Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Conversation MUST Begin

I have been thinking about this subject off and on for over a decade now. The picture is of an American "neo" pragmatist philosopher that I believe gives us a way to begin an evolution in our communication that could save us from ourselves. His name is Richard Rorty. He died June, 2007.

Anyone that is paying attention has to see that currently we are STUCK. Our leaders cannot lead because both sides believe that they know the Truth and that the other side is clueless. I will also add that it is my belief that this problem is much more prevalent and we are suffering far greater consequences because of of this mind set with the far right (call it the Tea Party). Never in my wildest imaginings would I have ever believed I would see what I have seen the last few days: Tea Partiers and others from the extreme right actually celebrating the down grading of the USA and the market crash. They take (indeed celebrate) full credit for causing it. There is one Tea Party congressman that railed, after raising the debt ceiling settlement (in which John Boehner said he got 98% of what he wanted) who said "if we hadn't gotten our way we would have brought it all down." This is the stuff of horror flicks not patriots that care about the United States of America. Where and what would we be doing right now if that horrendous agreement had not been reached and he and his peers had followed through with their threat? Imagine a world in total chaos, not just us, that is what he said he was going to give us. Apparently somebody believed him.

Richard Rorty was a controversial thinker and, especially in academia, had his detractors. If you think about what he says he does take the wind out of the sails of many people that are convinced they have their heads wrapped around THE TRUTH.

I believe one statement of his truly sums up what he was about and why his philosophy could help us.

we see knowledge as a matter of conversation and of social practice, rather than as an attempt to mirror nature (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 1979)

In other words if we don't stop the DEBATE and begin a CONVERSATION we have no way out of the gridlock we are currently in. No one has this "mirror of nature" i.e THE TRUTH. If you truly believe that Michelle Bachmann talks to god and knows The Truth from those conversations then you MUST either open your mind to other views or remove yourself from the discourse. The vast majority of us do not accept this as reality. We have other world views and if we allow the Bachmann's to take over the discourse then we are in a world of hurt. In fact I would say that to some extent we already have and we most certainly are.  It is this closed-mindedness that has brought us here and it is going to take the opposite i.e. open-mindedness to get us out. 

Rorty wrote, in essence, that philosophers since Thales of Miletus (considered the first philosopher) through Socrates, Plato, Descartes, Hume, Foucault, etc, etc: The Philosophers, have produced their versions of capital T Truth. According to Rorty none of these or any of the other great minds that have attempted to reason Truth out of their limited vocabularies, knowledge, experiences, etc have ever produced anything that isn't basically trivial, that couldn't be worked out with as much validity by anyone.

A monumental example of this at work was what happened to academia in the 13th century when Thomas Aquinas declared Aristotle  THE TRUTH to end all other truths. This led to over three hundred years of Aristotelian Scholasticism as the only course of study allowed in western universities. All that was allowed was interpretation of Aristotle. Questioning was heresy and many were tortured and killed for doing so.

Any of you that have participated in debate know how it is done. You take a side, you don't even have to believe in it, then you make your case for why your side is the Truth. Like sports for physical fitness, this is great exercise for mental fitness. Debate however is more of a winner take all proposition, like football. If government is more interested in making sure that its side wins then who is looking out for the governed? It is a course for the collapse of a society when debate is used  as the form of communication by its government rather than some form of conversation. We are seeing the results of this right now. The Tea Party laid down its version of The Truth and said this is it. You will do things by our Truth or we will "bring it all down." Pick up any paper or watch any news program, even Fox, to see the results. Progressives have played their parts in this fiasco too, but the current mess is coming from the extreme right. 

I would strongly suggest giving Rorty some study. If his writings are difficult for you then find a synopsis that is understandable and get as far into his opinions as you can. We have to begin a conversation and RIGHT NOW!

For an example of what things may look like if we were to follow the writings of Rorty read the following:












30 comments:

  1. Butch,

    Another great post. Your writing on the current politcal situation matching my thinking, pretty much thought for thought. While I am sure that common sense has taken a backseat to political battles throughout history, the current US situation has to be a low point. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and I will be checking out Rorty.

