Bill M.
bmeacham
Austin, TX
Post #: 112
I have posted "Is God Irish?" in the Files section of this meetup site. Click More, then Files. Here is a direct link: http://files.meetup.com/119694/IsGodIrish_Issue92_PhilosophyNow.pdf­.
gary
catalunya
Austin, TX
Post #: 6
I just re-read something I wrote earlier, in response to Bill, and I want to clarify. I wrote:

<"Blorg" might even include actions that benefit blacks, like equal opportunity employment and racial quotas in university admissions. There is an opinion that, on the whole, "blorg" was very bad for blacks. The existence of the opinion is a social reality, but its assertion is not. There is currently a consensus that this opinion is right. To the extent that we can measure the consensus, that's a social reality. Such a consensus may not have existed a hundred years ago.>

In trying to make a specific point, I failed to make it, and created a false impression instead. I said that the opinion (that discrimination was bad) is a social reality, but not its assertion. This is not what I believe. To continue the already-tired metaphor, the effects of discrimination most definitely "kick back", and any black person can tell you that.

The effects of racial discrimination on blacks are obviously bad. But that fact does not depend on the current consensus opinion. A hundred or more years ago, the consensus - even outside the south - was that blacks were now free, and if discrimination existed, it was "only" in the south, and probably all for the best, except for occasional excesses like lynchings.

Blacks had a different experience, and a different (minority) consensus.

The previous statement is a fact and a social reality - but it is not a social reality experienced by most people in the United States at the time. Its reality is objective, and doesn't depend on consensus; but the then-consensus determined whether or not the majority accepted it as fact.

Herein lies the point. Consensus reflects an aggregate opinion, or theory, about what are facts - but, especially when it comes to social issues, we play endless games in order to hang on to our beliefs without feeling smeared by the pejorative connotations of certain words. We may dispute whether or not a certain cluster of words is "true" - describes something "real" - while at a deeper level, we contemplate much the same thing. In recent decades, this has led to the conclusion by post-modernists that reality is only consensus, and merely constructed by words. I don't suggest that Bill or Guy mean this, but I'm sensitized to the issue. I think a lot of time has been wasted, and a lot of mediocre thinking taken seriously, in the attempt to make everything real by denying realism.
a.m.
user 11085356
Austin, TX
Post #: 48
" In recent decades, this has led to the conclusion by post-modernists that reality is only consensus, and merely constructed by words."modern
Is this correct? It's my understanding that postmodernism is primarily a rejection of structuralism which uses formulas and abstract theories to understand or explain human behavior and art. Economic theories like "prisoner's dilemma" is a good example of structuralist application. Post modernism does claim, if I understand it correctly, that identities are and perceptions are deeply influenced by societal norms and cultural experiences.
Bill and Guy seem to make huge metaphysical claims which I don't have the emotional energy to respond to. A very good book on how modern ideas and pragmatism developed in 20th century America is Louis Menand's "Metaphysical Club." What I want to know is how anti-intellectualism took over after WWII and libertarianism is now the norm.
gary
catalunya
Austin, TX
Post #: 8
I'm not an expert, so maybe I'm talking out of school (so to speak). But from what I've read, I have the strong impression that "post-modernism" is a catchall term that describes a lot of things, some of which are benign, and even interesting. But by the end of the twentieth century, what started as critiques of science (aka "structuralism") degenerated into an incoherent mess. People were writing utter nonsense and calling it deconstruction. Worse yet, they were liberally peppering everything with irrelevant scientific jargon and barely-literate claims about quantum mechanics.

This all came to a boil in 1996 when physicist Alan Sokal published an article in a well-regarded American cultural studies journal, Social Text. The article was called "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformational Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". The publishers fell all over themselves in their haste to print a special edition, with this article as centerpiece. The rest of the issue was devoted to refuting criticisms of postmodernism by scientists.

The only problem was, the article was a hoax. A deliberate parody of all the worst features of postmodernist writing, intentionally designed to be as devoid of meaning as humanly possible, utter gibberish. Needless to say, many, many academic egos were very publicly punctured. After an initial backlash, these voices began to fade away. Pomo-speak is no longer in fashion, or at least, it's no longer dominant.

I'm summarizing from the introduction to "Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science", by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. One student wrote to Sokal that "the money he had earned to finance his studies had been spent on the clothes of an emperor who, as in the fable, was naked."
Kim
user 7355689
Austin, TX
Post #: 588
" It's my understanding that postmodernism is primarily a rejection of structuralism which uses formulas and abstract theories to understand or explain human behavior and art.

