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Jokers to the Left. Clowns to the Right. Fools in the Middle.

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Sunstone, Oct 15, 2019.

  1. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Thread Questions...

    What is going on with epistemic relativism? Why on earth has it become popular with people on the left, right, and center? Is there any sound justification for it at all? If so, what is that justification?

    _______________________
    The relativist’s key claim is that varying and often contradictory epistemic systems have equal legitimacy. See here, here, and here.

    ......
    My opinion (if anyone is interested)...

    I am not fond of epistemic relativism. That's putting it mildly. I see epistemic relativism as a threat to the sciences, representative democracy, humanism, universal liberalism, and reason. Beyond that, I think it's more often than not an intellectually dishonest position. But other than those things, I'm sure it's ok, and that its mother loves it.


    .....
    And now, in a futile effort to make it up to you for a boring OP...

     
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  2. Heyo

    Heyo Active Member

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    I blame a misunderstanding of the concept of tolerance. Everyone has a right to his/her own opinion. But that doesn't include a right to ones own facts. There is only one reality. You may perceive it different but there is an objective reality out there.
    Denying the concept of objective reality isn't helpful. It seems to be tolerance to accept others "reality" but in fact it isn't tolerance, it is indifference. If we can't agree on reality, there is no basis for any mutual understanding. It's saying "You do you - but don't touch my bubble."
     
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  3. Shadow Wolf

    Shadow Wolf Crazy Diamond

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    According to epistimic relativism, it is my understanding it's mother actually hates it, thinks it's a viel, awful thing, and it should feed itself to an alligator. And it can't tell me wrong, because that's just how I understand the situation from my own biases and upbringing and this thjngy and moonshine and star alignments.
    Ive also noticed a trend for some to hack-job graft post modernism onto it and make an "Anything goes" orgy of intellectual laziness that accepts pretty much anything and everything as equally valid.
     
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  4. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    That strikes me as a pretty astute analysis.
     
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  5. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    My own opinion of epistemic relativism was formed by consulting a Tarot deck.


    That's an excellent point. Excellent.

    By the way, what are your thoughts about postmodernism?
     
  6. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    I rather agree - and with Heyo's pithy comments. Perhaps it is because I speak as a scientist by training, but it seems to me the whole idea of science depends on the tacit assumption that there is an objective physical reality that we attempt to represent through our models. If this were not so, and physical reality were subjective, then it seems to me science would not be able to make the successful predictions that it does. That would mean, in turn, that mobile phones would not work, jet aircraft would not fly and doctors would be unable to treat disease.

    It is probably the case that Relativity and Quantum Theory have done a lot in the c.20th to undermine the previous simple certainties about the physical world, and this may have led to more relativist thinking. Marxism, too, through its encouragement of suspicion of authority and its near stranglehold on the social sciences in the recent past, may have found it convenient to espouse various forms of relativism.

    There is a well-written and rather amusing defence of objective truth here, by an academic called Richard Bailey, attacking what he calls "veriphobia": Overcoming veriphobia – learning to love truth again

    This contains a hilarious passage in which two social scientists attempt to explain a process of laboratory research that they studied in sociological terms. They are puzzled that they find it almost impossible to account for the results the scientists obtained other than by assuming it is objectively true - which they on principle reject, of course!

    Bailey also quotes my favourite Dawkins anecdote, which I repeat here:
    QUOTE
    Richard Dawkins (1994, p. 17) once asked a social scientist the following question:

    Suppose there is a tribe which believes that the moon is an old calabash tossed just above the treetops. Are you saying that this tribe’s belief is just as true as our scientific belief that the moon is a large Earth satellite about a quarter of a million miles away?

    The social scientists replied that since truth was a social construct, the tribe’s view of the moon is just as true as others. This made Dawkins wonder why sociologists and literary critics did not choose to entrust their travel plans to magic carpets instead of aeroplanes. Dawkin’s verdict seems inescapable: ‘Show me a cultural relativist at 30,000 feet and I will show you a hypocrite’!

    UNQUOTE

    My sentiments entirely, Doctor. ;) The serious point Dawkins makes here is that these extreme relativists are disingenuous poseurs: a moment's honest thought about their daily lives reveals the contradictions.
     
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  7. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    Perhaps you can clear my confusion. How does a supporter of epistemic relativism hold a position on anything...including epistemic relativism?

    If all truths are equally valid based on perspective, than isn't the next logical step to not bother holding an opinion on these same matters?

    Perspective matters, but to suggest equivalence in perspectives is not justifiable to me.
     
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  8. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    EXACTLY!

    There is an absurd disappearing-up-your-own-arsehole quality to it. If someone says "truth is relative" that is an assertion of truth..........which we don't need to take seriously if truth is relative!

    The idea at a stroke invalidates all scholarship and renders communication itself a waste of time. Brilliant!
     
  9. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    I am clueless about the status of Marxism among European social scientists, but here in America, I am hearing that Marxism is giving way to postmodernism as the fad of the hour with our social scientists. As you might know, postmodernism rejects Marxism.
     
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  10. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    You and I see eye to eye on that.
     
  11. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    I don't think any relativist thinks relativism implies universal equality. That's a bugaboo being generated in the minds of absolutists who can't seem to accept the reality of relativism as a fundamental characteristic of human cognition. Because to accept that means that everything we think we 'know' to be good, right, and true is profoundly biased.
     
