Entrenchment of Assumptions

22 Jun

Here follows a speculative, quasi-metaphysical entry.

One difficulty in communicating philosophical points results from the way in which common language and culture rest on some of the very assumptions which are being put on trial.  This dependence is usually subconscious.

The processes of conditioning and admission are themselves partly captive to the assumptions in question.  It’s very much like religion and the Celia Green-inspired idea of ‘sanity’.  One might say that the apostate is handicapped by convention in such a scenario, but he will not be recognized as an apostate but simply as ‘wrong’.  In other words, the distinction between being incorrect or irrelevant and being inconvenient to the health of a particular limited ideology is happily lost.

There is a danger in reified conceptions of, among other items, ’empiricism’, ‘rationality’, and ‘truth’.  Glib use of these terms gives an appearance of a priori innocence on the part of those who use them with impunity.  The words can be fashioned into a kind of holy armor which is supposed to be impenetrable.

The usual tactic of the guilty parties is to place a ban on certain questions in order to replace philosophy with a mad pragmatic drive which burns off its existential anxieties through its myopic programs.  What else could “shut up and calculate” possibly mean?  Stop asking irritating questions!  I don’t like it, and I feel entitled to tell you what to do.

It’s not that pragmatic science isn’t wonderful and essential.  Of course it is!  But it’s not everything.  Furthermore, the whole issue with the philosophy of pragmatism is its implicit bracketing of ‘what works’.  If left untended and unquestioned for very long, any particular ‘pragmatism’ will begin petrifying into a new dogma.

An organic approach is in large part a response to this awkward limitation of pragmatism.  Science is re-seated as an ‘organ’ within a ‘creature’, and its use and meaning is to some extent regulated by other organs along with the changing environment of the creature itself which may generate novel ‘perceptual data’ which feeds into a kind of self-reflexive ‘state relevance’.  Yes, there are invariant truths.  However, life is not strictly a matter of truth qua truth(aka idea museum) but is about the utilization of these truths for a creature’s purposes.

“So it is that knowledge must perish and be reborn as will.”

There’s a lot of confusion between ‘truth itself’ and the use of truth.  Dogma tends to emerge when ‘truth itself’ becomes the ideal.  Pragmatism shifts the dogmatic seeds to fixed definitions of ‘what is practical’, yet in life, fluid intelligence, and creativity, one is presumably operating at a higher level in which there might be said to exist a sort of pan-contextualization which has some resistance even to tyrannical values or formulas.  One might say there are multiple axes of empiricism; it’s not only a matter of testing the invariant theories, but is also a matter of gauging and regulating those theories in living relevant practice.

So-called organic approaches seek a partial liberation from the finite reflexes by maximizing the relevant fluidity/jointedness, and thereby the freedom, of the institutions within the complex.  Ideological inertia is minimized along lines of inter-resonant relevance.  It is hoped that the self-occlusion inherent in necessary fixity will be minimized.  The entire situation may be characterized as a kind of ‘floating institution’ which is able to avail itself of subtle symmetries within its parts and causeways.  Each part of the network becomes conversant with many other parts, and in so doing provides something of a contextual buffer against the tyrannical eruption of singularly absolute methods and values.

Each fixed part is enveloped by many others and so attains a complement, an outside, and perhaps even a kind of implicit/explicit duality.

A dedicated theorist or pure scientist may nobly focus on her specific task and leave details of practical implementation to others, but this separation of labor ought not to be interpreted as a hierarchy with the ‘pure truth-seekers’ sitting proudly atop the pyramid.  That would only be adequate if all of this were about nothing more than filling up our idea museums.




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