October 25, 2010

Manufacturing Manufactured Consent

James Taranto takes up the Juan Williams story and gives it a few shakes:

So how is it that Juan Williams got the ax while Nina Totenberg is still a member in good standing of the NPR news staff? “The answer is obvious,” says [Stephen] Hayes: “It’s Fox.”

We’re not so sure. CEO Schiller quotes NPR policy as stipulating that in outside appearances, “NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist.” Perhaps Totenberg’s liberal-left views are ones that she would air in her role as an NPR journalist. In which case, what does it say about NPR that even Juan Williams isn’t liberal enough for it? Blogger “Doctor Zero” offers an answer:

I think one of the reasons the hardcore liberals who run NPR terminated Williams is their desire to abort a preference cascade. . . . As described by Glenn Reynolds in a classic 2002 essay, a preference cascade occurs when people trapped inside a manufactured consensus suddenly realize that many other people share their doubts. Preference falsification works by making doubters feel isolated and alone. . . .

Since a free society makes it very easy for individuals to change their opinions, they must be prevented from even considering such a change. Manufactured consensus is very fragile in a competitive arena of ideas, when there is no fearsome penalty for a "Fresh Air" listener who decides to switch over to Rush Limbaugh.

The manufactured liberal consensus about Islamic terrorism rolled off the assembly line a long time ago. . . . A credentialed, taxpayer-supported NPR liberal cannot be allowed to question this consensus. It will shatter too easily if the clients of liberalism begin connecting dots between underwear bombers and pistol-packing Army psychiatrists. They cannot be left to nod quietly in agreement with the earnest musings of Juan Williams . . . then look around the room and see all the other faithful liberals nodding at the same time. . . .

Juan Williams came too close to understanding ideas he was supposed to hate. The Left is deathly afraid of what happens when its constituents begin to understand the Right. They didn't like the idea of millions watching an NPR contributor break the biohazard seal on strictly quarantined ideas.

Look again at the [...] litany of Nina Totenberg quotes, and you’ll find it fits perfectly with this theme. Not only does she not understand conservative ideas, she knows they are unworthy of even trying to understand. She hates conservatives so much that she hopes their grandchildren get AIDS.

If, as Doctor Zero suggests, NPR has come to see its purpose as the defense of a closed ideological system, then Nina Totenberg is the very ideal of an “NPR journalist.” But if this is the case, in what sense can NPR be considered “public” radio?

“Manufactured consent,” as I’ve often explained, is a predictable product of our social acceptance of the post-modern turn as it applies to interpretation and what it is we think we’re doing when we interpret. Once we give “interpretive communities” the power to decide on meaning — and that “meaning” is then decoupled from the intent that produced it — it is a short trip to understanding that “meaning” itself then becomes nothing more than the object of a power struggle, with the loudest, most insistent (and most disseminated) narrative gaining social purchase. Too, it is clear that the “meaning” in question need not match any actual originary meaning, the very thought of such an abstruse thing being rendered impotent by the very process by which we allow meaning to be decided: to wit, if meaning is nothing more than what an interpretive community (quasi-plausibly) insists it to be — that is, if all it takes to insist something means what an interpretive community says it means is a bit of truncating, re-contextualizing, and an appeal to what “reasonable people” would then understand that meaning to be in these new circumstances — meaning itself is necessarily relative. Consensus meaning, under this description, replaces an individual’s will to mean with a group’s usurpation of that individual will. It is the very essence of the collectivist impulse, institutionalized in the very structure of our language, and reinforced in the way we believe interpretation functions.

It is no accident the left (and some on the right) prefer this paradigm for linguistic functioning, semiotically flawed (as I’ve often shown) as it is: because once we allow meaning to be decided upon solely by those interpreting it, those interpreting have come to understand that all that’s needed to make something “true” is to get a vocal enough interpretive community to insist on its truthfulness — even if that means bracketing intent (or rather, pretending to: the intent merely switches to those who have decided to resignify for their own purposes) — making “truth” merely a function of will, and a will to power.

Intoxicating stuff, particularly when you believe that, by virtue of your intellectual superiority, the world really should be made to bend to your will.

Or shouldn’t it?

READER POLL!

