward sense, that would be logically contradictory because the claim ‘there is no truth’ would then be true, and therefore false.  That is not only a contradiction in terms; it is the very definition of a contradiction in terms.  Now since Nietzsche was a precocious genius and presumably knew what they teach in the first week of introductory logic, and what most people know anyway, he must have had something else in mind, which I think goes something like this.  He did not let what we mean by truth judge life; he insisted that life judge what we mean by truth.  He denied what philosophy called truth in the name of another idea of truth, one that must adjust itself to life, not the other way around.”
Now, of course, the question here would be what does Nietzsche mean by, and how does he define, “life”?  To be charitable, I think he meant our deepest loves and desires in the ancient, pagan, noble sense.  But this was still nostalgia, a looking back, where we can almost hear him saying, “When men were men and everyone knew their place.”  This is still an “ideal” that he has just undercut us all from having (whatever the ideal)—although he would admit it is an “ideal” stripped of any metaphorical dressing such as “true” or “good” “better” or “evil.”  Perhaps he meant by “life” simply what our impulses, drives, and desires compelled us to do and that any idea of “truth” must bow to these forces.
“For example, whenever ‘I’ make a conscious judgment, Nietzsche thought that was not my ‘I’, but an underlying vitality, or life-force, or ‘will-to-power’, speaking and acting through what he regarded as the grammatical fiction called ‘I’.  The question was not whether the judgment was true or false, but what end it served—life or death.  What is considered true is not the result of a dispassionate judgment but what serves the life-force or will-to-power.  Gilles Deleuze, a brilliant twentieth-century neo-Nietzschean, puts it this way: whenever you come upon a judgment or a desire, ask who, or better what, is doing the judging or desiring.  A truth is but a perspective adopted by the vital forces that flow through my body in their struggle for ascendency.  The field of truth is simply the composite of contending vital forces, some stronger, some weaker.  So compared to Hegel, Nietzsche is a materialist, who is speaking about basic, physical and biological forces, not about spirit.  The idea of an evolutionary drive was congenial to him but he criticized Darwin’s version of it, where organisms adapt to their environment.  Nietzsche insisted that they dominated their environment.”
So Nietzsche stripped away what, for him anyway, was just pretension.  He basically accused the entire western philosophical world (including the Enlightenment’s beliefs in a universal “reason” and “logic), Christianity, and western culture of masquerading, of pretending, of lying, of being something they were not.  According to Nietzsche:
“What the Christian Platonists call ethics is a morality of and for slaves, of and for dog-like fawning beings who are beneath the contempt of a real man, which he called his Ubermensch (let’s say ‘overman’ since ‘superman’ has been pre-empted by Clark Kent).  When you read Nietzsche, you have to realize he means these things and he does not mince words.  He divided the ‘slave moralities’, those that go down with the ship, those that go under (unter, as does the sun), those who are defeated by life’s midnights, from the ‘master moralities’, the morality of those who ‘go over’ (Uber), who ride out the tempests of life, those who think that life is justified (made worth it) by its high noons, so that one moment of unqualified joy, of exuberant life, justifies all the suffering.  This is a bracing thought for the individual, a call to hold up under the worst, but as Nietzsche was of a deeply anti-modern and aristocratic temperament politically and culturally, he also applied it to the culture at large.  He thought that the high achievements of a culture, above all its art, justified whatever misery was being endured below.  The base structures of a society (the slaves who do the work) brace and support a social order and serve to free up its higher-order expressions.”
And, of course, one could imagine what this type of nihilistic philosophy might do if grafted to the scientific thinking of the day, especially in the area of biology and eugenics.  Well, we don’t have to imagine.  We can look back and see that such is exactly what happened.  Racism was “scientific”.  We also see the existential nature of his philosophy.  Truth is a decision.  Truth is an action.  Truth is rising up and defeating the odds, of dominating one’s environment whether social or natural.  And if one loses to life or nature, he is to stand proud, fighting to the end, shaking his fist in the face of it all.  And we see the post-modern nature of his philosophy, as it called into question a universal “reason” or “logic”—the very hallmark of the “modern”.
