This is again another partial disconnect from the current thread, but it does do much to lead into the next part – and since it took up my available non present wrapping un-wrapping time today, I am putting my full reply here to a discussion begun on One Cosmos. The original comment by Integralist can be seen towards the bottom of the comments on Gagdad Bob’s One Cosmos.
In response to my negative reply to his earlier comment regarding the desirability of integrating Postmodernism with Classical Liberalism, Integralist said...
“OK, so let's drop the formal, historical postmodern schools of contextualism and hermeneutics and go back to that basic Greek idea (“… if horses had Gods, they’d undoubtedly be very Horse-like…”). That's much simpler and I prefer simplicity, especially when my understanding of hermeneutics is more of the "gist" rather than the ins and outs.”
I’m with you on wanting to keep it simple, but attempting to separate a discussion such as this from an historical perspective, is to cut yourself off from the lessons available in the history of ideas, and condemn yourself to repeating them. And I gotta warn you, that the intellectual path you’ve put yourself on is in my judgment repeating a doozy of an error. I predict that it guarantees an ever increasing complexity in your thought, by way of an increasing separation from reality, and a resulting need to paper over, or overlook ‘details’ in order to preserve appearances. This is so, because the implications inherent in “Absolute Truth vs relative truth” (similar to what Kant put across as necessary and contingent truth), foretells a course doomed towards making particular assertions over principled applications.
I read in your comment:
“We cannot speak Absolute Truth. We can only speak our highest vision of Absolute Truth, which is--and forever will be--relative. Relative to who we are at the time we experience and express it. Our relationship to Absolute Truth, to God or Spirit or the Mystery or simply Life, changes. Just as everyone reveres some kind or aspect of God, they just have a different name and conception for it.”
This idea of Absolute Truth, and relative truth – it is what raises my alarm bells right from the start. To my mind it mistakes the nature of truth. While I think I understand the intent behind it, intention is not enough, application and action are necessary, and there you must shall fall short. What I think that you don’t realize is, that by the very nature of accepting the idea of an “Absolute Truth”, that is in itself an assertion of the existence of static unchanging, and ultimately disintegrated truths.
To say something is true is to say it is true in relation to a multitude of attributes.
“The I-ness, as I see it, is Absolute Truth: it is the only aspect of experience that is without a doubt: I am.”That was the starting point of Descartes as well, which not surprisingly was also the starting point of the stream of thought that led to PostModernism. But think about what you use to even express that statement “I Am.”.
From my earlier post“Spreading the Flames” :
“The first false trail began with the false start made by Descartes, who in trying to find a foundation from which thought could begin thinking from, thought that by resurrecting the Cogito Ergo Sum, “I think, therefore I Am” that it would be just such a position. What he didn’t see, was that a mind that held itself to be the root of reality, in actuality pulled its very roots out of reality, and set them floating about in a haze of its own creation. You can’t get to “I Think…” you can’t even get to “I”, to the idea of Identity – something unique and differentiated from other Stuff, without first having had experience of a larger reality from which to begin differentiating entities, and yourself, from.
But as the history of Modern Philosophy demonstrates, thought cut free from reality must rapidly lose the ability to Reason with a capital “R” ... These floating thoughts must, and did, tilt into a method which was no longer self correcting, a method which asserted whims and increasingly erratic emotional and irrational systems and declarations, through thoughts wholly unmoored from reality."
All of which is to say that by starting with your own thinking as the foundation for all of your thoughts, is to disconnect your thoughts from the Reality you are seeking. Thinking is relating perceptions and concepts at every level, it is a massively integrated continuum, and the basis for how our conceptual minds function – our modern notion that we can compartmentalize our thoughts, our actions, our desires – is a conceit of huge proportions.
Coming from your starting point, “I Am”, or “Cogito Ergo Sum” you will soon find yourself coming to the point of accepting or repeating Kant’s categorical imperatives – an attempt to declare certain invariable, never changing Absolutes. But the very nature of reality, down to the sub-atomic level, is relational. Truths are only true in relational to the surrounding reality, and the desire to fix a truth in stone and port it about to where ever it might be fun to trot it out, would make it separate from reality (an impossibility), and no longer true.
Because you are then disconnected from the context of reality, which is the only proper starting point, until you grasp that the world does not begin with you, but you with the world – until you realize (“make real” in your mind) this – all of your thought will be cut off from reality. I do realize that the intent of your statements is not this, but it reaches no further than intent, and intent isn’t enough – it needs to manifest itself in the actual action of your thoughts, in order to be… well, true.
"it is the only aspect of experience that is without a doubt: I am.”
Perhaps, but it is a result of a process, not a point to claim to begin from. It is based on prior actions and integrations of reality from which the very ideas & words used to assert it are derived from, and which lead a sentient being to be able to grasp that they are “I AM” (that I am), and only in relation to what you are not , and that both and all do exist.
“We cannot speak Absolute Truth. We can only speak our highest vision ofAnd
Absolute Truth, which is--and forever will be--relative.”
