Friday Roundup

The postmodern continues to become the operating logic, which if done wisely, is a good thing…

“So reality is not simply out there, waiting to be uncovered. ‘Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction,’ Bakhtin wrote in Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics (1929). Nothing simply is itself, outside the matrix of relationships in which it appears. Instead, being is an act or event that must happen in the space between the self and the world.”

How about less bombs and more visas?

A very interesting take on objectivity and knowledge…RonH, thoughts?

Proteins and stability…and…whirlwinds…Burk–I’m sure you would agree…wow, you are agreeing with other Christians…pretty cool…

The mistaken notion that truth arrives, fully-formed, and all we need do is access it.

“To begin with, it will require us to reject the predominant idea of truth as something that arrives fully formed on our front porch each morning, or that is piped into our laptops, our phones, our crania.”

This looks like an interesting book and one that might confirm the irony inherent in the claims of evangelicals and fundamentalists regarding how anti-modern they are or how their views and faith mirror the ancient/early church.  Nothing could be further from the truth—they are entirely modern and the event of their origin, in fact, birthed the modern world.

The nationalists are now in a fight with the globalists…I will make the popcorn.

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14 Responses to Friday Roundup

  1. Burk says:

    Hi, Darrell-

    Let me discuss the new atlantis link briefly.

    Absent a granular understanding of the theories underpinning a given area of knowledge, how should laypeople weigh rival claims, choose between conflicting interpretations, and sort the dependable expert positions from the dubious or controversial ones?

    I would recommend gaining a granular understanding, when you care about the topic. That is one solution, going beyond a blind competition of authority. It is heartening that the article goes on to recommend this as well.

    Another solution is to support better authorities, by way of one’s media habits, public funding, etc. The reason for many of these arguments, such as over climate change, evolution, and the like, is pure corruption, whether financial or intellectual. One group decides that it would be in its best interest to obfuscate and deny something where distinterested people have a settled view, if not a strong one. This is often operational in religion, for instance, where the vast majority of people have a skeptical if not dismissive view of every religion but their own, and thus agree 90% of the way, globally. But when it comes to their own, intellectual standards drop, interest rises, and you get belief in extremely dubious thrice-told tales.

    Heading back to the subject, this is one problem with the current administration- that it seems dedicated to destroying economic statistic gathering, research, the finding of unpleasant facts, impartial investigations, unpartisan news, etc.

    Put another way, science doesn’t tell us anything; scientists do.

    A distinction with little difference. But it is true that the “science says” locution is generally used with uncertain “facts”, not with secure ones. Thus it often leads to grief.

    ” But for non-experts to accept such authority responsibly, they must first have an accurate understanding of why certain modes of inquiry are better than others.”

    Well, have I been saying this for years, or not?

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  2. Burk,

    Thank you for those comments. Interesting. I would strongly disagree with the idea that -science doesn’t tell us anything, scientists do-, is a distinction without a difference. I think it an enormously important distinction actually. It is something I tell pastors all the time when it comes to their authority. They often like to claim that the “Bible says…” and I remind them that the Bible doesn’t say anything until someone articulates what they think it is saying, which is to mean, they are interpreting–they are the ones speaking, not the Bible. When people preface an assertion with “Science says, history says, our Constitution says, the law says, or the Bible says…”, it is often code for, you are not disagreeing with me and my interpretation, you are disagreeing with the very facts, or history itself, or our founding fathers, or God! It is meant to stifle debate and used often as a weapon. Science and “facts” tell us nothing. People tell us things. People interpret the science and facts and then articulate what they think those things mean. People do that from interpretive philosophical frameworks/narratives (which are not empirically founded), which means people will often see the science and the facts differently and think they mean different things.

    And as to thinking the writer is agreeing with something you been saying for years, I doubt it. He is not saying your mode of inquiry (empiricism) is better than others. He is however noting that a virtue type epistemology may be better than others, and I tend to agree. We need more than information, facts, and science to know what to do regarding some of our most intractable problems. We need to know what we should value, what is good, wise, and beautiful. That has to come first, which is why science must always be the servant of good philosophies and not bad ones–but it is always serving one or the other.