“So we have here a new model of truth: not the truth of the Platonic-Christian tradition—the one where truth is in solidarity with the great chain of being and not the truth that is subject to the rule of Reason in the Enlightenment.  Truthfulness is the truth of suspicion, a cold and unvarnished truth, a suspicion of life-denying motives simmering beneath the surface of the rhetoric of truth, defending a kind of underground truth or truthfulness which suspects that what has been called truth up on the surface is a lie, what Jean-Paul Sartre would later call ‘bad faith’…if you want to see what is really going on, you have to look down, not up, go down the stairs into the dark corridors of the underground, get down in the mud, feel about in the bowels, and search the dark subterranean abyss for the hidden forces that hide beneath our skin…”
The other thing Nietzsche did differently was he didn’t really write or make his case as a philosopher in any sort of traditional sense.  He didn’t make analytical arguments; in fact, his method called the very idea of communicating in such a way into question.  He understood all the analytical arguments, he knew what people meant, and he was familiar with the current thinking in the areas of the humanities, science, theology, and philosophy of his day.  He sensed however that the supposed objectivity and cold analysis behind these disciplines and their “analytical” nature was a fake sort of posturing.  The supposed objectivity and cold distance was simply a mask—a way to sound important or authoritative.
He was probably the first philosopher to try and “out-narrate” the Christian narrative.  He knew what was being told was a story.  He knew the same of the Enlightenment.  It was a story too.  The power for each came from their compelling narratives, not their specific analytical arguments or doctrine.  Other than those modern, mostly Protestant theologians and pastors, many of the Church theologians (mostly Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) knew that Christian theology is a story, a narrative (as opposed to an analytical argument).  This doesn’t mean they thought it false or untrue; it simply meant they knew the form in which truth was heard, happened, was held, and passed on.
“The force of his thoughts rests on the persuasiveness of the portraits he paints, the capacity he has to make religion and Platonic philosophy look bad, and to expose the dark motives underpinning our prim and proper bourgeois lives up here on the surface of modern life.  It does not rest on a knockout metaphysical argument (philosophy), divine revelation (religion) or modern physics (science).  He does not use modern science to debunk religion as a fiction.  He thinks science too is a fiction, albeit a useful and productive one as opposed to Christianity, which is a destructive fiction (except to the extent it kept the masses in their place)…Truth for [Nietzsche] is something we have to face, something with which we have to struggle, something we wish would go away and leave us in the tranquilized peace of everyday amusements and superficial distractions so that we might not notice that we are going to die; indeed we might not even notice that we, like our God, are already dead.”
So Nietzsche told a counter story to both the Judeo-Christian and the Enlightenment narrative, but he did so by first recognizing that such was what each were doing, although the Enlightenment was under the delusion (and where it remains—it is still under the same delusion) it was an appeal to objective “facts” and engaging in distant, cold, analysis.  To the extent that modern Protestant theologians and philosophers tried to copy this so-called “scientific” (see modern fundamentalism) approach to their theology and reasoning, they came under the same critique and the western philosophical and religious worlds would never be the same after Nietzsche (many even now do not realize the comfortable narrative they inhabit—which they believe isn’t one!—was unmasked long ago).
We can admire his brutal honesty.  Most recent (and certainly the “new”) atheists either do not understand Nietzsche or are unwilling, or afraid, to go as far as he went.  But his logic was relentless, given his narration. If he was right, then why not go where he was unafraid to trod?  We have liberal humanists who while jettisoning God and transcendence still believe in a world to come of endless rainbows, fairness, equality, human-rights, dignity, full employment, environmental sanity, peace, flowers, butterflies, and puppies and kittens for everyone (and I’m not suggesting there is anything wrong with such a vision).  Nietzsche would be the first one to see however that such is no more than the humanist’s attempt to bring heaven down to earth—it’s just a secular copy of a religious eschatology—the secular Kingdom to come.  But, if heaven doesn’t exist, then there is nothing to bring down—there is nothing higher or lower.  Thus, there is nothing to lift “up”, even from earth.  There is only an abyss to gaze into if one is brave enough.  And what does the one brave enough see as he slowly peers over the edge?  He sees a dead man’s reflection in the shimmering watery mist covering a silent nothingness stretching into infinity.  Nietzsche’s response to this unsettling event: Either man up, or get out of the way.

