Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Matter of Truth, The Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part II

“Metaphysical dogmatism holds that the world has some real and essential structure which is fully knowable by human beings (even if they need assistance from divine revelation). There is a single and correct Way that the World Is. The only debate between scientism and fundamentalism is over how the Structure of the World is to be discovered: through systematic experimentation and quantification, or through authoritarian interpretation of divine revelation.” - Dr. Spinoza, from this blog in a post titled, “Fundamentalism and Scientism,” dated March 28, 2006

In contrast to what Dr. Spinoza has termed "metaphysical dogmatism," I want to propose that there is a metaphysical stance which I wish to call "metaphysical aristocratism."

"Metaphysical aristocratism" would hold that the world has some real and essential structure which, while not fully knowable by human beings, could be known in one BEST manner by some, who, in possessing this BEST manner, would be the BEST knowers, or BEST intellects.

The crucial distinction between Dr. Spinoza's "metaphysical dogmatism" and my "metaphysical aristocratism" rests in a difference between the dogmatism's notion of there being only ONE CORRECT " Way that the World Is,' and aristocratism's notion of there being ONE BEST "Way of Worlding."

While it would not be necessary within "metaphysical aristocratism" to assume that there was one single and correct "Way that the World Is," it would be assumed that among several or even an infinite number of correct "Ways that the World Is," there would be one BEST "Way of Worlding," ( or BEST knowledge of the Ways,) at any given historical time, even though it would not be necessary for a metaphysical aristocratist to assume that this BEST way would not or could not be superceded in the future, as a matter of progress.

Proponents or holders of the doctrine of "metaphysical aristocratism" would acknowledge the existence of the other "Ways of Worlding," but would be working at all times to achieve the BEST "Way of Worlding." In the case of a conflict between different "Ways of Worlding," a metaphysical aristocratist would expect that the BEST " Way of Worlding" be given priority, and anything less than priority for the BEST would be considered by them to be irrational, or stupid, or injust and unethical - wrong ( because the BEST is the BEST.)

A metaphysical aristocratist would tolerate other "Ways of Worlding" in much the way that a European aristocrat would have more or less tolerated those who were not aristocrats. That is, there would be toleration - and condescension- and an implicit, or unstated, expectation in all relations that the inferior to the BEST will, naturally, step down and aside... That this stepping down and aside by the inferior of the BEST is a rational state of affairs.

I want to get out into the open about "metaphysical aristocratism" because I am afraid that our criticism as posted on the blog presupposes such a doctrine in some way, even if we aren’t very honest about that, or are maybe unconscious of the influence of such a presupposition.

I think that Nietzsche is a "metaphysical aristocratist" and that his mark on my thinking and attitudes has not at all times been commodious to me.

I want to know whether ‘truth’ as we are accustomed to think of it on the blog could be thought of as ‘best’ knowledge.

We know that our ‘truth’ is incomplete and fallible, but as we have nothing better than our 'best' knowledge, this incompleteness and fallibility almost doesn’t, or maybe can’t, matter.

I posed the existence of a stance of a "metaphysical aristcratism," as if I was neutral on it, but I’ve already taken a side : I think it exists as an ideology, a pernicious one, and its subsisting is a more virulent problem than even metaphysical dogmatism.

“Against both, I want to hold out a plea for what Putnam (following Goodman) could call "internal realism", or for what Hakim Bey -- working out of entirely different styles, techniques, and traditions, calls "ontological anarchy": there is no single and correct way that the world is.

There are only many different ways. Scientific theories are, indeed, one way that the world is. Poetry and art are another. Music and literature are a way the world is. And so too are religion and philosophy.”
– Dr. Spinoza, from the same post, above.

We could have sympathy and appreciation for all of "the Ways the World is," Dr. Spinoza has listed in his post, but if we hold to the principle of ‘metaphysical aristocratism’ , it almost doesn’t matter.... We will trivialize and subordinate these other "Ways the World is," even if we sincerely try to be gracious.

The BEST is what really matters, and wins out.

In a way, this is what I see happening…. Art, poetry, music and literature have our sympathy, but it isn’t our sympathy which sustains them…And it can't save them from playing a merely decorative or recreational role in our lives and society.

They persist in the form of industrial design and catchy features for advertisement and marketing and capturing trade ; they are subordinated and assigned a function which functions for furthering something else.

The BEST rules the rest, and seemingly by right, even as if by natural right.

It is this domination, and short circuiting of any give and take, by the 'BEST' which is a philosophical problem and a the political problem and a political problem which persists, even if we make room in our world for as many ways of worlding as we can.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yusef,

That's an impressive post.

It also needs some definitional clarification, I think.

Your term ‘metaphysical aristocratism’ is naturally relevant to Nietzsche who openly declared himself to come from Polish aristocracy (dubious at best!), but it also refers to the rest of us who create concepts of absolutism.

Your BEST "Way of Worlding," is really another name for "philosophical Darwinism", isn't it? It is what wins out as a result of an intersubjective process.

As you write,

We know that our ‘truth’ is incomplete and fallible, but as we have nothing better than our 'best' knowledge, this incompleteness and fallibility almost doesn’t, or maybe can’t, matter.

I agree, but are we then not really into Postmodernism and the Rortian dictum, The Truth isn't found, the Truth is made?

You end by writing,

It is this domination, and short circuiting of any give and take, by the 'BEST' which is a philosophical problem and a the political problem and a political problem which persists, even if we make room in our world for as many ways of worlding as we can.

Are you talking about the dangers of some sort of fundamentalism here?

Yusef, some time ago you talked aabout your project of concept-creation. This might be a good start.

All the best,

Orla Schantz

7:36 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

"Your BEST "Way of Worlding," is really another name for "philosophical Darwinism", isn't it? It is what wins out as a result of an intersubjective process."

Funny you should mention that, Orla.

I've been thinking about writing another post where I make a connection between what I am saying in this post and the things Dr. Spin was saying recently in his, " From Apes to Enlightenment" post.

I don't know how Dr. Spin wished to proceed, but it would seem very natural ( to me) if he went forward by talking about memes, competition between memes, "survival of the fittest" meme - that sort of thing.

The fittest meme, as I see it, would be the "best" meme, therefore, the "truth." This is philosophical darwinism.

"Are you talking about the dangers of some sort of fundamentalism here?"

What interests me very much is that in an aesthetical treatise such as "Ways of Worldmaking," the political dimension of how these different worlds might interact is absent, so for me these things almost read as: 1) a plea that we at least realize that there are other worlds,( which is important, don't get me wrong); 2) a plea for tolerance and understanding of other worldings ( also important.)

However, a plea is a piss-poor political strategy - yes, this is where concept creation could be valuable...

9:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yusef,

I don't think you should castigate yourself for not coming up with a viable political strategy - every time. That can come in many variations and spread in unseen ways without storming into the streets, or whatever.

I'm also not too keen on the "meme" theory (Richard Dawkins' idea, right?) - let's stick with a truth without the capital letter.

You are absolutely right in your plea for tolerance, that's the real Enlightenment legacy we are still struggling with. But that's hard. Like Kant, I find it very hard to tolerate intellectual laziness in my surroundings. I accept the fact that billions of people are religious, but I can't respect them, can you?

Orla

10:51 AM  

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