(h/t TerryH)

Posted by Jeff G. @ 9:18am
67 comments | Trackback

Comments (67)

  1. Erm…shouldn’t you take a reader poll first, just to see if a reader poll is warranted?

  2. Newsweek mag looks to be operating in the same murky territory, though without any evident fear of discredit attaching to their discreditable acts.

    Well, good to know that Newsweek is a joke among liberals as well.

  3. I vote “aye” on the poll as to whether the world really should be made to bend to my will.

    If one cannot win an argument any other way, change the rules? I can only guess that the Left figures that it will never lose the narrative power Jeff describes, and have this very same thing done to them…

  4. They depend upon emitting a fog of moral superiority, and someone like Juan puts that at risk. As I so often ask leftards in NYC, if racism explains so much of black failure in the US – and right wingers are teh racists, – then why are there slums everywhere the left comprises much of the population? The cab drivers who won’t pick them up. The teachers who don’t educate them. The business owners who won’t hire them. Right on down the line it’s lefties. The answer is invariably MORE MONEY!!!

  5. I once read a neat metaphor of this, in a short story by (IINM) Stanislaw Lem. There was an army of robots at war with humanity, and they gathered regularly to deprecate humans. But one of the robots was unmasked, and proved to be a human in disguise. The other robots all called for his death. But another robot was unmasked, and then another, to the same diminishing effect, until they all were revealed to be humans, each believing himself to be a closet dissident.

  6. What do you mean by reader poll?

    Readers of this blog? Readers of the internet? Most importantly, will readers of the WSJ be allowed to vote?

  7. Vaclav Havel’s greengrocer.

    The original and most important sphere of activity, one that predetermines all the others, is simply an attempt to create and support the independent life of society as an articulated expression of living within the truth.

  8. I disagree with the premise. If true, it would seem to me that our nuanced, fair, open-minded, intellectually advanced friends on the Left would disparage those who disagreed with them as ignorant racist simpleton sexual perverts, unworthy of respect or attention and certainly not the kind of people that one would choose to associate with.

    But instead, we’ve seen our nuanced, fair, open-minded, intellectually advanced friends on the Left engage with those who’ve refused to sign on to their platform. They’ve thoughtfully explained their policies, and the foundations that underlie their positions. They’ve made cogent and persuasive arguments for why their ideas are better, and equally valid arguments showing the weaknesses of alternative proposals.

    At least, that would be the way it read if people didn’t stubbornly insist on “facts” and “truth” all the damn time.

  9. Fox clearly rankles NPR. Obviously NPR wants to keep Fox out of the NPR henhouse (sorry I could not resist). They would have fired Liasson too if given half an excuse.

  10. “Manufactured consent,” as I’ve often explained, is a predictable product of our social acceptance of the post-modern turn as it applies to interpretation and what it is we think we’re doing when we interpret.

    True dat. However, humanity found ways to shut people up but good before Derrida. You can be sure that accusations of “heresy” during the Spanish Inquisition were entirely political, not religious, as St. John of the Cross can attest. (The Wiki article leaves out his famous quote upon returning to the classrom in Toledo after many years of imprisonment: “Como decía…” “As I was saying…”)

    No doubt the powers that were during the Inquisition took the liberty of “interpreting” the utterances of their enemies according to the group narrative, irrespective of intent.

    Jeff is correct to elucidate the theoretical underpinnings of today’s inquisitors; unfortunately, people can behave like jackals any time they want.

  11. I’m voting ‘should’, just because arch-villianous egomaniacal nihilists need representation too and I think your readership is biased against them.

    We believe in nothing, Lebowski. Nothing. And tomorrow we come back and we cut off your chonson.

  12. As I so often ask leftards in NYC, if racism explains so much of black failure in the US

    You can also ask them why, in raw numbers, most of the people living below the poverty line in the U.S. are white. They’re scattered around rural America instead of concentrated in slums, so they’re not so obvious.

    If racism is keeping the black man poor, who’s keeping down the “white trash”?

  13. My ass doesn’t leave the trailer for less than $20 an hour. That’s who. I got rights.

  14. “Hey if we all think really hard, maybe we can stop this rain.”

