virus: Re: Postmodernism and Truth

Deron Stewart (
Tue, 28 May 1996 17:34:02 -0500

A belated posting to the Postmodernism thread...

The following was posted to another mailing list that I subscribe to. It
struck me as a fine example of what a Deconstructionist argument looks like
(if I have understood the definition properly?). It is reproduced with
<begin Quote>

Date: Mon, 20 May 1996 18:38:36 -0500
From: (Patrick C. Harrigan)
Subject: Darwinian "truth"?
Reply-To: (Patrick C. Harrigan)

The theory of evolution via natural selection proposed by Darwin et al is
hardly a scientific fact. I find it somewhat humorous that the world has
seemingly accepted the ideas of some 18th and 19th century Brits as gospel
truth. Darwinian evolution of course ends with 19th century British males.
Any casual reading on Darwin's theories of sexual selection would
obviously call into question some of his ideas. John Locke's theories of
democracy have swept the globe and it seems as if democracy is undoubtedly
the teleological end of all forms of governments (i.e. nothing else can
work better than this, all former governments have been leading up to
this). And of course, linked with democracy (although theorists argue
exactly how) is the brainchild of Adam Smith, capitalism. Communism does
not work (so we hear) and thus ipso facto, q.e.d therefore, free market
capitalism is the only economic system worthy of attention. Why have the
ideas of some upper-middle class Brits dead for a couple of hundred years
taken such hold on our thoughts? Just a few thoughts...

Patrick Harrigan
University of Wisconsin-Madison
International Relations/Environmental Studies

<end Quote>

My comments...

This dramatizes to me how inadequate this line of reasoning is as it
pertains to science qua science...nevertheless I assume the spirit of the
argument being made here has more to do with the perceived social
implications of accepting the theory than the theory itself.

As has been acknowledged elsewhere (e.g. A Memetic Constitution thread),
regardless of the disclaimers that one can't argue from "is" to "ought",
society has always gone ahead and done it anyway -- because what else is
there to go by?

I think it creates an interesting tension -- amoral (I didn't say immoral!)
scientific truth vs. ethics and morality, "Is" vs. "Ought" -- perhaps an
opportunity for some synthesizing (Reconstruction?)...