Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Matter of Truth, the Matter of Matter: Which Matters More? Part IV


I guess I lied when I said I won’t be messing around any further talking about people, subjects, perceptions, or points of view, or ideologies.

I have to back up a bit because I want to resituate the problem I am trying to develop.

I haven't been very clear about what that problem is and I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out that no one even understood that I am working on a problem here.

In discussing what I have called ‘metaphysical aristocratism’ what I am trying to get at is a flaw between the way our rationality works and the way our politics work, even though any politics existing which function for us function as a rationality.

Aristocracy doesn’t function rationally, but a democracy must function rationally or cease in short order to be a democracy.

But what is rationality, and isn’t it odd, if rationality is so important, that our feel for what it is remains so flimsy?

We can't answer what rationality is.

What if there is more than one type of rationality? What if there are thousands or even an infinite number of types of rationality?

Can rationality be multiple and still be rationality?

I am especially appreciative at this moment of William James’ work and recommend, if anyone is with me here, that they take a look at the book “A Pluralistic Universe.” I think that the simple fact that it was an American and an American pragmatist who was working on these problems is worth remarking on.

Maybe the problem of rationality can be described as an incommensurability between what members of the Frankfurt School have distinguished as critical rationality and communicative rationality.

(In making this distinction, I assume that the Frankfurt School thinkers have taken the position that there can be more than one type of rationality: they must think that there can be at least two. In taking that position, I think they have already made a very significant move, and it is not that clear to me whether they realized the implications of this very significant move.)

From the perspective of a critical rationality, a communicative rationality seems flaky and wishy-washy, and from the perspective of a communicative rationality, critical rationality appears to give rise to harshness, strife, judgmentalism and other socially-corrosive behavior, and is stifling and shuts down creativity and productivity.

(Its affect is terrible… it can be demonstrated to destroy human relations rather than foster them.)

From the point of view of either, the other isn’t satisfactorily rational. Somehow, they deny each others' rationality.

We can’t do without elements from both critical or communicative rationality, but even if considered only elementally, bit by bit, these elements clash with each other and within each of us, and our standard strategies for dealing with this aren’t adequate, considered from one vantage point or the other.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Yusef,

You are grappling with big issues here. Which is always productive, but also sometimes the opposite, i.e. it blocks the flow of ideas and the process of concept-creation.

In fact, you are turning into a "metaphysical aristocrat" by stipulating that democracy is exclusively rational. And thus delegating other forms of political ideologies to irrationality.

Marxist Leninism is totally rational, it is, indeed, conceived as "science".

To Kant there was only ONE rationality and sapere aude is premised on absolutistic REASON.

But now rationality is pluralistic. Habermas' communicative ditto turns the world into a 24-hour global chatterbox, and Adorno's critical ditto plunges the planet into collective despair.

Jefferson was a brilliant pragmatist, but also a closet idealist - and this combination is, I think, the best way forward. So, when you want the world "worlding along", this is the realistic path to tread. In other words, "muddling along" with our ideas in the sky and our feet on the ground. But with the hope that the twain will meet.

Philosophy is always about BECOMING ( - thank you Kierkegaard - and Deleuze - !)

But Yusef, as a friend, I think you should dismount the high horse with its grand concepts and join the maddening crowd of manageable ideas that we together can discuss and refine.

Pragmatism is a wonderful (American) philosophy. Not very heroic. True. But practical and not encumbered by conceptual constipation.

I don't know if I'm making any sense = RATIONALITY here, but in your posts you often seem to proclaim yet another grandiose enterprise and then get stuck in equally grandiose attempts to define the eternal questions and themes.

Orla Schantz

7:18 PM  
Anonymous Yusef said...

I think you understand the problem I am interested in, Orla, but maybe part of where we differ is in whether it is possible or desirable at this juncture of history to be a pragmatist and a closet idealist.

Following Will James, I see idealism as a monism, and pragmatism as a pluralism.

These twain will not meet; or if they do, it'll be in an Orwellian nightmare kind of way, which almost looks like what's happening now ( in America.)

Bush is a pragmatist and pluralist and a closet idealist. It was as a purely practical matter that we needed to invade Iraq. AND, we are bringing them thar Iraqi people democracy and freedom. EXCEPT that now, as another practical matter, Bush may need to forget about that. The Iraqi people didn't live up to his high ideals!

7:09 AM  

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