  15. “For a certain amount of marketing points of view, Fox wants to keep that polarization saying, ‘Look, we are different. We’re dramatically different. You can see how we are different. If you like that difference, you better come over here and you better stay here. That is an embedded part of the marketing that surrounds what happens in the news division at Fox”

    — Major Garrett, Former Senior Fox News reporter on “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough

    A look inside the “fair and balanced” political organization masquerading as a “news channel.”

  16. Of course the world should be made to bend to my will. Has that ever been in doubt?

    ahem.

  17. oh look, the troll who lusts to be part of the Left whip-weilding brigade! Ve vill tell you what is “news” and what is not! Ve vill!

    Don’t you have some boots to polish, jackass?

  18. A look inside the “fair and balanced” political organization masquerading as a “news channel.”

    And…?

    If what you are juxtaposing yourself against is a culture of progressive activism, being fair and balanced necessarily marks you as different. Marketing yourself along the axis of that polarization makes perfect sense — and, far from diminishing claims to being fair and balanced, actually reinforces them.

    — Which you’d understand, if you were able to think critically.

    Alas, you aren’t. You’re merely a meme recorder/repeater.

  19. Just you hold on a minute there Mr. Entropy. This is my world to be evil overlord for – go find another.

    The nerve of some of these people…

  20. #15 – get on with that boot-polishing already, just like Darleen said.

    And this time I want to see them shine. Minions can (and should be) replaced. Often.

  21. “A look inside the “fair and balanced” political organization masquerading as a “news channel.””

    Sad, isn’t it?

    It’s “different” to be fair and balanced in the MSM.

    Yet there are still people that resent even that.

    For the tolerance…

  22. I’m going to try and work one hour of GOTV for each comment from AJB this week. He’s a constant reminder that it is suicidal to let the people programming him to run this country.

    So, thanks.

  23. he manufactured liberal consensus about Islamic terrorism rolled off the assembly line a long time ago. . . . A credentialed, taxpayer-supported NPR liberal cannot be allowed to question this consensus.

    That’s not what Mr. Williams did… question the consensus.

    To say that he did is a lie.

  24. Do not look inside the Democrat Party today. Bad ju-ju masquerading as consensus against Barry Obama and the places he cannot go for fear of alienating local voters contra local Democrat candidates. That is, where Democrat politicians aren’t simply denouncing and repudiating the leader of the Democrat Party outright, but merely maintaining a misinterpretable silence.

  25. sdferr, Thanks for the link. Right on point. The battle is for “Truth”.

    Reality vs. Truth:

    1. “Reality” is the world I perceive in my day to day life. It is personal, interpretive and changes with daily events. “Truth” is how the world really is. It exists outside my mind, is universal and never changes. It is tempting to think the two are the same but we recognize that reality is more akin to perspective and the best we can do is for our reality to approximate truth. We feel and perceive our realty by looking within and rationalizing. We discover and understand the truth by experimentation, logic and reason. “My truth” is an oxymoron since truth stands independent of any person and cannot be claimed.

    2. Truth is constructed by social processes and is historically and culturally specific. It is partly shaped through the power struggles within a community. Since there are no transcendent realities all of our knowledge is “constructed”. Perceptions of truth and therefore reality are contingent on convention, human perception, and social experience. We believe that representations of physical and biological reality, including race, sexuality, and gender are social constructs and are not fundamental qualities. Since I exist within my own reality “My truth” is the only truth that matters.

  26. I click on all the words in AJB’s comment, and none of them take me to a primary source. This makes it difficult for me to judge whether AJB is representing things fairly and accurately, which is an important consideration given AJB’s casual relationship with accuracy.

    AJB: in future, when you quote from an article, an interview, a blog, or any other source on the Internet, please do the following. Go to the address bar at the top of your browser when you’re on the page that has the thing you’re quoting from, and copy the address from the address bar. It’ll be something like http://cynnsdailymarchingorders.soros.com/2010/oct25

    When you post here, do the following: type {a href=”http://cynnsdailymarchingorders.soros.com/2010/oct25″}a few words{/a}

    You’ll need to replace the { and } with less-than and greater-than signs to make the magic work right. And don’t just use “a few words” between the two commands; make those words describe what it is you’re linking to.