We will finish up with Nietzsche in our next post.
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118 Responses to Caputo: Chapter Five—Postmodern Prophets—Part Two

  1. Burk says:


    Honestly, have you considered why you need to get all offensive/defensive about this issue? Why I have to be a douche, for asking whether god exists in any philosophical sense of reality? Are you similarly touchy about other “real” things, or does the importance come from some other source, like tribal affiliation, a narrative of meaning, etc.? Why does the reality of this issue threaten you at the same time that it is so undemonstrable? Is there a connection between these two characteristics?

    That is why I draw the parallel with pink ponies. The Bronys you refer to like to have “their” fiction, and it is indeed unkind to tell them they are factually incorrect. Since at the same time, they do not insist their totem is really real, (they understand it is a fantasy, at some level), nor invoke it to protect the morals of civilization, meaning of humanity, etc.


  2. RonH says:


    The interesting thing is how helpful the metaphor of metaphors, so to speak, is.

    Yes. Seems like that'd be a subjective kind of judgment though, eh?

    I'm not yet sure of your stance on collisions with buses.

    As we say here in Texas: “Ah'm agin' 'em.”

    However, I would argue that beneath all these metaphors lies a reality, however we might choose to describe it… And that reality, is what we call a fact.

    No, that “reality” is what you call “a fact”. Frankly, I don't know what it means to call “reality” a “fact”. Are the terms “reality” and “fact” equivalent?

    I have experiences. I interpret them with regard to my other experiences and interpretations. If we want to start synthesizing metaphors we call “facts” from those interpretations, fine. But “fact” then is a metaphor, created out of my interpretations of experience.


  3. RonH says:


    I meant that I haven't found my belief in God to impede my ability to incorporate scientific claims into my narrative.

    I didn't say that asking if God exists makes one a douche. What makes one a douche is… looking for the quote here… got it: “spending years telling people on the internet over and over how ignorant, childish, deluded, and irrational they are”. If you are insulting and disrespectful, people will not enjoy dialoging with you. I haven't enjoyed dialoging with you. I do it because I've got this meta-project of trying to figure out how I, personally, can become more productive at communicating positively with people of significantly different perspectives. It's not panning out very well, is it?

    Okay. Fine. I hereby renounce postmodernism. I will now attribute fundamental disagreements to defects in my interlocutors.

    You're right! This really is easier! You and Bernard are just blinded by Satan! Sure sucks to be you guys… I don't know how you stand it.


  4. Darrell says:

    Just to chime in here…

    “But I'm not sure you've shown why facts should be discarded here, in fact you appear to implicitly accept them.”

    I don't think Ron is saying facts should be discarded, at all. First of all, it would be impossible. No one can discard facts. Second, to say that reality, existence, facts, and all we experience is interpreted and all the way down, is not to say anything about “discarding” facts. We should just get pass this. Is is a straw-man.


  5. Darrell says:


    “…From what I hear from Darrell, this requires “faith”, and faith alone. That much I agree with…”

    We do not agree here. As usual, you “hear” what you want to hear. You think faith means belief without evidence or in spite of the evidence. I think faith is the word we use to describe our choice to “see” the world (interpret) a certain way and that “seeing” involves our entire selves, mind, reason, heart, emotion, all of it. It also considers all the evidence. Thus, it is the same faith the atheist or agnostic or anyone has–we all live by faith.