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    • Burk says:

      Hi, Darrell-

      Granted, that “science”, “god”, “the constitution” are only animated by people. So yes, the rhetoric of such usage is unhelpful, but the distinction is in reality small. The “Bible says” gambit is particularly lame, in light of its variety and obscurity.

      On the other topic, I think you read a little too much into the article. He was discussing facts- how to judge them from various authorities. Virtues are of those authorities- are they reliable, are they alt-right blogs, are they funded by an interested party? And so forth. That is not the same as claiming that the study of some gene is a figment of philosophy.

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      • Burk,

        Just one example will tell us the distinction is not small at all. At one time, “science” told us that African’s were biologically inferior to Europeans. There are plenty of more examples. We can never stress too often or too strongly, that it is a person, or group of people, who are telling us something and whether or not we should grant them any authority should be based more upon their virtues, their appeal to the good, the wise, and the beautiful than any other “fact” or finding they provide no matter if prefaced by “science says” or the Bible.

        As to the second point, it appears you are the one “reading into”…he mentions nothing about alt-right blogs or genes being a figment. Virtue epistemology, which I do know something about, does not focus upon things like reliability, or sources of funding, unless one can go further and point to something having in fact to do with virtues or morality as related to those areas. He notes: “These epistemic virtues, you will notice, are analogous to moral virtues. Just as morally sound actions, according to views like Aristotle’s, are instances of moral habits, such as courage and justice, true beliefs are grounded in certain epistemic tendencies.”

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      • Burk says:

        Hi, Darrell-

        Let me stick to the second point and virtue epistemology. The article cites superforecasters as having better cognitive practices, temperamental open-ness, etc. These are virtues in the sense that they promote the recognition of outside conditions over internal ideology / preconceived notions. I was expressing exactly the same thing with the examples of reliability, non-corruptness by way of funding from interested parties, etc. They all go into the hopper of figuring out whether one authority is better than another. We are really saying the same thing here, in that a source with moral authority due to good moral practices (on the intellectual plane) is more believable.

        It was you who gratuitously added “That has to come first, which is why science must always be the servant of good philosophies and not bad ones–but it is always serving one or the other.”

        It is not a service proposition, but a proposition about good intellectual practice. One can be building atom bombs, and have sterling intellectual virtues, rendering one’s work not only believable but empirically effective.

        But the whole virtue epistemology line of thinking seems to me to obfuscate the real issue, which is the truth criterion. If we take correspondence to reality as the criterion, as I do, then VE is merely a social quest for those people who have demonstrated better methods and track records for perceiving reality (=truth). One of those successful modes is, obviously, the scientific method in general. But that does not address the validity of any particular finding, for which we still have to attend to whom it came from, who funded it, whether they ran controls, enough samples, argued logically, etc. VE is only a part of the evaluation process, which ideally reaches the granularity of thoroughly understanding or even replicating the totality of the source’s claims, at which point their virtues are supeceeded by the detailed evaluation of the claim itself.

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  3. RonH says:

    Hi, Darrell…

    Re: the objectivity paper… Much of that was a bit technical for me, and probably went over my head. However, it seems to me that the point is to still attempt to rescue some notion of objectivity per se, which I think is a non-starter. Nietzsche argued that this horse had already left the barn a century ago, and my experience is consistent with that observation. The “synthetic, pluralist, pragmatist theory of objectivity” in that piece seems really more like a pragmatic inter-subjectivity that the author is just trying to dress up in objectivity’s old clothes. I think we should just accept inter-subjectivity for what she is, in her beautiful nudity. (HT: Herr Fred again) Inter-subjectivity (and thus the illusion which passes for objectivity) is only possible in the context of shared cultural narrative. Without that, it’s nonsense to talk about objectivity, because the fiction cannot be maintained. This is why you and Burk are in a constant state of spin, but never moving. 😉

    Coincidentally, this is at the heart of the New Atlantis piece. In our (Burk’s?) modern world, “science” is the One True Source of Objectivity. But even this is so much bullgeschichte. Even “science says” that most “science” is false. In response to the predicament posed by the New Atlantis article, what does Burk suggest? Well, first he recommends “gaining a granular understanding” of the subject under question. In other words, “become an expert yourself”, which we know isn’t feasible. Even if one becomes an expert in a given field (and how would one know?), it will be impossible to be an expert in very many others of equal significance to one’s life. His second suggestion is to “support better authorities”. But how is one to adjudicate between authorities? The more technical and complicated the subject, the less qualified one will be to assess the arguments made by competing authorities, and thus the less one will be able to determine which authority is most trustworthy. There are no “disinterested” experts. If you are an expert, you are very much interested.