    Then (and this is important): be prepared for us to follow the link to find out what you’re talking about, and to see if you are presenting it accurately. A lot of times, we may try to explain to you that your source material doesn’t mean what you think it means. You should be prepared for this before you post your comment, so that it doesn’t catch you by surprise and make you defensive later.

    Good luck with this helpful “linking” trick. I understand that it’s kinda tricky and new-fangled. I myself have only been using it since the early 90s.

  27. If it isn’t properly slanted to the left, it’s not news, it’s “news.”

  28. http://cynnsdailymarchingorders.soros.com/2010/oct25

    I actually clicked on that, just to make sure there wasn’t really anything there.

  29. You can break it down any way you’d like, jls. Rorty used “things as they are” and “truth-as-a-linguistic-representation-for-the-way-we-see-things-as-they-are” where you use “reality” and “truth”.

    Changing the terms of that agreement such that truth doesn’t necessarily have to be a linguistic representation for the way we see things as they are — that is, we have learned (on a meta-cognitive level) that because we are using a man-made construct to stand in for truth, we cannot capture “things as they are” in a way that would recognizable outside of our frames of reference for such representation, and so can just pretend that any old thing we contrive has an “equal” claim on truth, truth no longer being anything other than what we wish it to be — changes the game entirely.

    Don’t get too caught up in the terms. Get caught up in the conditions they represent in terms of epistemology.

  30. squid – giving AJB that level of instruction is going to lock his brain solid for at least a day and those boots won’t get polished.

    Thanks. A. Lot.

  31. That’s not what Mr. Williams did… question the consensus.

    To say that he did is a lie.

    What?

  32. ‘My truth’ always reduces to solipsism. Which can serve as a useful tool for testing other belief systems, but it is no way to go through life.

  33. I think what hf is saying is Williams didn’t question anything, he merely related his own feelings.

  34. I like Philip K Dicks definition of reality: it is what remains whether you believe it or not. Which makes it pretty much synomous with truth it seems to me. Perception isn’t always reality.

  35. The hit-and-run Fox News nonsequitar really does seem to be cut-and-pasted from something.

    It really makes me wonder if he isn’t being payed. He certainly shows all the initiative of a minimum wage worker. Like the guy who posts links to online discount shoe stores.

    If trolling random websites with liberal political spam were a labor of love, you’d think he’d be more competent at it.

  36. I think what hf is saying is Williams didn’t question anything, he merely related his own feelings.

    Yeah. I was more drawn to the moonbat hyperbole of calling him a liar for what was, at worst, a poor choice of words.

  37. “I think what hf is saying is Williams didn’t question anything, he merely related his own feelings.”

    Those feelings are not to be tolerated at NPR. We have forbidden them.

  38. By relating his feelings he was questioning the consensus at NPR. Got to stop that preference cascade from starting.

  39. That’s not what Mr. Williams did… question the consensus.

    To say that he did is a lie.

    Obviously it wasn’t that he questioned the consensus, feets. It’s what he did that did.

  40. I have to disagree with the that Abe (sort of, you did say it was the worst case scenario.) Williams’ words were well chosen, and about as clear as can be expected given that they were off the cuff. In essence what he did was admit that he is human, and that as a human he is prone to all human foibles, including prejudice, and stereotyping. To those not on the far left this is no great shakes, we all see ourselves as immanently imperfect. To the far left admitting this is a heresy. Had he done it anywhere else it would have been a black spot on his record, and a question mark regarding future opportunities, that he did it on Fox necessitated excommunication.

  41. Williams began his discourse during the O’Reilly segment with the words “I think you’re right [Bill], I think that political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality”.

    This is a problem for NPR, if not the whole of “the” problem, isn’t it?

  42. I have to disagree with the that Abe (sort of, you did say it was the worst case scenario.) Williams’ words were well chosen, and about as clear as can be expected given that they were off the cuff.

    Williams was perfectly eloquent on the matter. I was referring to happyfeet calling the author of the passage Jeff excerpted a liar.

  43. You’d think that some bright light on the left would see what an utter dead end they have headed down.

    Suppose Williams didn’t actually believe what he said. Suppose he merely judged that this was something O’Reilly (or his average viewer) believed and was offering it as a rhetorical gambit to gain some sense of consensus, a consensus he could then use to his advantage, or even argue against at some later point.

