Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE)
Dr. Jon Borowicz.
HU430-002 Epistemology – Fall 2005
October 28, 2005
Table of Contents
Table of Contents. 2
Terminology Concepts. 4
Thesis Part I Discourse. 5
Thesis Part II Discourse. 7
Is Science Rational 10
This paper discusses whether the Richard Rorty article titled: XI.4 Dismantling Truth: Solidarity Versus Objectivity aliens properly the true, genuine, real or sincere. His thesis wants to redefine the meaning of concepts like truth, belief, and reality in order to cause a revolutionary paradigm shifting to satisfy pragmatist [post-modernist] goals and aims using an evolutionary dishonest methodology and the tools of rhetorical persuasion. This indicates the evolutionary model of “change by definition”. The intention is to do away with the conflicting Christian worldview and all other worldviews in favor of State-ism and/or in favor of the terminology “better for us to believe”, as defined by the pragmatist ethnocentric solidarity; more clearly stated as the pragmatist determines what is “better”. The ideas shrouded in elitist highfalutin misdirecting language replete with innuendo, indignation and intolerance and yet he acknowledges this as the “fuzzies” metaphor.
This paper will attempt to unravel some of this milieu and make some sense out of it by terminology concept evaluation, Part I discourse, Part II discourse, followed by conclusive remarks.
The pragmatist ethnocentric solidarity definition by this author as understood as the race [culture, since DNA has proven there is only one race the human race] or people placed in the center or middle [humanism] resistant to the impression [closed-minded] or penetration of others [secular, worldly rather than spiritual] belonging to the object; contained in the object [intrinsic, inherent].
The title term “dismantling”: Indicates destruction or at best reconstruction of some perceived obstruction. When concepts fail in the marketplace of ideas, the only alternative is redefinition of terms as the elite. It is always harder to build than to destroy.
The title term “solidarity”: The assumption is that solidarity [dynamic agreement] is achievable, necessary and the supreme solution.
Thesis Part I Discourse
Part 1 discusses “Epistemological Pragmatism”. The Pojman text prints the following, “Rorty argues that the truth means, not what corresponds to the facts, as is the dominant definition of truth in Western philosophy, but what it is better for us to believe. He describes truth as ‘what you can defend against all comers . . . what our peers will [all things considered] let us get away with saying.’ He defends the thesis that we should give up metaphysical and epistemological notions of reality and truth in favor of those built on ethnocentric solidarity.”
Interestingly the bold statement “all things considered” implies that the pragmatist can know all things. Who can know all things? Sounds like godly behavior. Pragmatism by definition is a method of solving problems by practical means according to the dictionary. Is it practical to deny the historical meaning of true?
Josh McDowell captures and addresses the meaning of the Rorty theses by writing the following: “Rorty maintains, ‘For the pragmatist [post-modernist], true sentences are not true because they correspond to reality, and so there is no need to worry what sort of reality, if any, a given sentence corresponds to – no need to worry about what `makes` it true’.”
McDowell also indicates that “Rorty denies that truth corresponds to reality: [The pragmatist] shares with the positivist the Baconian and Hobesian notion that knowledge is power, a tool for coping with reality. But he carries this Baconian point through to its extreme, as the positivist does not. He drops the notion of truth as correspondence with reality altogether, and says that modern science does not enable us to cope. His argument for the view is that several hundred years of effort have failed to make interesting sense of the notion of ‘correspondence’ (Rorty, CP, xvii).”
Further McDowell expands that “Rorty, in agreement with Kuhn and Dewey, states, ‘Kuhn and Dewey suggest we give up the notion of science traveling toward an end called `correspondence with reality` and instead say merely that a given vocabulary works better than another for a given purpose.’ (Rorty, CP, 193).”
McDowell concludes that “Postmodernism Is Self-Defeating” because “Dennis McCallum sites two self-destructive aspects of postmodernism:
- From the postmodern view, postmodernism itself can only be seen as another ‘arbitrary social construction’ like all other ideologies. As such, we have no compelling reason to accept the theory. We can simply dismiss it as the creative work of extremely cynical people.
- If Postmodernism can be shown to be true, a world view with objective merit, then Postmodernism’s main thesis (rejection of objective truth) is wrong. It ends up teaching that there is at least some objective truth – namely that Postmodernism is right!