My understanding of postmodernism is the rejection of the grand narrative that is typical of modernism which privileges a linear monolithic perspective. All constructed realities ("gender" and "race" are both constructs as are many other concepts on which people base their assumptions about the world) can be "deconstructed" so that the perspective of the monolithic grand narrative can be replaced with many alternative perspectives-- feminist, Marxist, New Criticism, post-colonialist, etc. -- and, as such, postmodernism is necessarily polyphonic and non-linear. I don't really know how this applies to the development of anti-intellectualism or libertarianism, however, since anti-intellectualism sounds to me like an intellectual reaction, much like Dadaism, Surrealism, stream of consciousness, etc.
gary
catalunya
Austin, TX
Post #: 9
Precisely!
Gene R.
user 10589442
Austin, TX
Post #: 198

In trying to make a specific point, I failed to make it, and created a false impression instead. I said that the opinion (that discrimination was bad) is a social reality, but not its assertion. This is not what I believe. To continue the already-tired metaphor, the effects of discrimination most definitely "kick back", and any black person can tell you that.

The effects of racial discrimination on blacks are obviously bad. But that fact does not depend on the current consensus opinion.
Hmm… I thought Gary’s original reasoning on this subject was fairly clear and sound. Maybe I misunderstood it then? I have more problems with this new version. Maybe instead of talking about “social reality” we can employ the distinction between descriptive and normative propositions?

“American blacks have been subjects of racial discrimination” – would be a descriptive one. It is true or false by virtue of its correspondence to the facts in the world. To determine its truth value we would need to introduce some definitions, of course, such as what counts as discrimination. But otherwise it’s a pretty straightforward thing.

“The effects of racial discrimination on blacks are obviously bad” is a normative proposition. Whether or not it corresponds to anything in the world is a subject of controversy. Taking the anti-realist position, I don’t think there are moral facts, and thus nothing for this proposition to correspond to in the world. It’s a statement of value, not of fact. Moral realists and religionists would think otherwise, of course.

But it is pretty obvious that “the effects… are bad” is not obvious to everyone. Certainly not to a dude named Scott Terry https://santitafarell...­
And I’m afraid he’s not exactly alone in holding this opinion.

But “A majority of educated people in the US think that the effects of racial discrimination on blacks are obviously bad” is uncontroversially descriptive. Also hopefully true.

Guy J
lifetoward
Austin, TX
Post #: 9
Wow, this entire discussion was going on completely without my awareness until now. That's another problem with the discussion boards, I guess. I suppose I must expressly "track" even the discussion I started myself??!!

Most people had a problem with my post in its questionable claim that reality exists by a sort of "consensus of experience". I'll try to respond to the comments on this particular issue somewhat in aggregate.

For an important clarification: I do believe that an "objective reality" exists in a way, so I'm not an ultra relativist as my wording about consensus might suggest. For example, if a tree falls in the forest and no human whatsoever observes its falling, it still fell in my opinion.

However, its having fallen is not part of any human's sense of "reality" until its fallen state is discovered by one. Thus please note that "our reality" should perhaps have been better worded as "the unique individual sense of a common reality which any one person has"... only exists by a sort of consensus...

This may still not make sense so let me share briefly about micro- and macro-cosms: My understanding of reality as relates to humans is that there's a common reality of which we are all integral parts, and then there's the "reality I know" which is strictly not the same as that common reality. The first is the macrocosm, while the second is the microcosm. The microcosm is only a local model of reality, one which is inferred and understood by a person and only by a "consensus of experience". This consensus is not only social, as it includes a consensus among my own experiences as well as cross referencing through language and other means the experiences of others.

Trouble is, we can only ever contemplate or even experience the microcosm because it is the only reality to which we have mental or conscious access. No one can directly contemplate the macrocosm, except "God". (Ask me sometime what I mean by God here. I hope its common understanding is adequate to this topic for now. If you're an atheist, don't be put off!)

So if you put the focus of the phrase on the word "our" in "our reality exists only..." then I hope that satisfies many of your objections to the assertion itself. ie. "Each person's own personal microcosmic understanding of reality exists by a sort of consensus of experience."

To me a central problem of the human condition is this confinement to a microcosm which is a mere image of the macrocosm which we hope to affect to our advantage. The microcosm is a mental model of the reality we hope to know. That model is necessarily incomplete, and often contains errors. It is "theory laden", built from a complex chain of inferences and assumptions, any of which could fall to various fallacies. It is also deeply intertwined with "imaginations", which, while sourced from our experience at some level, are easily imagined with enough abstraction that they can be so drastically wrong (failing to duly represent the macrocosm) as to be lethal.