    A couple days ago someone tried to compare this with Frum and AEI, in some ways isn’t this closer to Sherrod at the ACLU – more specifically the audience’s positive reaction to her racialist remarks?

  44. Sorry Abe, I totally misread you.

  45. 39. Comment by LBascom on 10/25 @ 11:45 am #
    “I think what hf is saying is Williams didn’t question anything, he merely related his own feelings.”
    Those feelings are not to be tolerated at NPR. We have forbidden them.

    There’s a new talking point making its rounds on the Left: that Williams’ firing is moot because retrospectively he shouldn’t have been hired by NPR in the first place anyways, since he now has unanswered sexual harassment charges from back in the early 90s while at the Washington Post.
    This is interesting because the Left 1) is making a case for the moral high ground of delegitimizing Williams by suddenly protesting a prominent leftist’s sexual harassment from back in the 90s
    B) The Left wants us to conform to their strict intolerance of intolerance of “Islamophobia” by appealing to the issue of gender harassment.

    which brings us along to Nina Totenberg:
    Look again at the [...] litany of Nina Totenberg quotes, and you’ll find it fits perfectly with this theme. Not only does she not understand conservative ideas, she knows they are unworthy of even trying to understand. She hates conservatives so much that she hopes their grandchildren get AIDS.
    The curious thing here isn’t NT’s admitted ideological biases confirming or contrasting whatever NPR’s unbiased standards are supposed to be, it’s how serial plagiarist Nina Totenberg somehow embodies NPR’s supposed high journalistic standard:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nina_Totenberg#National_Public_Radio

  46. The battle is for “Truth”.

    If you’re not privileging TRVTH or Truth or truth, you’re by default privileging raw power.

    And some people privelege raw power not by default but by design. These are the first to throw any concept of TRVTH under the bus.

  47. Perhaps the battle is between “Objective truth” and “Constructed truth”.

    1. Seeing things as they are.

    2. Constructing a narrative to advance an agenda.

    Since… “because we are using a man-made construct to stand in for truth, we cannot capture “things as they are” in a way that would recognizable outside of our frames of reference for such representation, and so can just pretend that any old thing we contrive has an “equal” claim on truth, truth no longer being anything other than what we wish it to be — changes the game entirely.”

    Have you noticed we don’t even have a word for Truth. Why the contrivances (TRVTH or Truth or truth?) Reminds me of “he who shall not be spoken”.

    dicentra- what’s the story with TRVTH?

  48. jls, have you spent a great deal of time, by your own estimation, working on the question of truth, the meaning of truth, the uses of truth, the names for truth in the so-called Western pursuit of the same? Is this pursuit a thing for you for its own sake? Or is it something other than a matter of any importance of that sort?

  49. Mr. Abe you sure are grumpy let’s carve a pumpkin!

  50. dicentra uses it backwards from my method.

    “truth” (which needs no capitalization) is a one-to-many relationship with the objective Universe. (Of course, to accept that you have to agree that there is an objective Universe.) It is one-to-many rather than one-to-one because the Universe is too big to fit in any language; If I say “this flower is red” it may be truth, but the flower has many other characteristics I didn’t name in the statement, and “red” can mean many different shades.

    TRVTH, on the other hand, is an ironic dismissal modeled on BC (the comic strip). It means The Official Approved Checked And Declared Version. The relationship between truth and TRVTH is occasional, accidental, and fleeting.

    Regards,
    Ric

  51. let’s carve a pumpkin!

    miss me yet w

  52. It might be easier to simply note that the left has internalized the notion that “art is a lie that tells the truth” to such an extent that they no longer draw a distinction between fiction and reality. It’s purely about what is most emotionally satisfying to their vision of themselves.

    And happyfeet, I’m not so much grumpy as I am prone to react negatively when you say stupid and annoying shit. It isn’t my fault that you do it so often.

  53. I said no such thing I just said it’s completely off-base to say that Mr. Williams was saying anything what could be construed as undermining the NPR narrative about muslims. He went to great lengths to say otherwise in fact.

    This firing was wholly without justification.

