Re: Postmodernism and Truth (was Re: virus: Simulacrum)

David McFadzean (
Tue, 21 May 1996 17:32:11 -0600

At 10:40 PM 20/05/96 -0400, Bill Godby wrote:

>Unfortunately your example is an inductive one. By entering the word
>probably, you have entered into the realm of probabilities, which is what
>induction is all about.

I disagree. To see what I mean, I'll substitute some variables for the
content of the argument:

"If I do A then B will happen. I don't want B to happen so I will avoid
doing A."

It doesn't matter what you substitute for the variables, the argument
is deductive because of its form. I'll even concede that the content
of the propositions were arrived at through inductive reasoning. I'll
even concede the very rules of logic applied here were arrived at
through inductive reasoning. That still doesn't make the argument

>Here's a valid deductive argument.
>If all cars are made of soft squishy stuff,
>Then cars hitting people won't hurt them,
>Therefore, if I step into the path of a car
>Then I won't get hurt

I'm not sure what your point is here. Inductive arguments are not
immune to erroneous premises and false conclusions.

>>1. Objective truth exists.
>>2. Individuals and cultures have a dynamic description of objective truth.
>What is a dynamic description?

Dynamic description is what we (individuals and cultures) think is true.
It purports to describe objective reality and changes over time. I claim
that the body of scientific knowledge is actually getting more accurate
relative to an objective standard and not just wandering around theory

>Cultures do not necessarily create narratives about their origins with the
>intent of "accuracy". The theory of evolution is not a metaphorical model,
>it is a scientific model. It is a mistake (which Judeo-Christianity makes)
>to interpret mythology as intending any type of accuracy.

I think we are getting closer to our point of miscommunication. I have
a (previously hidden) assumption that truth entails accuracy, i.e. a
statement is true to the extent that it accurately describes what it
refers to. The statement "the earth is a planet orbiting the sun" is
more true than "the earth sits on the back of a very large turtle".
I'm not saying the first statement is True, it isn't. But we can say
that it is more accurate (i.e. truthful) than the second statement.

>There may indeed exist scientific facts regarding the origin of humans,
>however I steadfastly believe that scientific knowledge is subject to
>revision and change, "some fact of the matter" doesn't constitute very much
>in the way of objective truth.

I agree with what you say about scientific knowledge being subject to
revision but I don't understand what you mean by the rest. The whole
enterprise of science rests on the assumption that there is an objective
standard by which to compare theories: reality itself, ie. objective

>>Logical positivism claims there exists an objective truth, and further that
>>false statements are meaningless.
>The issue transcends false statements, it is the issue of interpretation and
>meaning, this is why logical positivism has been show to be very problematic.


>>Postmodernism claims that truth is a cultural construct and there is only
>>subjective truth.
>I'd like to emphasize that subjective truth is not individual truth, that
>everyone has their own. The idea is that knowledge systems are culturally
>constructed within a set of historical and social circumstances. The issue
>of objectivity and subjectivity comes into play when these systems are
>confronted and contrasted to others, ala multiculturalism. The dynamic is
>such that the whole issue of truth and belief is called into question.

In the system you describe is it possible for a statement to be true in
one culture and false in another culture that exists at the same time?
If so, what happens when an individual is part of both cultures? Or is
that impossible?

>You may very well be correct regarding the limitations of narrative. I
>certainly believe that there are things about life which cannot be put into
>words and perhaps these are the things that are objective truths. The
>experience of being human, feeling love, happiness, sadness, epiphany,
>wonder, etc. There is no doubt that even with all the cultural difference we
>are all still human and the equipment we all come with works the same way.

I think these kinds of things can be put into words (I'm sure Mr. Atkins likes
to think so :) but not completely accurately. Some things are definitely
harder than others to describe.

>Now I feel like I'm getting an idea of what the trouble is here. I'm not
>suggesting that there only exists ideas. There certainly exist things
>independent of us, elephants, etc. However, the issue is how much are we
>able to know about these things, and the degree of truth that can be
>constructed from what we observe. As I pointed out earlier, following Hegel,
>we never get to know the "things in themselves", whatever they are, it seems
>that you believe this as well.

Agreed. I'm not sure what Hegel was getting at exactly, but I would go so far
to say that we can't even perceive "things in themselves". What we experience
(our sensory data aka qualia) is an interaction between subject and object.
So "green" is not really the property of any object, it is how we humans
experience the light affecting our retina after reflecting off of object
we call green.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Church of Virus