“With hermeneutics I don't think we need to go as far as extreme postmodernism does: there is no reality, only interpretations; all cultures and ideas are equal because all are based on nothing.”,,unfortunately they, the portion you like, and the portion you shun, are both direct and inevitable results of thoughts flowing from the starting point in thought from which they began.
And here is where you give an example of this:
“But are either ideas--that the stapler dropped on your toe hurts or that property rights are a necessity of freedom--truly absolute? That is, are the true in any time, any place?...”
Here is set up the unattainable goal, with the implication therefore that we can only trust in Absolute Truths which exist only in some higher realm unattainable to us, and also the implication that we are only able to deal in it’s poor relation, the knock-off ‘relative truth’.
“(For would that not define absolute truth: that which is true always and
everywhere?). I would say no. It is easy to think of situations where neither is
true. Of course that doesn't take away their contextual validity.”
Here you have an interesting take on attempting to have your cake and eat it too, appealing to both absolutes and contextual validity, but both serve to establish the inadequacy of any appeal to ‘real’ truth, leaving us only with approximations and compromises. In effect, you contextually discard reality!
To speak of truth, is to speak of something being true in relation to something else (many something’s), all of which is related within a wider context. But here, relation and context, do not diminish Truth – making it less than some revered “Absolute”, but instead serve to energize it through proper identification of what exactly it is, what truth refers to, what the process of identifying something, anything as true – Is.
Bear with me for a (long) moment as I grab a relevant quote from another post "Would you trust the liar who tole you he was going to lie to you"
“One way Kant attempts ..." (this) "... is with his extensive use of “necessary" and "contingent" statements or truths. The classic example of "2+2 equals Four is a necessary truth", and that there can not be round squares - because we cannot imagine (hear Descartes echoing through here?) it otherwise. TheirThe point is that to exist, is to exist in reality, which is to exist within reality wherein all things are contextual. A small glimpse of the contextual implications in the statement of a stapler falling on my toe will hurt, is to say by implication that an object released here on earth’s surface from a stationary position whose surroundings are not themselves falling through the air, with no intervening or restraining obstructions to impede its velocity, from a height of 3 feet to fall upon my bare toe, which is also stationary upon a solid surface, un-numbed by any medications and while the owner of the toe is wide awake, will cause sufficient discomfort to be described as pain.
purpose is to trick you into looking so closely at the particulars, that you
miss the sleight of hand removal of the wider context within which they both
reside - all issues of the molecular structure of water and your experiences of
life here on earth, in reality, are removed from your consideration by the
Kantian 3 card monty player who says "But Ice sinking in water, is merely a
contingent truth, because we can easily imagine ice sinking to the bottom of a
glass of water.", as he whisks reality, unseen and out of your attention, off of
the table without your even relaizing it.
It is as if they are stymied by anything deeper than the perceptual level concept. Circles & Squares are too two dimensionally defined by their appearance for even them to deny. But anything whose conceptual depth is deeper than those 2 dimensions, and their conceptual grasp is strained, their mental gripping power too weak (Hume suffered from the same lack of conceptual gripping power 'Principle'? Too darn heavey) like an Ostrich, they seem to think “If I can’t see it’s properties, it
must not be important”.
What that actually means, is that they've divorced their thoughts from having any connection to the real world. They've lost the understanding that reality IS. Things are. Squares are 4 sided objects where each side is of equal length - in that the length of the sides are all properties of a square, in the same way as the properties of Ice are just as integral to it. Just as they like to rip the meaning out of a word, while cherry picking it's desirable connotations to be used regardless of it's actual meaning - they do the same thing when having you imagine Ice as having the "look" of Ice, maybe being cold also, but then scrapping away all the other properties of ice such as being lighter than water. Ice is Ice - it is defined by all of its properties, you can’t separate its buoyancy from its temperature, its essential properties are reflective of what it IS, you cannot pick and choose them.
Whenever you hear them talking about whether something "could be true or false in some other universe", you should reject it outright as the worst of hypothetical garbage designed to divorce truth from that which makes it true, divorcing mind from body, thought from reality. Whenever you hear them start “Imagine a universe where…” they are not only going to play “lets pretend”, but then try to convince you that their conclusions formulated in their pretend world should take precedence over yours, and then even that their pretend world is more real than the real real one we live in. It is the source of all of their 'errors', and their disappointment in, and neurotic rejection of Life, and which can be seen in their art, literature and failed
Notions of Absolute Truth can’t cover even a simple situation as this, because it would attempt to cover every conceivable detail, which is always alterable, and so invalidated, by adding or subtracting just one detail – that is the brittleness of Absolute Truth, at best it can be no more than a detailed description of one partial & isolated incident.
This is not the stuff our minds are designed to work with. What our minds are designed to do – is to operate by reference to concept and principle primarily, adorned with as many perceptual details are necessary to the present purpose. Any seeking after, or even worse, attaining to “Absolute Truth” would not be a blessing to the human mind, but a hindrance. Absolute Truth rooted in massive amounts of detail, with no measure of what is essential vs non-essential would be less than a thought, it would represent a state of unthinking.
Thinking, grasping truths, consists in relating essentials only, and discarding the non-essentials as extraneous ballast. If you don't toss them overboard, you'll never get off the ground.