    Best,

    Steve

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  4. All I have to say is that when the market rollar coasters like it is causing the foreign markets to get all nervous and the banks start raising the interest rates, my life is going to end up in a doublewide Good thing I have already downloaded every album ABB and Gregg Allman band and Gov't Mule have ever recorded to my ipod. At least me and my trailor park buddies will have some good music to listen to. (I'm Southern, ending a sentence in a preposition is the way we do it)

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  5. And to that Annonymous idiot spitting stupid, (wishing stupid was painful again)I feel the need to tell you about blog writing. I have one too. Blog writing is easing the clogged up brain on paper of the thoughts that race in your head. It is a way to ease the thought and move on. It is not for you as a reader to blast your opinions in the comment section. Or to sway others with your words or disagreements with the writer. It would be like you coming into his home and blasting him for his thoughts. So don't do it in the man's house. Did your mama not teach you manners? I say to your ranting and raving in the man's house of words...Bless your heart with a slight head twist and a bat of the blues in my most serious and sweet condemnation.

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  6. Wired, I gotta say you ain't nothin if you ain't interesting. Your comments started on one side and ended up doing a full 180. You nailed it with the article about the Koch Brothers getting enough people to vote against their own self interest to get the intransigence (and it is the
    Tea Party that is being intransigent) to protect the unheard of low tax rates for billionaires and tax credits for their oil and other companies. What I don't get is what one man needs with 21 BILLION dollars. It is beyond me. These guys already past infinite wealth long ago and they are still piling it on while the rest of us go down the tubes. Many doing their dirty work for them against their own interests. This IS the root of the problem.

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  7. Butch, it's a travesty that the billionaire Koch Brothers don't give back to this great country as it gave to them. Albert Einstein said it so well, "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile." They definitely are not living a life for others in the name of public service thats for sure. I understand the notion that they earned it and don't have to give any of their wealth to others but to give back is the right thing to do. Parting with some of their billions isn't going to set them back at all. But that's life in a Capitalistic greed fueled world. I mean look at the poor souls that get up every morning day after day for their entire lives working at a job that barely pays the bills. Those souls are the backbone of this great country and no matter how insignificant their jobs may seem to others with tremendous wealth. Their lives are truly worthwhile... Rock on!

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  9. Elvis, What is really aggravating is that, for the most part, the Koch Brothers never EARNED diddly. They inherited it. Somehow it seems that those that actually do build something and earn it, like Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, etc are more likely to be ready to be a part of and help the society that makes their wealth and all of its perks possible. Its the second and third generation that grew up with the full belief that they are superior to the rest of us and what's theirs is theirs and they owe nothing to anybody for the system that provides so much for them that are driving the current DEBATE. I had to move off of Palm Beach because of this.It was just a matter of time before I punched out one of those smug "nose in the air" pricks. Especially the secretaries and flight attendants that marry the super rich. They can be unbearable.

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  11. Worth reading:

    The Road to 9/11
    Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America
    Peter Dale Scott (Author)

    also: www.peterdalescott.net/q.html

    He substantiates, writes intelligently knowledgably and objectively. But yes, you have to stand with your feet in the real world. Or willing to get there at last.

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  12. If we have to discuss how some of the so-called super rich (erm, I recall someone starting off on his blog with a superfluous "I am one of the top 1 % :-)) got to their money we end up as human jars of vinegar and may well be discussing until next week 24/7 starting with all of the people in Congress down to the Forbes list people. Come on folks. And to blame people from wealthy families from inheriting is well, petty.

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  13. Abigail, my response was simply to the statement about the Koch Brothers that "they earned it." I used some personal data to fill out my position. There was no "blame" involved at all simply trying to get the semantics right.

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  14. As to the "I am in the top 1%" That is everyone that earns more than $250,000 per year. The Billionaires are well above that plateau.