Thus it is central to being human that we continually refine our personal microcosms to better account for what we learn from new input from the macrocosm which we're attempting to model. We have a deep sense that the macrocosm is "where it's at", or more importantly "where we're at". We know deeply that we must succeed as a whole being within that macrocosm or risk ceasing being at all. This is why we like the scientific method, cross checking others opinions, etc. We're trying to maintain the best functional models we can of the nest of our own existences. But it's a very tough job, yet one for which the human mind is well-suited and amazingly capable, but still one which is necessarily and fundamentally larger than any being except God itself could ever hope to perfect with complete fidelity or accuracy.
Guy J
lifetoward
Austin, TX
Post #: 10
Gene wrote:
They are pregnant with possibilities and thus also prompt numerous questions: Relevant for what? Accessible to whom? Meaningful in what sense? I see no special properties of determinism that uniquely qualify it to be the sole candidate for that sentence. Perhaps it is just one specific application of a general principle and instead of “determinism” one can plug in “external world”, or “other minds” or “ truth”? Or even “unicorns” and “flying hamburgers”? Can someone (Guy himself perhaps) decipher this material?

Very appropriate questions Gene!

"Relevant for what?": Functional purposes, ie. getting by as a human being in the world, succeeding at persisting.

"Accessible to whom?": This question is perhaps most germaine of all; accessible only to the mind which holds the model. And just as important, this is the only reality which that mind can access.

"Meaningful in what sense?": To know that from God's perspective all choices are pre-ordained does nothing to help me decide what to do as I live my life. Thus for me determinism is merely the conclusion of an academic exercise which does not have meaning in my life of being a human.

And yes, I agree, all kinds of academic exercises or inferences or theories could be substituted for determinism in the same way. But I think some theories are more useful and functional than others, which are mostly academic and satisfy mere curiosity rather than meaningful use.

Thus I was just saying, If determinism is true, it doesn't matter at all to me, as I still must make decisions as if it weren't true.

Stanislaw Lem's book "A Perfect Vacuum" includes a short called "Non Serviam" which I think illustrates this and other points very well. It's included in the compilation "The Mind's I" by Hofstadter & Dennett.
Guy J
lifetoward
Austin, TX
Post #: 12
A few more thoughts:

No consciousness has access to objective reality. In fact, even though I've been using the term for conventional reasons, there is no objective reality, because objective implies that an observer can stand outside of it and contemplate it as an other. This does not appear to be a valid perspective in any real sense, again, except as "God". God can hold that position because by definition, God does not exist in reality.

What we hope to understand is the shared or common reality of which we are all part, ie. the macrocosm.

Which gets to the issue Bill brought up and others commented on regarding the logical proof or disproof of God. For me, God is by very definition and natural derivation:

  • That which cannot exist in reality
  • That which stands outside of all that is, and therefore holds the only universally objective perspective
  • That which we cannot ever possibly be, specifically in that we see ourselves as real beings
  • The full encompassment of what IS, a flip side view of "that which cannot be", ie. exactly everything that exists
  • A naturally occurring idea stemming from the normal function of human thought
  • An idea which matters to humans specifically by filling its defined role, often an important structural facet of the microcosm
  • Readily anthropomorphized for good functional reasons

Thus for me, God cannot be logically addressed as a real thing (being outside common reality), but this does not strictly mean it does not exist. God very obviously exists, but no more than other abstract human concepts exist. God matters. God can even be reasonably defined and once defined, easily deduced to be known to "be", and commonly understood.

But then God is used for political means, and while this is just as natural a function as its other functions, it's the one that gives us the most problems. Everyone hopes to claim God's perspective as his own and assert it over others' "smaller" perspectives. That's just politics and pure bunk, but the confusion about the nature of God's reality sure does give this play legs.

Note that we are saying that consensus would agree that "God exists". However, in no way can this form of existence be proven using real means. The reason there's consensus about this unreal thing is because the concept appears to be naturally occurring in some form which, on comparison across microcosms, holds with some consistency.

Thus in view of my definition that microcosmic reality is derived through consensus, both internal and social consensus validate the existence of God even though science never will. Thus God is conventionally considered real to human minds (taken as microcosmic common fact) though not observable empirically in the macrocosm. To me there's nothing wrong with this situation or with God. One just must understand the nature of the concept to be able to accept it freely and even employ it to some value.

It's worth noting that the God concept is derived from high levels of mental function, not low levels like we tend to associate with perception and empirical data. God is in this way a spiritual concept. There are many spiritual concepts which folks hold to be real (validated even by overwhelming social consensus) even if their basis is too abstract to tie back through a chain of sharable proof. Meanwhile hardcore atheists might assert that there are no real spiritual things, while hardcore deists will take spiritual concepts as not only real but empirical and even axiomatic.
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