In either case, postmodernism’s rejection of rational objectivity is self-defeating. It either denies the plausibility of its own position, or it presumes the reliability of reason and the objectivity of truth. (McCallum, DT, 53).”
Thesis Part II Discourse
Part 2 discusses “Solidarity Versus Objectivity”. The Pojman text prints the following, “Rorty attacks the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity as well as the correspondence theory of truth. He sides with Thomas Kuhn in arguing that we can have no theory-dependent notion of reality and proposes to erase the essential difference between science, on the one hand, and the humanities and art on the other. Embracing the title of ‘the new fuzzies,’ Rorty further develops his thesis that a notion of social solidarity replaces the enlightenment notion of objective truth.”
R.C. Sproul text reports “Locke embraces the ‘correspondence’ theory of truth, which eschew pure subjectivism or relativism. He defined truth as ‘that which corresponds to reality.’ This is what Francis Schaeffer calls ‘truth truth’. When he uses this phrase, Schaeffer is not stuttering or indulging in redundancy, but is speaking of truth that is objective and not dependent merely on the believing subject.”
R.C. Sproul text also points to Sophism: “From the Sophists of antiquity are derived the terms sophistry sophomoric, the pejorative use of sophisticated. The three most famous leaders of this movement were Gorgias, Protagoras, and Thrasymachus.
Gorgias is known for introducing radical skepticism. He turned his back on philosophy and practiced rhetoric instead. This discipline focused on the art of persuasion in public discourse. The goal of rhetoric was not to proclaim truth but to achieve practical aims by persuasion. Rhetoric in this sense functioned in antiquity as Madison Avenue does today.
Gorgias denies that there is any truth. ‘All statements,’ he declares, ‘are false.’ It doesn’t seem to bother him that if all statements are false, then the statement ‘All statements are false’ is also false, meaning that at least some statements must be true. His views are not unlike those of modern relativists who proclaim that there are no absolutes (except for the absolute that there are no absolutes!). He bases his axiom on the premise that nothing exists. He hedges his bet, however, by saying that if something does exist, it is unknowable or incomprehensible. Even if it does exist and is knowable, he argues, it remains incommunicable.
The views of Gorgias and others served to arouse Socrates from the dogmatic slumber, as the skepticism of David Hume would awaken Immanuel Kant centuries later. Socrates realized that the death of truth would mean the death of virtue, and that the death of virtue would spell the death of civilization. Without truth and virtue, the only possible outcome is barbarianism.
Thrasymachus, who appears as a foil for Plato in the Republic,(2) is a Sophist who attacks the quest for justice. According to Thrasymachus, far from being an immoral person, the unjust person realizes that crime does not pay, is a superior person with superior intellect. Here Thrasymachus anticipates Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch (‘superman’). Justice, says Thrasymachus, is a concept for the weak-minded person who lacks the will to assert himself. Those who rise to the level of true masters are those who prefer injustice. Here is the philosophy of ‘might is right’ with a vengeance, the philosophy of barbarism. Anticipating Karl Marx, Thrasymachus sees law as nothing more that a reflection of the ruling class’s vested interests.”
The first point then is that Rorty’s re-definition of “truth as rhetoric” proclaims or preaches [Rorty, the non-priest preacher] that no truth exists and/or truth is false (except of course for the truth that there are no truths!). The second point then is that Rorty’s “ethnocentric solidarity” leads to the “true masters who prefer injustice”, which leads back to barbarism, controlled by state-ism.
Turn attention now to Rorty’s comments concerning “Worries about ‘cognitive status’ and ‘objectivity’ are characteristic of a secularized culture in which the scientist replaces the priest. The scientist is now seen as the person who keeps humanity in touch with something beyond itself. [. . .] So truth is now thought of as the only point at which human beings are responsible to something non-human.” The term “behavioral sciences” emerges relative to “values” instead of facts and practitioners considered “quasi-priestly.” Rorty is basically arguing that all these objectivity and subjectivity concerns are foolish and he wants to get rid of the model of the priest or models to imitate.
