Looking back on these recent posts and my discusion with a couple of people, I realize that we have drifted fairly far afield from where we really began. I find these to be interesting issues and I get wrapped up in discussions of them. Philosophers like Derrida and Foucault are remarkably brillant and I think that anyone who has a deep interest in contemporary thought will surely find them compelling even if they don't agree with them. However, one of the things that can be aggravating about them is that if you look at their work carefully it mostly consists of deconstructing or exposing the ideological nature of other ideas and other philosophic constructs. They are usually very careful to avoid the kind of discussion in which I have been engaged. They don't make grand, positive claims. Rather, they talk about how ideology works, the problems of epistemology, and the inherent inconsistencies of systems. I think in the end every system of thought will be subject to the problems raised by Godel's incompleteness theorem, the implications of which (in this context) is that any theory will be either consistent and incomplete or complete and inconsistent. Men like Derrida avoid this problem to a degree by never really developing theories or systems of thought.
In my discussions I have not avoided this problem simply because I have made positive claims and not just demonstrated the problems with, say, rationalism or scientism etc. But I think that there is an honesty in this process. Many modern philosophers have very effectively demonstrated the problems with meta-theories, and with rationalism and its corollary systems of thought. But I think, to a degree, it is beholden upon us to be more explicit with he implications of these deconstruction processes even if it will result in the exposure of certain problems and inconsistencies. You see, unlike rationalism or scientific thought, a more post-modern outlook does not make claims to objectivism, complete internal consistency, or any such rigours completeness (which is impossible for any process of thought anyway).
But where all this started on this blog was at a very simple spot that is connected to the work of David Hume. Hume demonstrated a very simple tenet that one cannot derive an 'ought' from an 'is.' And since Hume, no philosopher has been successful in demonstrating that he is wrong. In simple terms I was just saying that no matter what you say about how the universe 'is,' that cannot tell us how we 'ought' to act. It is a very simple issue that I believe many people don't understand. How we think we 'ought' to act is based upon a whole set of ethical and normative assumptions and judgements. Even if we assume that science can demonstrate that if we don't change our behaviour, global warming will kill us all, that doesn't tell us how we 'ought' act. One can only say that we 'ought' to act to save the environment or ourselves if one assumes that this is normatively or ethically desirable. One can fairly easily demonstrate that if you take a large dose of cyanide you will die. But that doesn't tell you how you 'ought' to act. After all, your intention may be suicide, in which case the cyanide is a pretty good, if momentarily painful, idea. It all comes down to this fairly simple forumla, no matter what you discover about the world, this information will not tell you how you should act. Rather, it is your a priori assumptions that will tell you how to act. You may adjust your assumptions based on newly discovered information, but you can still reject any course of action based entirely on what you think is 'right.' (Now, one may be a determinist and claim that this freedom to 'choose' is all a delusion and that all it is all pre-determined. However, since one cannot, in the final analysis, prove this case either way (and I don't think you could ever really 'prove' such a claim), and since we appear to have a free-will, and the proof of determinism would not change our lived experience, then one might as well assume that free-will is real. If you assume determinism is real and fee-will a delusion, this information will not change your behaviour anyway.)
Thus, it all started here. People shouldn't get me wrong; even if I believe that rationalism and science are largely ideologically filtered, I still think such processes are an inevitable and necessary part of our lives. Many sciences work very effectively in our daily lives and though they are limited, they operate the way they are supposed to. And even if there is a huge ideological element, science will help to inform our decisions. But in the end, we will, and we must, act according to what we think is 'right' not according to what we think is simply rational or even inevitable. We dont' have to save the world if we don't want to. We can keep polluting like crazy and destroy everything if we want. Destruction is easy. You can tell people all you want that if they don't adjust their behaviour, disaster will be the result. So what? Unless they share your ethical assumptions they might just reject your pleas and continue to act the way they want. This was the whole point of Kierkegaard's critic of Hegel - you can develop any system of thought you want but you still have to deal with your lived experience. And this has been central to my critique of much contemporary thought. In many areas of society (and politics in particular) people have attempted to create the illusion that we are compelled to act in certain ways because a bunch of technocrates tell us that we must. Nonsense. We need a vigorous public sphere to debate the questions of what is right or wrong, what is desirable or undesirable. Without a doubt, even if there are huge flaws in various mechanisms of 'fact-finding,' we need to hold on to them to a degree. I think we should keep the census for example. But only because I think we should use the inform that it provides to attempt to create a more just economy and to give a voice to people who lack a voice. But the Conservative don't really care about a just economy or the voices of the marginalized, so no matter what I say to them about the facts, it will matter little. In other words, even if the census tells us how the economy 'is,' it cannot tell us that we "ought" to have a more equitable one.
Anyway, once again I have rambled on. I just thought it was important to go back to where we started and clarify a bit.
1 week ago