  54. “Williams began his discourse during the O’Reilly segment with the words “I think you’re right [Bill], I think that political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality”.

    This is a problem for NPR, if not the whole of “the” problem, isn’t it?”

    This is exactly correct. The commentary about his being scared is entirely ancillary. It is a useful excuse to punish him for the primal, unforgivable sin of besmirching the name of Political Correctness.

    That simply cannot be permitted to stand unaddressed. Swift action was required and taken. So… mission accomplished.

  55. Actually, I mean “TRVTH” as that which is carved in stone–or ought to be–by the finger of God. Using the old Roman convention of V for U when they carved their capitals in stone.

    “Truth” would be that truth which has few contingencies, and “truth” that which is largely contingent.

    To account for the varying permanence and transcendance and whatnot of true statements and things.

  56. “he who shall not be spoken”

    “He Who Must Not Be Named” is Voldemort (see! I said it!). The name of God is “I Am that I Am.”

  57. the left has internalized the notion that “art is a lie that tells the truth” to such an extent that they no longer draw a distinction between fiction and reality

    They no longer draw a distinction between fiction and lies. True story: in a class on metafiction, my classmates kept describing what was going on as “una mentira,” a lie. After awhile, I pointed out that “lie” is not the precise term, because there’s no intent to deceive going on: everybody is in on the game from the off, and so there’s no “lie,” just fiction.

    The distinction meant exactly nothing to them. Not. A. Thing.

  58. sdferr- My interest is in understanding the philosophy of the left and how they arrive at their positions. The concept of truth is a fundamental difference. I see in Jeff’s battle for intentionalism a re-litigation of the arguments for “truth”. Jeff argues that the intent of the speaker is “what is” and the “constructed intent” of the listener is contrived. One is truth the other is not. I’ve often wondered how Jeff would approach this general question of “truth”. I agree when Jeff says “truth no longer being anything other than what we wish it to be — changes the game entirely.” My working hypothesis is that political disharmony is a direct bi-product of this differences.

  59. It might be easier to simply note that the left… no longer draw[s] a distinction between fiction and reality.

    They no longer draw a distinction between fiction and lies.

    It’s as if someone intended it that way. Someone who wanted to construct an alternate basis for describing reality; a reality in which communism and other leftist utopian fantasies would be immune to criticism for its empirical, real world failings.

  60. What NPR did to Juan Williams

    by ThinkAsTheyDoOrElse

    Dark humor involving a bird, a wind turbine, and funny music


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6opUqt8pV3c

  61. I don’t go for capitalizing truth, mostly at least. Truth is noumenon. We have never found it and probably never will.

    It is, like ‘perfection’, a direction and not a destination. If you want it, you have to persue it constantly, forever. The moment you become complacent thinking you know it, you’ve lost it.

    http://chem.tufts.edu/AnswersInScience/RelativityofWrong.htm

    Sort of like liberty requires eternal vigilance. I wouldn’t say there’s ‘liberty’ and ‘Liberty’. One always has at least some (relative) measure of liberties, more or less. No one has Liberty as it is an idea, an utopian ideal. It requires constant dedication to move closer rather than away, but it’s never truely reachable.

    Each step you take toward the truth (or complete liberty, or perfection) cuts the distance remaining in half. So you can always get closer but never get there.

    Anyone who thinks they have THE Truth, has given up trying to find it.

  62. Entropy —

    This is precisely the maneuver of post modernism: recognizing that truth can’t be had (at least, not to a degree of certainty ruled upon by some arbiter outside human cognition), the move is to take that (pedestrian) observation and turn it into something profound, then misuse it as a takeaway. To wit, because truth can’t ever be determined with such certainty, all “truths” are contingent, and so truth claims are relative. And if they are relative, who gets to say which truth is the best truth if not some consensus?

    So why not manufacture a consensus and have ourselves a valid truth claim?

    The same tack is taken with respect to interpretation: because we can never be certain that we’ve ascertained intent (the specter of irony, or a dishonest interlocutor is always potentialized), why should we even try to appeal to originary intent?

    It’s a surrender of what is difficult and necessary to pursue in favor of an easy, convenient narcissism that, BONUS!, gives the interpreter the power over messages and truth claims!

    What could go wrong?