Rorty sees two senses of the term “rationality” as targets for removal: First, the “methodical”, and second “reasonable.” He insists on avoidance of doctrine assertion of opinion or belief of any kind in the terms of rationalism. He would like to “eradicate” the “hankering” toward rationality. He concludes, “We should not try to satisfy this hankering, but rather try to eradicate it. No matter what one’s opinion of the secularization of culture, it was a mistake to try to make the natural scientist into a new sort or priest, a link between the human and the non-human.” Ultimately, advanced planning, goal setting, or measuring progress he thinks are bad ideas.
Is Science Rational?
Obedience to criteria and attachment to objectivity are the next Rorty targets for redefinition or removal. He would like the new language to be “solidarity” [dynamic agreement within the state] he writes “From a pragmatist point of view, to say that what is rational for use now to believe may not be true, is simply to say that somebody may come up with a better idea…”
Rorty would like to negate the idea that the truth is “out there” waiting for human beings to find it. He keeps fighting the idea of religion, the creator God in the midst of the so-called “secular culture”. Perhaps his impression that we are a secular culture is overstated. Then he brings up what this author calls normalization. Rorty wishes to get rid of the metaphor of inquiry “[…] as converging rather that proliferating, becoming more unified rather that more diverse. On the contrary, we should relish that thought that the sciences as well as the arts will always provide a spectacle of fierce competition between alternative theories, movements and schools. The end of human activity is not to rest, but rather richer and better human activity.”
The Rorty essay offers several arguments and rebuttals that were interesting but not expanded farther here. Rorty ends the essay with statements that identify communities without boundaries or with continuous fluctuations based entirely on the ebb and flow of the interests of the community’s members. The purpose meaning everyone in the community acts for the sake of community preservation, self-improvement and enhancement. This author considers the assertions of the preacher Rorty preaching all is well as a cynic.
This paper has discussed the Rorty essay at some length pointing out the inconsistencies where they seemed to occur. The important issues were the redefinition of concepts and the contradictions pointed out throughout the paper; like the conclusion that a rejection of rational objectivity is self-defeating. The other major finding was that Sophists like Gorgias, Protagoras, and Thrasymachus seem to be the foundations for Rorty’s essay conceptually: “Gorgias is known for introducing radical skepticism. He turned his back on philosophy and practiced rhetoric instead. This discipline focused on the art of persuasion in public discourse. The goal of rhetoric was not to proclaim truth but to achieve practical aims by persuasion.” This strongly resembles Rorty’s essay, redefine truth making it false and community derives practical persuasion by rhetoric.
The author disagrees with Rorty and believes that the traditional inclusion of the creator makes more sense and that “truth is out there”, “value and meaning are out there” and science involves the discovery of the created order. The future is unbounded because the creator is unbounded as we all seek discovery of the secrets of nature and nature’s creator we experience truth.
McDowell, Josh. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., Here’s Life Publishers, 1999.
Pojman, Louis P. The Theory of Knowledge, Third Ed. X1.4 Dismantling Truth: Solidarity Versus Objectivity By Richard Rorty, Wadsworth: Thomas Learning, 2003.
Sproul, R. C. The Consequences of Ideas Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World, Wheaton IL: Published by Crossway Books, 2000.
 Louis P. Pojman, The Theory of Knowledge, Third Ed. X1.4 Dismantling Truth: Solidarity Versus Objectivity By Richard Rorty, (Wadsworth: Thomas Learning, 2003), 588-595.
 Josh McDowell. The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict, (Campus Crusade for Christ, Inc., Here’s Life Publishers, 1999), 613.
 Pojman. 588.
 McDowell, 613.
 McDowell, 613.
 McDowell, 613.
 McDowell, 620.
 Pojman. 588.
 R. C. Sproul. The Consequences of Ideas Understanding the Concepts That Shaped Our World, (Wheaton IL: Published by Crossway Books, 2000), 97.
 Pojman. 590.
 Pojman. 592-593.
 Pojman. 593.
 Sproul, 97.
Additional Research Investigations
[…] read my paper titled, “Vivo Considerate Applied Rhetoric Approach Comparison: Living Deliberately Versus Not Getting Involved or Engaged; Benjamin Franklin Versus Henry David Thoreau“, Perhaps Thoreau could have prevented the civil war with involved participation and authority of applied superior intellect if he had taken Franklins advice and participated in the government decision-making process. […]
[…] read my paper titled, “Rhetorical Verse Definition “Social Compact” American History“, in order to define the origins of the phrase “social compact“[…]
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