  6. Hi Ron

    I'm just trying to see if it's possible to get our definitions lined up.

    We have the words fact and interpretation. And they are used alongside one another in the same quote, in such a way as to make us think they refer to different things.

    You seem close to saying that 'fact' refers to a particular type of interpretation. But if this is so, then the claim 'there are no facts, just interpretations' appears only trivially true, as a function of idiosyncratic definition.

    For my part, I would use the word fact to describe a piece of knowledge that stands at our best collective stab at reality. So, all of the following are, by this definition, facts:

    The earth is round.
    More people live in Tokyo than Aberdeen.
    A triangle drawn in Euclidian space has angles totaling 180 degrees.
    If you add one apple to a pile of three apples, you now have four apples in the pile.

    While all of these statements rely upon constructed concepts, for none of them can we think of an alternative interpretation that is plausible (as best I can see).

    I use the word interpretation for cases whereby two alternative statements can be thought of as plausible.

    And, under these definitions, which strike me as reasonably mainstream, certainly in keeping with dictionary definitions, there are both facts and interpretations.

    So, it could just be that we're using our words rather differently here.



  7. Darrell says:

    Please forgive the side-commentary here but I have to get up on my soapbox again…

    “For my part, I would use the word fact to describe a piece of knowledge that stands at our best collective stab at reality. So, all of the following are, by this definition, facts:
    The earth is round.
    More people live in Tokyo than Aberdeen.
    A triangle drawn in Euclidian space has angles totaling 180 degrees.
    If you add one apple to a pile of three apples, you now have four apples in the pile.
    While all of these statements rely upon constructed concepts, for none of them can we think of an alternative interpretation that is plausible (as best I can see).”

    This is an absolute red-herring. No one is saying the above have alternative interpretations because no one ever uses facts, in a conversation, in a non-trivial non-contextual way. Ever. To the question, “Do you think there is a God?”…no one ever replies, “Well, the earth is round.” To the question, “Do you think there is meaning or purpose to life beyond what we subjectively think?”…no one ever replies, “Well, more people live in Tokyo than Aberdeen.” And on and on. This is silly.

    This may be the billionth time I've said this, but who knows, maybe it will stick one day. Here it is: When we say that all facts are interpreted facts, when we say that it is interpretation all the way down, we are saying such as to the meta-physical summations, the holistic narrative way of saying what all the facts mean in a context specific way and in non-trivial philosophical discussions. What is hard about this? I've only been saying this for years now. How can the above be trotted out as if this were a brand new conversation? It boggles the mind. Even if one disagrees, can we at least address what we are saying instead of bringing up something entirely off point?

    Okay, sorry Ron, I know you can respond–I just had to point this out, for myself anyway…this gets so old. Just when I think this could be a cumulative conversation, it's like we've never discussed any of this…wow…


  8. Darrell says:

    “While all of these statements rely upon constructed concepts, for none of them can we think of an alternative interpretation that is plausible (as best I can see).”

    Also, do I need to point out the obvious, which is that the above statements are not interpretations to begin with, they are just asserted statements. Thus, they are pointless until placed in a meaningful conversation. That is the point. Why not address that point–the real point?


  9. Burk says:


    Sorry you feel that way. I have taken great pleasure in our discussions. Let me leave you with one last irony, that as children, our parents work so hard to convince us that there is nothing out there in the dark. But as adults we can work so hard to convince ourselves that there is something out there after all. The will to believe may be greater than the will to power.


  10. Hi Darrell

    I absolutely get that this is what you're saying. This is consistent with the statement 'all facts are ultimately interpreted.' You don't deny that there are facts. You just wish to point out that certain types of statements require these facts to be interpreted. No trouble here. You and I agree on this.

    Ron, however, appears to be defending a slightly different proposition, namely that 'there are no facts, only interpretations.' It may be that all he means by this is exactly what you're saying, and then we're all on the same page and there's no disagreement at all (and what Nietzsche is saying is, by agreement, rather banal, and indeed poorly stated).