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  15. I have become very pessimistic about the future, and I am starting to believe that we are in the barrel that just got past the point of no return and Niagra Falls is looming in front of us. It is disappointing that we have become so far apart about what needs to be done to fix these problems. I don't see how it will get any better either because the two sides are digging in even more. I also find the underlying threats of violence (i.e crosshairs on congressional districts) acceptable in political discourse. The last time that happended was in 1858 and we all know where that lead. I really hope we are not witnessing the end of the United States as we know it.

    Brian

    ps= sorry I mispelled Berry's name in my last comment

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  16. Yikes bad typo. I meant to say "unacceptable".I need to start prooferreedering these.


    Brian

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  18. @Butch: Touche (add the accent aigu yourself; by the time I find it on my laptop it's morning here (Europe) and it's not even midnight now).

    BTW Did you get to read the post I for some reason (it almost happened with my former post about Peter Dale Scott again (!) on Duane? I sent it to noreply@blogger.com instead. No idea whether that works.

    Thanks for the Rorty reminder.

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  19. OK no one has to remind me I forgot at least nine words. Between the word "post" (second paragraph) and "I", add: I did not get to post for some reason,

    Yes, I did go to school and even got some degrees. Go figure...

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  20. My husband reminds me that the Roman Empire crumbled from within. Thales (we looked him up) was the first thinker who attributed nature to reason rather than the whims of the gods. He was the father of science and a mathematician. He needs better PR.

    Reality is rarely black and white. Everyday I meet someone who cannot or will not think outside their little box whether it is politics or common sense. Religion gives us our ethics without us having to think about it. It's right or it is wrong, no" let's look at the circumstances." If it's on TV, talk radio or the internet, it must be true and we don't have to waste any time really thinking about it. Our elected officials are elected by a small portion of the eligible voters which is a whole other problem.

    We are lazy, both sides. Yes, the Tea Party is vocal and committed but listen to the rhetoric. No deviation from the TRUTH. No looking up facts, just repeat what you have heard and with anger. Bullying works.

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  21. "we see knowledge as a matter of conversation and of social practice, rather than as an attempt to mirror nature (Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, 1979)"

    Butch, that quote says so much about how it should be working for us, unfortunately we have regressed back to ideologies that pit man against nature, as we are above it's templates...(just read what the Fl TeaParty had to say recently about restrictive use of vessels within the Kings Bay Manatee preserve area, their dialog on these issues is antiquated and regressive)

    I think Rorty also hits the same note as biologist E.O. Wilson does in his 'Web of life' theories on how natural order seems to evolve and progress on this planet, which has now developed into a recent school of science called 'systems biology' which, although certainly does not discard Darwin, but gives his general theory much less shelf space in theoretical evolution, and delves further into plant and animal symbiotic relationships, seeking out the less obvious connections that exist, that keep us all tied together in several forms of mutualism, or assured survival.

    As usual, great post and ideas, keep posting the positive...eventually it may sink in. Also, thanks for posting Rorty, will check him out, Perhaps he should have been conversing with biologist rather then philosophers...

    Ben Merc

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  22. Ben, It's ironic that you should use Darwin in your discussion of Rorty. Rorty's views on "Naturalism" are very strongly influenced by Dewey and Darwin. "In Rorty's view, both Dewey's pragmatism and Darwinism encourage us to see vocabularies as tools, to be assessed in terms of the particular purposes they may serve. Our vocabularies, Rorty suggests, "have no more of a representational relation to an intrinsic nature of things than does the anteater's snout or the bowerbird's skill at weaving." (TP 48) I think this is quite self explanatory and does not require any unpacking from me. I am not familiar with E.O. Wilson but I will be as soon as I finish off Joyce. (seems this exercise in reading Ulysses has put me in a pretty deep hole. I have so much to read once I close that book. Only about 100 pages left, maybe today). I did find a passage from Rorty that does seems to support your conjecture that his philosophy could have some things in common with "systems biology.": "Is to be the kind of antiessentialist who, like Dewey, sees no breaks in the hierarchy of increasingly complex adjustments to novel stimulation—the hierarchy which has amoeba adjusting themselves to changed water temperature at the bottom, bees dancing and chess players check-mating in the middle, and people fomenting scientific, artistic, and political revolutions at the top." (ORT 109) I know this is totally not on the subject, but I do LOVE that last bit: "people fomenting scientific, artistic, and political revolutions at the top." Get ready folks, FDR knew what he was doing when he created "The New Deal." If the people at the bottom feel disenfranchised they will revolt. The way I see it the Republicans are in the process of totally disenfranchising not just the bottom, but also what was for decades known as the middle. Been watching England the last few weeks? We're taking the same measures that did England that created a disenfranchisement at the bottom and the are very pissed off. We are next. Wow, give me a soap box and I'll say anything. Thanks Ben, for your info and observations. Very astute.

