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What do You make of Postmodernism?

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by Sunstone, Dec 8, 2015.

  1. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    Listen... I've focused on the word "believe" here. Everything we BELIEVE about the Civil War today is entirely a social construct... That does not mean that the Civil War did not factually happen. You're having a conversation about something that I never said, or at leas didn't intend, given how you're reading it. That being said, there's also nothing about the events that lead up to the war that was not a singular product of the social environment in which the Civil War took place. So, in that sense, the Civil War itself was entirely a social construct of the time.

    This idea that everything we believe is a social construct is precisely why people in the deep South feel differently about the Civil War than people in the North. It's why people in the Northwestern region of the country don't pay anywhere near as much attention to Civil War history as people in the Eastern portion of the Country. It's why the black population in America has completely different feelings, and focal points, about the Civil War than the white population. It's why voting patterns during Reconstruction shifted. It's why Civil War collectors focus on Civil War artifacts. The value that is placed on anything Civil War related, among any individual that you want to question, is directly related to their social environment.

    This is true of absolutely everything. DNA's physical and chemical makeup are facts. I've never said otherwise. But the fact that you and I can even have a conversation about it is purely founded on the social environment that each of us was born into. Neither of us was born with any knowledge whatsoever about either DNA or the Civil War - yet we have come to learn about these things, and value them, and be able to discuss them because...... Because of our social surroundings. Again, this is true of absolutely everyone, everywhere, forever.

    What I've said is factually accurate. If you want to rebut it, simply show me a person who was born with knowledge or feelings about DNA or the Civil War. Show me an African villager who shares the same value system about DNA that you do.
     
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  2. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    A social construction, or social construct or a social concept is an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society which exists solely because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules. Obvious social constructs include such things as games, language, money, school grades, titles, governments, universities, corporations and other institutions. Social constructionism is a school of thought that attempts, to varying degrees, to analyze seemingly natural and given phenomena in terms of social constructs. http://psychology.wikia.com/wiki/Social_construction

    To say of something that it is socially constructed is to emphasize its dependence on contingent aspects of our social selves. It is to say: This thing could not have existed had we not built it; and we need not have built it at all, at least not in its present form. Had we been a different kind of society, had we had different needs, values, or interests, we might well have built a different kind of thing, or built this one differently. The inevitable contrast is with a naturally existing object, something that exists independently of us and which we did not have a hand in shaping. http://philosophy.fas.nyu.edu/docs/IO/1153/socialconstruction.pdf

    I believe that the American Civil War was won by the Union. And I believe that DNA is a molecule that in human cells consists of two strands of linked nucleotides twisting around each other to form a double helix. You haven’t noted anything about these beliefs that is “an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society which exists solely because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules.” People in Sri Lanka who are adequately educated about American history and/or biology (and most seem to be) would agree with the facts I just stated about the American Civil War and DNA.

    Be sure to absorb professor Boghossian’s further comments (my bolding):

    Talk of the social construction of belief, however, requires some elaboration of the core idea. For it is simply trivially true of any belief that we have that it is not necessary that we should have had it and that we might not have had it had we been different from the way we actually are. Consider our belief that dinosaurs once roamed the earth. It is obviously not inevitable that we should have come to this belief. We might never have considered the question. Having considered it, we might have arrived at a different conclusion, for a variety of causes: we might not have been interested in the truth; we might not have been as intelligent at figuring it out; we might never have stumbled across the relevant evidence (the fossil record).

    These observations supply various boring senses in which any belief might be considered dependent on contingent facts about us. The important question concerns the role of the social once all of these factors have been taken into account: that is, keeping our skills and intelligence fixed, and given our interest in the question and our desire to learn the truth about it, and given our exposure to the relevant evidence, do we still need to invoke contingent social values to explain why we believe that there were dinosaurs? If the values, would have arrived at a different and incompatible belief – then we could say that our belief in dinosaurs is socially constructed. answer is ‘Yes’ – if it’s true that another society, differing from us only in their social values, would have arrived at a different and incompatible belief – then we could say that our belief in dinosaurs is socially constructed.

    http://philosophy.fas.nyu.edu/docs/IO/1153/socialconstruction.pdf

    The only thing you’ve said about the “social construct” of (beliefs or knowledge about) DNA is of this trivial sort--i.e., that people in some society where information about DNA is not even available would not have such knowledge and beliefs about DNA molecules.