    Ultimately, we’re all circulating around a definition of “objective” that essentially boils down to “that which would be true from a perspective encompassing all knowledge”. However, on naturalism there is no such perspective, and so the definition becomes meaningless. We can try to meld our various perspectives together, but as our shared cultural narrative becomes increasingly less shared, this will become progressively more difficult. (Witness the bizarre pockets of chaos ensuing because now “boy” and “girl” are concepts which have become entirely fluid and bereft of “objective” definition.)

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    • Ron,

      Thanks–those are good points. As to objectivity, I try and balance two ideas, and it really pertains to God (The Trinity) and all else. This God is not a subjective or imagined being. This God exists, objectively. If I did not exist, if the universe did not exist, this God still would. God is not my opinion, feeling, or mental creation. However, I experience and understand this God subjectively. I experience and understand myself and the rest of existence subjectively. There is no pure, objective, space in which to gaze. And our gaze, is always through some over-arching narrative, some philosophical frame-work that helps us make sense of what we see, hear, taste, touch, learn, and experience. We do this subjectively, but what we see, hear, taste, touch, and experience is “really” objectively “out” there, it exists. The reason we see and experience the world differently is because of these narratives. It is certainly more complicated than I describe here, and I don’t know if this helped, but I do think that balance is needed.

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      • RonH says:

        I don’t know what it means to say that God exists objectively if his existence can’t be compellingly demonstrated to someone else, say, like Burk. He’s not part of the physical world, and cannot be measured or observed directly. I understand that you mean that you think he would exist even if nothing else did. But, that’s just your perspective. So applying a term like “objective” to God makes sense within your frame of reference and to others who share that frame. But to anyone outside that frame (i.e. Burk) it’s meaningless. Worse, it complicates matters since someone outside that frame already has their own (different) idea of what is objective and what isn’t.

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  4. Burk,

    “It is not a service proposition, but a proposition about good intellectual practice…”

    You make my point. To talk about “good” intellectual practice is to speak philosophically first, it is to propose what is “good”, which is not a scientific or empirical question. All science, is value-laden, it is always being done from some philosophical frame. The only question is what is the philosophical frame or narrative, but such always comes first.

    “One can be building atom bombs, and have sterling intellectual virtues, rendering one’s work not only believable but empirically effective.”

    And one can have “sterling” intellectual virtues, empirical effectiveness, and still think it okay perhaps to use such weapons for unethical or immoral purposes. The writer means virtue as in moral, ethical, and principled aspects, not simply intellectually.

    “…at which point their virtues are supeceeded by the detailed evaluation of the claim itself.”

    And such is exactly what the writer is warning must not happen. Virtues are never superseded—they are only ignored.

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  5. Burk says:

    Hi, Ron-

    “Ultimately, we’re all circulating around a definition of “objective” that essentially boils down to “that which would be true from a perspective encompassing all knowledge”. However, on naturalism there is no such perspective, and so the definition becomes meaningless.”

    The criterion doesn’t imply that the universal perspective is real or exists, any more than it implies god. It is an abstraction and an ideal. Sure you can grasp that. Since there are many cases where the factuality of things is very down-to earth and understandable, the ideal is also not always so far-off. It only gets farther off the more obscure the subject is, and, especially, the more socially motivated the topic is.

    I think this is a clue that objectivity is not a mirage at all. The problem is that our socially and psychologically motivated thinking eventually overwhelms our ability to attend in disinterested ways to the more subtle facets of reality, and we end up thinking in ideological paradigms, not with the intellectual virtues of open-ness and honesty. The desire to dismiss objectivity altogether is one more gambit coming from the motivated thinker.

    Regarding science, it is an iterative process, which clearly gets us closer to objective truth- even if each unit thereof fails to hit the exact center of the target, and many are wide of the mark. The mark continues to be there as an ideal.

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    • RonH says:

      Hi, Burk…

      The criterion doesn’t imply that the universal perspective is real or exists, any more than it implies god. It is an abstraction and an ideal. Sure you can grasp that.

