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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

That Contradiction at the Heart of My Position... Well, That's My Whole Point!

I am going to rehearse a "tired old argument" one more time, because those it is directed at, when shown that their view is self-contradictory, somehow think the response "Well, that's the whole point!" relieves them of any obligation to clear up the contradiction.

Brad Rorty-Kuehn claims "All human knowledge is just heuristic guesses!"

Joe Reason responds, "So that claim you just made... that is just a guess as well?"

"Of course it is!"

"So if I told you I have access to some objective truths, you would regard that as quite possible, correct?"

"No way! You are deluded! All human knowledge is just heuristic guesses!"

"OK, but a minute ago you told me that proposition itself is just a guess."

"Of course it is!"

"Well, then, how can you think you can defeat my claim to know some objective truths with a guess that I can't know any?! I mean, I can see you being skeptical about my claim, but you seem absolutely certain that I am wrong."

"Of course I am! You are deluded!"

"So, let me get this straight: your guess that no one has access to objective truth somehow gives you absolutely certainty that I have no such access?"

"That's the whole point!"

Yes, this is tiresome, but not for the reason Daniel thinks.

6 comments:

  1. re: ""So if I told you I have access to some objective truths, you would regard that as quite possible, correct?"

    "No way! You are deluded! All human knowledge is just heuristic guesses!""


    So my response would be "I don't believe what you are claiming, but not because I think there is some inherent reason why that's impossible - just because everything I've come across suggests it's not true in your case, and maybe even because it gives a strong indication that it's not possible."

    I can't say whether Rorty would entirely agree with my response... he may strengthen that final clause of mine... but I see no reason to make waves amongst friends over that point. I can't imagine how we'd be able to arbitrate between that last clause and a stronger version of that last clause, or what difference it would make.

    If you substitute in my actual answer for your guess at my answer it all becomes a lot less tiresome!

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    1. But this is only your "actual answer" when backed into a corner! NOW, you admit you are merely guessing that I have no such access to objective truth: maybe I do, but you doubt it!

      But that is not at all the attitude found in a sentence like "DeLong and I KNOW we are just guessing," which implies you are certain of that, and (pretty) certain I am deluded. And DeLong quite explicitly said Nagel and I were deluded: Wow, if I just had a GUESS that it would rain tomorrow, and someone else says, "No, I believe it will be sunny," I certainly would not leap to the conclusion he is deluded!

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    2. Of course it's not my actual answer when backed into a corner.

      What do you mean "NOW you admit you are merely guessing". Isn't that what I said all along?

      If I have an epistemology saturated with subjectivity and heuristics and I say a phrase like "I know" why would you interpret that phrase "I know" with your epistemology saturated objective truth?

      Yes, if I made my statements with your epistemology, my statements would sound a little crazy, I agree.

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    3. "If... I say a phrase like "I know" why would you interpret that phrase..."

      Using ordinary English meanings? That's what I speak?

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  2. The nice thing about saying things like: "we call claims that prove useful 'true'" compared to: "truth is when claims correspond to objective reality" is (1.) that the latter claim probably doesn't contradict the prior claim if we ever had access to objective reality, (2.) the former claim seems to reflect how we actually go about calling things "true".

    You apparently disagree with my first "nice thing" and haven't really addressed the second one, which I think is probably important when we talk about real life rationalists and real life pragmatists.

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    Replies
    1. Well, Daniel, recall I am an idealist, so I don't have no truck with no correspondence theory of truth neither. Pragmatism and realism are not the only games in town!

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