    In contrast, when I say that sexual orientation is (possibly) a social construct, what I mean is that sexual orientation categories (particularly heterosexual and homosexual) are not innate, biological traits, but are the product of social conditioning or pressures. And, just as Jonathan Katz did in The Invention of Heterosexuality, one can point to a number of societies in which the sexual behavior of the members contradict such innate sexual orientation categories (especially heterosexual and homosexual): for example, ancient Greece and Rome, and, more recently, various primitive societies in Melanesia. In the latter case, we know that about 90% of men (at least) regularly engaged in sexual relationships with males (which, as with the ancient Greco-Romans, were age-structured relationships rather than sex-structured) as well as with females. In some of these primitive societies, men held the belief that sex with women was somehow draining of their energies, and sex with males was energizing. That definitely does not sound like a society where most people are biological Kinsey Zeros (which is generally how majorities in modern Western cultures self-identify--though the percentage has become increasingly smaller in the past decade or so, which would seem to be another bit of evidence pointing to sexual orientation as a social construct). One can also note a large number of non-human animal species where the majority of individuals do not engage exclusively different-sex sexual relationships. See Biological Exuberance by Bagemihl.

    If it is true that sexual orientation categories are not innate biological traits, then sexual orientation is apparently a social construct.
     
  3. Sunstone

    Sunstone De Diablo Del Fora
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    Does any of that change the nature of DNA in your view. And, if not, how is any of that relevant to the nature of DNA?
     
  4. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    (I've had to shrink your reply because we were over the letter count allowed by RF when posting.)

    That being said, nice response. "I see you Schwartz is as big as mine..."

    For all the citations you've given, I still think you're limited in scope of understanding here. The first quotation you used only explains a pretty narrow view of social constructionism. I feel as if you're arguing that the social constructs of belief are just a worthless point of discussion, and I don't see how that's so. There are two separate points of discussion here and you're focusing on the one I'm not.

    Even your own Dr. Boghossian admits otherwise:
    "It is crucial, therefore, to distinguish between a constructionist claim that’s directed at things and facts, on the one hand, and one that’s directed at beliefs on the other, for they are distinct sorts of claim and require distinct forms of vindication. The first amounts to the metaphysical claim that something is real but of our own creation; the second to the epistemic claim that the correct explanation for why we have some particular belief has to do with the role that that belief plays in our social lives, and not exclusively with the evidence adduced in its favor. Each type of claim is interesting in its own way."

    The view of social constructionism that I think you're arguing against isn't the one that I'm writing about.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructionism
    "Social constructionism or the social construction of reality (also social concept) is a theory of knowledge in sociology and communication theory that examines the development of jointly constructed understandings of the world. It displays understanding, significance, and meaning that are developed in coordination with other human beings. The elements most important to the theory are (1) the assumption that human beings rationalize their experience by creating a model of the social world and how it functions and (2) that language is the most essential system through which humans construct reality.[1]"

    POST MODERNISM
    "Social constructionism can be seen as a source of the postmodern movement, and has been influential in the field of cultural studies. Some have gone so far as to attribute the rise of cultural studies (the cultural turn) to social constructionism. Within the social constructionist strand of postmodernism, the concept of socially constructed reality stresses the ongoing mass-building of worldviews by individuals in dialecticalinteraction with society at a time. The numerous realities so formed comprise, according to this view, the imagined worlds of human social existence and activity, gradually crystallised by habit into institutions propped up by language conventions, given ongoing legitimacy by mythology, religion and philosophy, maintained by therapies and socialization, and subjectively internalised by upbringing and education to become part of the identity of social citizens.

    In the book The Reality of Social Construction, the British sociologist Dave Elder-Vass places the development of social constructionism as one outcome of the legacy of postmodernism. He writes "Perhaps the most widespread and influential product of this process [coming to terms with the legacy of postmodernism] is social constructionism, which has been booming [within the domain of social theory] since the 1980s."[49]"

    https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=iqfMEsYjdXoC&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&dq=the+reality+of+social+construction&ots=CpkmhNC0Be&sig=rZqeuoZBNcHEP3AL7N3duugKQjc#v=onepage&q=the reality of social construction&f=false

    The whole point of everything I've said up to now is simply that you know what you know about DNA, and you value that knowledge, and you understand it to be true SOLELY because of the social setting that you were subjected to from youth into adulthood. Granted, I'm the kind of personal who loosely believes that, in a sense at least, DNA is also factually a social construct because were it not for certain factors that played out a certain way in the history Western Science that DNA may have never been discovered or could have been understood to be something completely different... But to be honest, I agree that that argument is kind of pointless. If we called numbers something entirely different, and came up with other way to calculate mathematical equations, the principles of math would still be the same, right? Math is factually true, regardless of how we feel about it. But it is worth noting that those feelings are something grafted upon by our social settings.
     
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  5. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    It's not really relevant to the nature of DNA. I agree. But the whole of this conversation isn't about DNA, is it? It's about knowledge, and truths, and the nature of both. It's about a what it means to be you. And it's about the post-modernist worldview.

    I value it for what it means to our understand of the nature of knowledge and the perspective it brings to our very concepts of thought and of self.
    I can value DNA for what it is, certainly. But I can also value the viewpoint that my very values are part of a deeper and more intricate web of variables that were entirely beyond my control.
     
  6. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    Perhaps the difference is that I can defend my claims.