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  12. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    By the way, there is actually an important difference between saying that "contradicting perspectives can be equally valid", and "contradicting epistemologies can be equally valid". The first is like saying that a front view and a back view of a statue can contradict each other, but both be equally true. The second is like saying that a method of inquiry that proves the statue exists and a method of inquiry that proves the statue does NOT exist can both be right.

    I suspect a lot of people who subscribe to epistemic relativism are confused about the difference between perspective and epistemology.
     
  13. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    They can, and for the same reasons. Human cognition is relative, limited, and profoundly biased by these, as a result.
     
  14. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    Wouldnt postmodernism be more 'relativist' in its approach than Marxism?
    Whilst the application of Marxism has varied, it always seemed quite objective in its goals and methods.
     
  15. lewisnotmiller

    lewisnotmiller Grand Hat
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    Just like I blend language use in decrying it...lol.
    Still, the difference is vital. One seems reasonable to me, the other does not.
     
  16. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    So the 'difference' is based entirely on YOUR cognitive perception of it ... interesting.
     
  17. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    Yes you are right. Postmodernism is the real culprit rather than Marxism, at least latterly, though the vogue for revolution and overthrow of authority seems to be a common current. I recall when a teenager in the early 1970s and studying science in the 6th form, that the science people were regarded as conformist and obedient to authority, while the humanities people revelled in their iconoclasm and attacks on "the establishment". Some of them seemed to think we were virtually gas tap-twiddling Nazis! In fact, Bailey makes the point that the image of science was badly damaged in the c.20th by the "scientific" horrors of Nazi Germany and the USSR and by the atom bomb etc. and that this led to a lot more criticism of the way it works. A lot of this has yielded valuable insights but, as aways, people push new ideas beyond their limits.
     
  18. Augustus

    Augustus the Unreasonable

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    I'm not going to pretend I'm an expert on the latest academic trends, but from my limited observation, the current fad seems to be based around [an overindulgence of] Critical Theory.

    CT was really an offshoot of Marxist focus on the power relations in society and, perhaps most pertinently, how this can create 'false consciousness'. Much of the current trend seems to evolve from this, and post-Marxist concepts like Cultural Hegemony (although the term is largely pejorative and polemical these days, in a neutral sense this could be termed Cultural Marxism: a Marxist critique of culture). Something like 'microaggressions' and 'language as violence' clearly evolves from CT for example

    While you can neatly distinguish po-mo from orthodox Marxism, I'm not sure you can disentangle it from Critical Theory/Cultural Marxism as regards attitudes towards knowledge and 'truth' (well maybe people more erudite than me can, but I'm not so sure it's really worth it).
     
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  19. Laika

    Laika Well-Known Member
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    This is correct as marxism and post-modernism overlap but are ultimately opposed.

    Post-modernism and marxism overlap in treating ideas as man-made and can criticise them as propaganda tools for power structure. Hence the overlap in critical theory in treating culture as a form of production of ideas. Who controls the production of ideas, therefore controls a great deal of social consciousness.

    However, (Orthodox) Marxism is materialist and believes in an objective world as a source for objectively valid truth and knowledge. The marxist conception of Ideology is like looking in a distorted mirror- yes, it reflects an objective reality but not with 100% accuracy and considerable distortion depending on which position from the social hierarchy you are looking at the mirror from. Some aspects of reality are exaggerated whilst others are under-emphasised depending on each persons experience within the same system. It doesn’t treat it exclusively as a product of the mind or pure illusion as a “social construct”.

    There are currently major feuds going on amongst the far left on this issue and how far you can take the identity politics of gender, race, sexuality, etc before it becomes anti-marxist. Its all related to where the boundary between social criticism of post-modernism ends and marxist social criticism begins.
     
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  20. exchemist

    exchemist Well-Known Member

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    Very interesting and informative. This rather strengthens my impression (very much as an outsider, admittedly) that there is a connection between Marxism and post-modernism (or post-structuralism), and that the latter is a sort of offspring of the former, even though they have ended up in opposition.

    And good to know that there are still, as ever, major feuds going on within the far left. Some things are eternal. :D

    In fact, on the identity politics business, Bailey has this to say:

    QUOTE
    As I have argued elsewhere (Bailey, 1999), assertions that certain disciplines are inescapably sexist, classist and racist, if believed, create a barrier to participation and success among currently marginalised groups far greater than existed before. They are also deeply offensive to those groups. Though imperfect, truth-seeking approaches offer the most likely methods yet discovered for addressing such problems. By blurring the distinction between fact and fiction, and by dismissing evidence, argument and rigour as relics of an imperialist and repressive past, veriphobic rhetoric disempowers the very people it purports to save. Similarly, Alan Ryan (1992, p. 21) says:
    "It is ... pretty suicidal for embattled minorities to embraceMichel Foucault, let alone Jacques Derrida. The minority view was always that power could be undermined by truth ... Once you read Foucault as saying that truth is simply an effect of power, you’ve had it ... But American departments of literature, history and sociology contain large numbers of self-described leftists who have confused radical doubts about objectivity with political radicalism, and are in a mess."

    UNQUOTE
     
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