    Worth getting definitions clear on something so fundamental, however.



  11. Darrell says:


    “…and what Nietzsche is saying is, by agreement, rather banal…”

    I do think it is agreement and it is not banal at all—it is revolutionary. It is one reason he is still studied and figures into modern philosophical discussions as opposed to someone like Hume. What it means is that one cannot simply appeal to “science” or the “facts” or “reason” or the “evidence” or the “Bible” to make their case. One must explain why we should “interpret” any of those areas the way we do or the way we are suggesting. Why look at it “this” way as opposed to “this” other way?

    Knowing this, only this, would have prevented that entire long exchange we had were you simply said that the belief in an objective morality clashed with “science.” After a very long time, we saw that what the belief clashed with was a philosophical naturalist/materialist/empirical INTERPRETATION of the science.

    If what you take to be so “banal” was stipulated to by you and Burk, much of your argument would disappear. Instead of appealing to something called “science” or “reason” you would have to make a case for your interpretive lens, your Enlightenment narrative, your philosophical naturalism/materialism/empiricism (from now on your PNME). That is what I’m always trying to get you both to see, to back up, make the case for the lens—don’t simply keep telling us your beliefs (what you see).

    We are usually just talking past each other in this conversation because you guys can’t see the difference between “science” and your PNME—you conflate the two repeatedly in your form of argument or in the continual question-begging, although Burk is the worst violator in that regard.

    Anyway, it will be interesting to see if Ron agrees with you that he and I are saying something significantly different here. If he does not, I guess you may have to actually address what is being talked about here.


  12. Burk says:


    I have repeatedly provided explicit defenses of my viewpoint, from all sorts of perspectives and angles, using evidence, logic, psychology, history, etc. The philosophical argument for accepting things as they are observed, rather than inputing some great hidden reality whose claims are at best un-disprovable, (and whose specific characteristics are as archetypal as they are mysterious), is strong on many levels. So I disagree that I have simply waved the “science” flag and otherwise begged the question, and would appreciate some more realism and fairness on that score.


  13. Darrell says:

    “The philosophical argument for accepting things as they are observed, rather than inputing some great hidden reality whose claims are at best un-disprovable…”

    See, this is what I mean. The above claims even though it admits to being a philosophical argument—it accepts things as “they are” rather than “imputing”, which is what only religious people do. So this begs the very question.

    To think one is accepting things as they are- is to interpret them as nothing more than the material. This is question-begging. The PNME view “imputes” as well. It imputes nothingness. It creates meaning, even if the meaning is that this thing has no meaning in relation.

    Most, if not all, of your arguments are rife with these sorts of statements and justifications. Sorry, but they just are. From here on, prove me wrong, stop doing it.


  14. Burk says:


    PNME, as you have it, imputes nothing at all. You are arguing fundamentally incorrectly here. If I infer pink ponies, and you do not, then who is doing the imputing / inferring? Who is making something up that is not (evidently) there? Naturalists do not come up with heaven, god, trinities, etc. Those are contested realities, and trying to redefine truth isn't going to make them any more true. Please tell me where naturalists infer any thing that is of a contested nature, and not a mere negative of your own inferrals of non-evident realities, taken on faith.

    Indeed, your mirror argument of inferring nothingness is illogical, because the mirror would logically have to be of every supernatural phenomenon ever proposed, including the Hindu pantheon, all the animist beliefs, and on and on. The opposite of all that is not something, it is nothing, as in the default set of no inference.


  15. Darrell says:


    You are kidding, right?

    “PNME, as you have it, imputes nothing at all. You are arguing fundamentally incorrectly here. If I infer pink ponies, and you do not, then who is doing the imputing / inferring?”

    Straw-man and begs the question (plus, just insulting as noted by Ron).

    “Who is making something up that is not (evidently) there? Naturalists do not come up with heaven, god, trinities, etc. Those are contested realities, and trying to redefine truth isn't going to make them any more true.”