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  23. Butch, Rorty appears rather expanded far beyond just behavioral and communicative discussion, if he is a prolific writer, do you have any titles you could recommend? My reading time is limited these days. Also want to point out some generalizations of what I stated about 'systems biology'...recent being latter half of the 20th century, and that E.O. Wilson is but one of many evolutionary biologists and ecologists of that school (in my perspective). It's all good, not to mention that many great thinkers of the past embraced similar notions back to the Greeks, including a French biologist (forgot his name) prior to Darwin (the Frenchmen's work was drummed out of western academia until resurfacing in the 1950's, or there abouts). Also, least we forget many tribal societies who organically interpreted and applied these insights into the web of their existence. So much to read, so little time...

    Ben Merc

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  24. Ben, Would that be George Cuvier?

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  25. No, but Cuvier was an early on paleontologist with evolutionary type theories...
    (unfortunately he integrated some aspects of his science with his religion). I just remembered the book I read, 'The biology of Belief' by Bruce H. Lipton, a research cell biologist...the early evolutionist I learned of was Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, who Lipton considers the first scientist to establish evolution as a scientific fact, with a leaning towards a more systems biology, 50 years prior to Darwin's 'The Origins of Species'.

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  26. (unfortunately he integrated some aspects of his science with his religion)

    What I meant to say was: "unfortunately he integrated some aspects of his religion with his science"

    slight difference I suppose.

    Ben

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  27. I know this sounds like I'm trying to show off something, but De Lamarck was who I was going to suggest first. Cuvier just seemed to fit your description better. Hell, back then religion ALWAYS got in the way. Familiar with Blaise Pascal? I think it was Voltaire who said something like the single worse thing Christianity has done is what it did to Pascal.

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  28. Had known of systems biology for a while, but I had not heard of Lamarck until I read Lipton, so I have some reading there. All I know of Pascal is the basics...he was early on, just a generation or two beyond Galileo, and another mathamatician. Pascal, like some of the early enlightenment thinkers, (as did Galileo) bucked the Aristotelian Scholasticism you mention in your post. Those men had to deal with the Catholic church, and it usually was not in their favor. The reformations of north Europe helped change all that for awhile, at least until a new order of hierarchical control developed. The only true atheist I can recall is Tom Paine where he flat out denies all religion a place in the 'Age of Reason' he had even gotten thrown out of France after it stabilized and the church had reestablished it's self, it was only Jefferson who took him in at the end. I used to laugh my ass of when Glen Beck was quoting Paine for a while (we should laugh when he quotes Jefferson too)...until someone wised up and evidently changed his teleprompter...I guess Glen missed several chapters of Paine's major works during his reading. Have you come up with a best of Rorty?

    Ben

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  29. "Hell, back then religion ALWAYS got in the way"


    Not that it is slacking these days either...

    Ben

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  30. What do you guys think billionaires do with their money? Put it in their mattress(es)? If they are billionaires, then chances are good that they are smart people who know how to manage their money. So it's used in investments to run corporations or by banks to make loans or bonds to run governments at all levels. Things that if they went away, we would all feel the pain.

    I don't get the Koch brothers bashing. If someone in the media had not pointed out that these guys make political donations to right wing causes, we would never know a thing about them. And everyone acts like experts. They are so sure that what these guys are doing is bad for America. And not a word about Soros who is attributed with manipulating the British pound. Is Soros ignored because he supports left wing causes? Come on folks. If you want an honest debate, you need to be honest with yourself.

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