    I believe that the Union won the American Civil War, and that DNA is a molecule that in human cells consists of two strands of linked nucleotides twisting around each other to form a double helix. You haven’t noted anything concerning any of these beliefs that is “an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society which exists solely because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules.” And to assert that my (widely shared) beliefs about the American Civil War and DNA are "social constructs" only in the sense that no one in the 18th century knew any facts about that war or DNA is say something incredibly trivial and useless.
     
  7. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    I believe that I have gray shoes on my feet... But that says nothing about the deeper aspects on the conversation, now does it? It tells you nothing else about the shoes, or the type, or why I chose gray shoes over black or brown, or the type of shoe that I'm wearing, or where I am physically. It explores nothing else at all.

    I mean, is the fact that the Union won the Civil War and that DNA takes a double helix shape all that you believe about either of those things? Is that the depth of your feelings on either issue? I would guess not, but you've not explained much more than that. Why not?

    Again, you're only using one definition of social constructionism here... Limiting a definition to only one aspect of a larger thing is rather foolish, don't you think? There's no way to have a conversation if you insist on forcing perspective into this narrow channel.

    I'll end by noting that you're talking about the Civil War & DNA here for a reason. Note that you're not talking about the Shimonoseki Campaign or Golden Dental bridges... Why is that? Could it be because your entire worldview is shaped by factors that are more independent of yourself than you give them credit for? I mean, you wouldn't normally reference those things, and in all honesty neither would I. I had to look up obscure stuff just to make this point. Neither of those things are part of my normal frame of refernece - but they certainly are to some individuals. You and I wouldn't reference them for the same reasons, and it's because they're simply not part of our socially constructed understanding of reality. They're just not part of who we are. We have very little feelings or knowledge of those things because they aren't part of our socially constructed world.
     
  8. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    Obviously you cannot identify any aspect of the beliefs I’ve stated about the Civil War and DNA that can be said to be “an invention or artifact of a particular culture or society which exists solely because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules.” Similarly you didn’t identify any such social construct in your belief that you are (or were) wearing gray shoes. The reason you can’t is because your claim that “everything that we believe is a social construct” is simply false. You've merely expended a lot of words demonstrating the falsehood of your claim that "everything that we believe is a social construct".
     
  9. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    That's because, as I mentioned, you've added nothing else at all the conversation. What else do you believe about the Civil War? What else to do you believe about DNA? Why do you believe those things? Where did you learn them? Why were you taught those things? What you feel about them?

    By simply saying "I believe the North won the Civil War" you've essentially told me nothing at all.

    Exactly - I didn't identify anything else about colors, or shoes, or social norms about dress shoes in a business setting because I was comparing my gray shoes to your Civil War comment. Like you, I essentially told you nothing at all.

    Are you purposefully being resistant or do you really not see what I'm saying?
     
  10. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    I have an uncountable number of other factual beliefs, which, exactly like the beliefs I have already noted about the Civil War and DNA, you will likewise be unable to argue are a mere "invention or artifact of a particular culture or society which exists solely because people agree to behave as if it exists, or agree to follow certain conventional rules.”

    But since you have already demonstrated the falsehood of your claim that "everything we believe is a social construct," there's no need for you to further demonstrate it. Right?
     
  11. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    Seriously man...This is not the only definition of the term, as I've pointed out numerous times now. I've even cited a passage from your main reference in support of that...
    You're either being purposefully dense or you're unable to understand varying sides of an issue. Which one is it?
     
  12. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    Jonathan, if you ever come up with any argument whatsoever by which to conclude that my noted beliefs about the Civil War and DNA are social constructs, you will let us know, won't you?
     
  13. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    Sure. Just answer the question as to why you know anything at all about the Civil War.
     
  14. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    In order to prove the truth of your claim that all beliefs are social constructs, these are among my beliefs that you will need to show are social constructs: (1) that the Union won the American Civil War, and (2) that DNA is a molecule that in human cells consists of two strands of linked nucleotides twisting around each other to form a double helix.
     
  15. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    Just please answer the question.
     
  16. Nous

    Nous Well-Known Member
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    Obviously your claim that "everything we believe is a social construct" is indefensible. There is definitely nothing intelligent or intelligible about the idea there are no objective facts, which are the basis of intelligent beliefs.
     
  17. jonathan180iq

    jonathan180iq Well-Known Member

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    Nothing that I've written here suggests that there are no objective facts. I'd challenge you to cite where I've made that claim.

    This makes the 3rd time now that you've dodged a very simple question. Why are you avoiding it?
     
  18. sandandfoam

    sandandfoam Veteran Member

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    I love it. I am enthused by its challenge to the status quo , the focus on what's useful rather than what's 'true', the focus on power and language. Oh, and who couldn't love it's punk rock attitude to old-fashioned modernism.

    'Facts' my arse.
     
  19. sandandfoam

    sandandfoam Veteran Member

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    yikes.
     
  20. Kilgore Trout

    Kilgore Trout Misanthropic Humanist

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    I frighten many people.
     
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