      First of all, lesson one in being winsome: Phrases like “Sure you can grasp that” sound obnoxiously condescending. Obnoxiously condescending != winsome.

      If the universal perspective isn’t real, then you can’t derive any truth value based on it. Saying “Proposition A is objectively true if it is true from a universal perspective” is all well and good, but unless you have access to that universal perspective you cannot know if A is true from it. To say it is an abstraction or ideal is handwaving. Abstractions are derived from that which is concrete — clearly not applicable here. And an ideal that is believed impossible to achieve is an irrational goal for which to strive.

      Since there are many cases where the factuality of things is very down-to earth and understandable…

      Only if a shared inter-subjective agreement already exists. Where it doesn’t, you simply cannot appeal to “objectivity”. You fail to appreciate the epistemological problem. Remember the Piraha?

      Your response boils down to “If everyone just looked at the world the way I do, we wouldn’t have all this disagreement over what is objective.” But that is trivial to the point of inanity. Anyone can make that statement. Your “open-ness and honesty” are only relative to views you’re a priori willing to tolerate. You, by virtue of your humanity, are yourself a “motivated thinker”; and your desire to dismiss the dismissal of objectivity is just one more gambit.

      Regarding science, it is an iterative process, which clearly gets us closer to objective truth

      And you know that how? I can only say I’m closer to a point if I know where that point is. Science is a social context by which one can secure agreement to claims one makes. But even in science, “everyone” has known things to be true before that in later generations “everyone” knew to be wrong. We have no idea what it is that we take as true now that won’t have been discarded as nonsense a thousand years from now. Deploying the term “objective” is a desperate attempt to claim certainty where one really has no right to.

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  6. Ron,

    “I don’t know what it means to say that God exists objectively if his existence can’t be compellingly demonstrated to someone else, say, like Burk. He’s not part of the physical world, and cannot be measured or observed directly.”

    Then you are telling us you don’t know what objectivity means outside an empirical frame of reference. The question would be then, can it mean something outside that philosophical frame of reference. I believe it can, and, I think, so do many theologians. Certainly, the post-modern ones, the Radical Orthodoxy people and many in those same streams, and Eastern Orthodox do.

    “I understand that you mean that you think he would exist even if nothing else did. But, that’s just your perspective.”

    Yes, that is correct, it is my perspective. But, it is not “just” my perspective. It could also be a true perspective—meaning true whether you agree with me or not. It might be the actual state of affairs, what really “is.” And, it may not be. Whether it is or isn’t, doesn’t make anyone’s perspective “just” their perspective. The reason we need to note a person’s assertions are a perspective (coming from a philosophical framework) is only when they are claiming their view is completely objective, neutral, not value laden, and purely based upon the “facts” and the “evidence”. Clearly I am not doing that. Otherwise, however, a person’s perspective is never “just” their perspective, because it could be true as noted already.

    “…So applying a term like “objective” to God makes sense within your frame of reference and to others who share that frame. But to anyone outside that frame (i.e. Burk) it’s meaningless…”

    No, I don’t think it is meaningless—I just think it is disagreed with. Just because someone, Burk, or whomever, disagrees with my perspective, doesn’t make it meaningless and it doesn’t mean they don’t understand what I am asserting.

    Burk knows I think God exists objectively and he knows I do not mean “objectively” in the sense of a physical object or force like any other that may exist or able to be detected or shown from other facts (dark matter for instance). Now, he doesn’t agree that such is possible, but that doesn’t mean what I assert is meaningless because he doesn’t share my perspective. He may think it meaningless, if you mean, he doesn’t think it true, but that would apply then all the way round. Just because I don’t believe atheism to be true doesn’t mean I think it meaningless. I actually think it very meaningful.

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    • RonH says:

      Darrell…

      Then you are telling us you don’t know what objectivity means outside an empirical frame of reference.

      Actually, I’m saying that I don’t know what “objectivity” means outside any shared frame of reference. If we share a Christian perspective, we can agree that God objectively exists. If by “objectively” we mean “others sharing our perspective will agree”, then the term is redundant.

      The question would be then, can it mean something outside that philosophical frame of reference. I believe it can, and, I think, so do many theologians.

      I don’t see how it can. Perhaps you could give me an example?