    Yes, they are contested. But the entirety of the above says nothing at all and still begs the question. This is all mostly just rhetoric, where you repeat your beliefs.

    “Please tell me where naturalists infer any thing that is of a contested nature, and not a mere negative of your own inferrals of non-evident realities, taken on faith.”

    You just said these are contested issues. The naturalist believes, by faith, that the material is all that exists. That is much contested.

    “The opposite of all that is not something, it is nothing, as in the default set of no inference.”

    This is just an assertion of the very issue disputed and begs the question. Thus, I go back to what I said originally—you have simply proved my point. You are a serial offender in the use of question-begging assertions and empty rhetoric, which you mistake for argument. We never even get to an actual argument.


  16. Hi Darrell

    There is something to be a little careful of, here. Yes, we interpret the various facts we have at our disposal, building up rich and complex world views. And that is not a concept that the Ancients would have found surprising.

    Thus, any belief we hold will be a function of many things, including our knowledge of the pertinent facts, our inferences from those facts to necessary implications, the clarity with which we hold definitions in our head, and of course the premises or beliefs that we bring to the table.

    Hence, when we find ourselves in disagreement, we should be alert to all these possibilities, and should actively seek to identify which factors are in play. So, if we take as an example our discussion over objective morality, then it turns out it came down not to interpretation, but rather starting definitions. I sincerely, and I now think wrongly, believed that when you spoke of humans having access to objective moral truths, that you believed there was some reliable method by which we might come about such knowledge.

    After a careful discussion, we were able to ascertain that the method you think we use to discover moral truth is a process of reasoning, and that you accept this can lead two different people towards opposing moral conclusions.

    Now, that still surprises me. It seems a slightly unusual use of the term objective, but I can certainly see that at least some of the reasoners may well be heading towards a realistic depiction of the moral landscape, even if we have no way of knowing which. And perhaps that is what you were getting at.

    So, I thought there was a reasoning error in play because I misunderstood your definition of objectivity. Had we jumped straight to the Nietzschean stance and assumed it simply came down to different interpretations, or metaphors, we would have become (even more) hopelessly muddled.



  17. Burk says:


    We seem to have lost the ability to communicate. Sorry about that. I will wind up and continue to look on with interest.

    I ran across a capsule description of postmodernism which I think should be cautionary, as well as accurate. One could characterize it as ultra-modernism, extending skepticism well beyond the original targets of such clear social construction, to things whose social construction is much less clear, indeed very minor component.


  18. Darrell says:


    I wish this were just a matter of not being able to communicate (that is fixable)—the problem is you seem to only be able to communicate through logical fallacies and insults. Once we put aside the rhetoric, there is only question-begging and straw-men. We have never really heard the substance of your critique—we only ever hear the form, which is usually filled with these type fallacies. Get rid of those, and then we will be communicating even if we ultimately disagree.

    As to postmodernism, I've made it very clear of which type I am speaking of. Going back to 2013, I made it very clear in this post: Since that post, I have followed up with plenty others or linked to other sources noting these same themes and descriptions as to, at least, what I am talking about as far as postmodernism.

    Since then, I have repeatedly said the same things over and over regarding what I mean when speaking of postmodernism, up to, and including, the current series on “truth” and Caputo’s book. My goodness, I have gone out of my way to be as clear as I can, and we still have people asking questions like, “But does this mean the fact the earth is round is an interpretation?” Or, “Does this mean facts don’t matter?” Or, “What about those pesky facts?” Where has everyone been? How could one possibly continue to ask those types of questions after all these posts and further qualifications and clarifications? Are you reading another blog but commenting on mine?

    Perhaps I am a very poor communicator. It could be this is entirely my fault. However, could it be that this very problem proves the postmodern point?

    Most of you and Bernard’s comments and questions were directed toward Ron and I have jumped in simply to clarify and defend my own position, but I hope he does respond to you both and I don’t want to take away from that exchange.


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