  63. A three step program:

    1. Truth exists.
    2. It is discoverable.
    3. We value it.

  64. Exactly. It’s the easy path, to justify them to stop looking, with some solipsitic nonsense that nothing can be known to any degree.

    And it’s the same approach, I think, toward meaning that Derrida took with his deconstruction technique. And the same observation that many existentialist philosophers have capitalized on making sound rather profound.

    Like Socrates said, “If I am the wisest man, it is because I know that I know nothing”, and yet Socrates was NOT one of the solipsists and opposed them. So the same interpretive dichotomy has been around a few thousand years (which suggest the observation is indeed pedestrian, if it was possibly the guy who ‘invented’ fire that came up with it).

    If made correctly, it is a powerfully humbling observation. That you must constantly labor just to stand still – study and learn just to continue to know what you already thought you knew. Always revising, adjusting, correcting and completing, and never putting anything beyond question or healthy skepticism. Always expecting some of the unexpected, and anticipating that you’ll be wrong alot – maybe even always. The only consolation is that you’ll be less wrong, always getting a bit closer, a bit more complete, and each fallacy you’re found out in is another step in a giant process of elimination and revision.

    Incorrectly, it’s liable to make your ego go supernova, having absolved yourself of any concrete ties to reality or results. Then you can eat lotus petals all day and sneer at people who are sincere.

    It seems to me that interpretation is the same way. Like Cynn was asking “who defines intent?”. No one does. It was what it was. No one can define the planet Neptune, it defines itself and we can only describe it. She seems to want a system that gives her a bottom line, a final verdict. But any system that offers that is neccessarily wrong (at least, incomplete). Due to the nature of things, it cannot be had.

    All you can do is seek a certain intention as long as you please, and build a case as robustly as you please, until you are content. Testing new theories, questioning old ones, refining the edges, making infinite incrimental steps with each granting slightly more certainty than the last (but never complete certainty), with the 80/20 rule in full effect.

    There is no “DNA evidence” of intent. The case is always circumstantial. You pile circumstances on, with each additional one the probability of them all being coincidental becomes slightly more implausible (but never impossible).

    And in that sense, Derrida et. al. have half a point – intent is in some sense noumenon, it cannot be definitively known.

    BUT, there is an objective reality (even if our perception and interaction with it cannot be truly objective), there was an objective intent, and while it cannot be known as such, it can be approximated, with some models more or less correct and complete than others. By repeatedly demonstrating something consistently, from different perspectives, we can become more certain of it aligning with the actual unknowable reality to a greater extent.

    In this fashion, knowing is not boolean. It’s not know or not know. Everything is known within degrees of likelyhood.

    To believe any differently is to reject almost all human knowledge and the fruits of it. To believe your microwave might undergo nuclear detonation the next time you press ‘Start’. Because the fact that it hasn’t yet, is coincidental, and you’ve been pressing your luck. There’d be no reason to believe it will continue being consistent, if the principles it’s operation is predicated upon cannot be known with ANY degree of certainty.

    I’d challenge any of them to practice what they preach and cower in fear of a world that lacks any knowable consistency in it’s operation. I think that’s why solipsistic views have always primarily found purchase in academic settings, where people become accustomed to thinking in the abstract and are often privledged enough to ignore the practical – they’re fundementally unworkable in practice.

  65. And if they are relative, who gets to say which truth is the best truth if not some consensus?

    Natural rights doctrine. Every person gets to say for themselves – because that’s what they do, always have done, and cannot truly be stopped from doing. It’s inalienable, and appears to have been installed in us by whatever created us.

    I think, the bottom line, where Cynn and the rest might go wrong, is in looking for the bottom line. In trying to close the case file, or thinking anything is ever finally settled.

    The problem with the question ‘who get’s to say’ is it contains a false assumption. That there’s a ‘who’. That anyone would get to say, or anyone else would then have to not-say.

    That’s just not the way things work, no matter how hard you try to force them.

    The same to “why should we not try”. Why should we not try to know? We cannot know completely how the world works, so why should we try to know it in part? If we hadn’t, we wouldn’t have DVD’s or microwave ovens or Three-Field Rotational Farming.

    How else do you eat an infinite elephant, save for one bite at a time?

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