      Yes, that is correct, it is my perspective. But, it is not “just” my perspective. It could also be a true perspective—meaning true whether you agree with me or not.

      No… “true” is only meaningful relative to a perspective. Especially if by “true” you mean “corresponds to reality”. Because you only experience reality through your perspective.

      When I say it is “just” your perspective, I simply mean “in contrast to an omni-perspective”.

      The reason we need to note a person’s assertions are a perspective (coming from a philosophical framework) is only when they are claiming their view is completely objective

      But that’s what you’re claiming when you claim your perspective might be true whether I agree with you or not… 😉

      (BTW, I don’t know what it means to say a perspective is a “true” one. Propositions are true or false, relative to a perspective. I don’t know what it would mean for a perspective to hold truth value.)

      Now, [Burk] doesn’t agree that such is possible, but that doesn’t mean what I assert is meaningless because he doesn’t share my perspective.

      I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that, yes, as far as Burk is concerned what you are asserting is meaningless. Burk has called your claims nonsense more times than we can count. They aren’t nonsense to you, but they are to him — and this is my whole point about how this discussion about objectivity is a non-starter.

      Just because I don’t believe atheism to be true doesn’t mean I think it meaningless. I actually think it very meaningful.

      I don’t. I think atheism is utter nonsense. In GKC’s words, it is the thought that stops thought. I suspect that in the long run it will prove toxic to civilization.

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      • Ron,

        “Actually, I’m saying that I don’t know what “objectivity” means outside any shared frame of reference. If we share a Christian perspective, we can agree that God objectively exists. If by “objectively” we mean “others sharing our perspective will agree”, then the term is redundant.”

        I mean it exactly as I described it already. It may be the case my perspective is True, the actual state of affairs. Thus, it is true regardless of whether anyone shares my perspective or not.

        “I don’t see how it can. Perhaps you could give me an example?”

        Well, if you can’t see how it can, then you agree that “objective’ must be understood from an empirical frame or perspective. The example would be orthodox Christian theology. When we say God exists, we do not mean in a way that could be scientifically or empirically verified or proven.

        “No… “true” is only meaningful relative to a perspective. Especially if by “true” you mean “corresponds to reality”. Because you only experience reality through your perspective.”

        “True” or truth, is meaningful because it is true and for no other reason. And since I may be wrong, the other person’s perspective is also meaningful. Your take here would allow us to be completely blind or dismissive of anyone else’s perspective.

        “When I say it is “just” your perspective, I simply mean “in contrast to an omni-perspective”.”

        But I’m not claiming such a perspective. Regardless, because mine may be true, or some others, they are still meaningful, even if only from each’s perspective.

        “The reason we need to note a person’s assertions are a perspective (coming from a philosophical framework) is only when they are claiming their view is completely objective”-Darrell

        “But that’s what you’re claiming when you claim your perspective might be true whether I agree with you or not… ;-)”

        No, I’m noting that my perspective may be true, in the sense I already noted. To say that my view may be true is not the same as saying it is objective (in the sense of being neutral)—in fact the “may be” is the very negation of such an assertion. However, if my view is true, then it is objectively true. One must be able to navigate between those two poles, those two senses of objective.

        “(BTW, I don’t know what it means to say a perspective is a “true” one. Propositions are true or false, relative to a perspective. I don’t know what it would mean for a perspective to hold truth value.)”

        I disagree. If something is true, it is true regardless of perspective. As a Christian, you should know what it would mean for a perspective to hold a truth value. And you may say, but it would only be true from that Christian perspective, wherein I would counter, no, it would simply be true. Rather, we should say that only if one adopts, lives in and out of that narrative can they “see” and experience that same truth—but it is true regardless.

        “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that, yes, as far as Burk is concerned what you are asserting is meaningless. Burk has called your claims nonsense more times than we can count.”

        Again, disagreement or calling something nonsense doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand what I’m asserting or what I mean. It simply means he disagrees (with all the rhetorical flourishes).

        “I don’t. I think atheism is utter nonsense. In GKC’s words, it is the thought that stops thought. I suspect that in the long run it will prove toxic to civilization.”

        You are equating disagreement, and the position of each–that the other person’s view is nonsense, with the idea such is meaningless. Those are two different things. Anything that can be “toxic” to civilization cannot be meaningless.

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