Thursday, October 25, 2007

What is a lie to a pragmatist? (Cont. retrofit).


Pragmatists, idealists (at least some), mystics, and postmodernists generally assert that truth is not a matter of confirming some alleged facts, "out there", in an objective, empirically-knowable world. There are various differences between these groups, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to suggest that they uphold some version of William James' concept of pragmatism: that truth always has some relation to usefulness, whether that truth relates to the sciences, social sciences, humanities, etc. The pragmatist indeed prides himself on his ability to see "truth" as somewhat provisional.


Old-fashioned Truth


(However, the "is" means inclusion--class membership---and not equality (which would be bi-conditional) nor cause. I.e, "All prime numbers are included in the set of natural numbers." So it's a conditional, really (as Frege translated it, I believe). Moreover Aristotle's Square works dandy with modern predicate-logic as well, ala universal and existential quantifiers, or with summation signs for the I and O). The "syllogistic" then outlines the rules of inference for various forms created from this template. )

The Cash Value of Truth model has of course been criticized, and not without reason. While in some contexts--say medicine--utility would seem to be critical (--testing the functionality of a pharmaceutical, say)--in others, whether history or law, or various social sciences, any modifications of the actual facts to fit some ideology might conceivably result in highly unethical situations. Some naive AGW advocates, to take a contemporary instance, argue that while Gore's eco-movie, An Inconvenient Truth, may not be completely correct in terms of the science, good--or "awareness"-- will come out of the movie and Gore's celebrity Green status. GW Skeptics, including professional scientists, on the other hand allege that Gore not only manipulated and exaggerated the dangers, but in some cases made flat-out errors, as with the "hockey stick" chart of supposed rising temperatures.

(Traditional pragmatists such as James or Peirce would have unlikely agreed to that sort of deception, anyway: proceeding via Jamesian terms, the authentic pragmatist (or pragmaticist) would require experimental evidence (i.e. chem. lab) of CO2 substantially increasing radiation (heat) before giving his assent to the AGW hypothesis, and would probably not agree to mere GW "models" based on shaky inferential evidence regarding temperatures.)

Bertrand Russell noted a few potential problems entailed by "utopian pragmatism" in regards to John Dewey's philosophy of education. If the pragmatist's goal is to create a harmonious community, or even harmonious classroom, or "well-integrated self,"---or hip ecotopia--- then it would seem the pragmatist might "shape" facts (say historical, scientific, or economic facts, or even literary narratives) to fit his pedagogy--making the students see the world through rose-tinted glasses, more or less (or perhaps green-, or red tinted glasses, in green or marxist indoctrination centers). Various theologically-oriented pragmatists might do the same with religious texts: Paddy McMuffin might grant that he cannot verify Scripture, but he insists it's good for you, regardless.

Assuming the that "fact-shaping-process" (mendacity, in old-fashioned terms) resulted in a harmonious community and well-balanced individuals (or even a supremely efficient proletarian State), then pragmatists would grant, it would seem, that the right thing had been done. And other sorts of similar absurdities, possibly Orwellian, resulting from pragmatism (or any ideology where truth is solely a matter of functionality) across the board could be realized. The documented crimes against humanity of stalinism or fascism could be eliminated from history curriculums because they are too negative; or some eco-bureaucrats suppress scientific evidence disproving a politically-correct model of global warming because it's considered too threatening to their own eco-political vision. AS Russell realized, politics should never override historical or scientific facts, regardless of the visions of bureaucrat-pragmatists.

6 comments:

J said...

No obsession, McGoy: more like a concern with the real issues of AGW--like temp. data---instead of the eco-bureaucracy. You haven't scratched the surface of AGW.

You're obsessed with defending a piece of eco-propaganda like Gore's AIT, and you're obsessed with silly PC politics and bogus feel-good civics: you focus on the imagery of progressive politics instead of the actual problems.

As far as mental state, I am quite sure you and your little wannabe decadent pals are the mentally unbalanced and dangerous ones here: buttamotya's a shrieking little fool: come to think of it, so is AirbagWeed! (and the people on Watts' site thought so too): he even botched Categorical Syllogism 101. I am quite sure a psychologist pal or two of mine would agree.

Besides, anyone who buys season tickets to Bay Area Wopera is not likely too progressive. More like a sort of wannabe-Vichy (wiki 'er!).

Max said...

I don't have season tickets. I just bought cheap seats for a few shows and for the rest I go standing room ($10). Can't beat that. Nice way to unwind after work.

J said...

Alright McMax. We can pretend to be civil a bit, even though you let most of your palskis insult us now at will.

Lot's of Wopera fans on NW too! Apart from "Vlad" I doubt your few NW cronies have ever made it through one Wagner overture, or Mozart's Zauberflote, Verdi, even your fave Blackshirt musico Putacinni (one of Il Duce's faves too, from reports).

I read a bit about Glass in LA times. Not too into his new operatic stuff, though I enjoy some of the earlier instrumental music, but I think Steve Reich (his partner-in-crime for a while) quite a more talented composer, but I don't worship minimalism. That's sort of the antithesis of Wagnerian Sturm und Drang, or Mozartian complexity, or even say Zappa, good jazz, or rock. It's generally pretty dull, though Reich's best stuff rocks. I simply cannot take the operatic singing usually, even at best: and the women are typically worse than men. I like some of Verdi because he is usually melodically interesting: or the magic flute as well. Listening to Glass one hardly notes a melody--just sort of redundant, fairly simple themes.

Now here's an opera you should listen to: Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle. Musically wild, difficult, atonal but sometimes quite beautiful and strange. The singing interesting as well.

J said...

In other words, modern opera is mostly footnotes to Amadeus. Tho' Wagner doesn't do that too Mozartian melodic development too much: I don't think he could (nor does Bartok, except maybe in terms of great complexity--Bartok breaks with the tradition, nearly completely, even more than do say Debussy or Ravel).

Listening to some of The Ring (Gotterdammerung) one notes again Wagner's Disneyesque type of music, though with some powerful passages (such as the funeral march in Gotter.). Were he alive he'd be like writing scores for Lucas or Spielberg, probably.

Max said...

Listened to much Janacek? You know I can't talk intelligently about music, but I will say it's moody, complex, and somehow quite beautiful. I've seen three put on by SF Opera; Jenufa, Katya Kabanova, and The Cunning Little Vixen. The first was my favorite- gorgeous music and chilling drama. Centered around an old woman- sort of a village elder- who murders a baby and disposes of it in the winter ice. The corpse is discovered in the spring and the horrified mother somehow ends up forgiving the old lady. Wickedly powerful stuff.

J said...

I haven't heard Janacek's music. Really don't care for operatic singing (or much singing of any type---). Vocalists are to me on the low rung of the musical scale: that's from listening to too much jazz probably, or Bach, Chopin, Scriabin etc.


Having met a few vocalists, I find that they are mostly hustlers, bad actors, drama queens: even worse than the musicos (tho' musicians are a pretty scary species as well). Who needs the drama.

Pavarotti-type stuff pretty much nauseates me. Pav. reminds me of Mr. Creosote from "Meaning of Life." The Italian school generally offends more than the German. Late Wagner sounds pretty dread, but he still has quite a bit of schmaltz with the good stuff.

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