Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Relativism (Part 7)

Parts one, two, three, four, five and six.

I actually finished reading Simon Blackburn's book some weeks ago, but here, finally are some further remarks. I admit my use of the term 'relativism' was somewhat tendentious. I have not read Rorty or Derrida or people like that, but I am one of those who have entered into 'the purgatory of trying to read Heidegger' (P78).

One of the best things about the book is the chapter headings from Francis Bacon. There is also this blinding insight: 'There is notorious logical trouble when Epimenides, the Cretan, says that everything Cretans say is false. But there is no problem when someone from somewhere else says it.' (P82)

What has been mentioned before as 'absolutism' is, in philosophy, properly known as 'realism' - as in Blackburn's table on P113, which I have expanded somewhat:

Eliminativism -
John Mackie; Thrasymachus, Gorgias and the sophists of Plato's day:
dismissive attitude to the very possibility of 'moral truth'.

Realism - the darling of absolutists,
stands proudly on real facts,
and, it is hoped, real knowledge of them,
and real authority for those with that knowledge.

Constructivism -
also fictionalism, instrumentalism,
pragmatism, expressivism ...

Humean, Kantean, Ramseyan.

Soggy pluralism

Scepticism: the denial that there is knowledge to be had in some area, or that we can have any justification for beliefs in the area... the view that while we may have some knowledge, we cannot know that we do, or while we might have knowledge, we cannot know that we do, or while we might have reasons for our beliefs, we cannot be sure of that either. Scepticism does not imply eliminativism, although, as the example of Hume shows, the cost of holding one and not the other is a pessimistic view of the place of knowledge and reason in human life. (P115)
Notes on Nietzsche - the popular conception of him as a 'stormtrooper for nihilism' (P79)... he puts forward contradictory arguments... 'This is far from proving a postmodernist contempt for truth. It is just as plausibly the work of someone who cares passionately about truth...' (P77).

Harry Eyres recently wrote that  Nietzsche saw the coming nihilism as “the uncanniest of all guests” and the “danger of dangers” ("The Heart of Nothingness", FT magazine,  5 Nov 2005, subscribers only). What we have now, it is argued, is 'a banal, smug nihilism, drawing sanction from philosophers such as Richard Rorty',
a cheerful nihilism, 'no longer uncanny or dangerous but something more like conversation in the Big Brother house (where no guest is uncanny).'

From Twilight of the Idols (P80)
1. The true world - attainable for the sage, the pious and the virtuous (Plato)
2. The true world - unattainable for now, but promised for the sage, the pious and the virtuous (Christianity)
3. The true world - unattainable, indemonstrable, unpromisable; but the very thought of it - a consolation, an obligation an imperative. (Kant; the old sun, but seen through mist and scepticism.)
  Link here.

Historia abscondita: history obscured or lost sight of.
The Gay Science: extracts here; German original cited here; here is Kaufmann's translation, cited by Blackburn on P96:
Historia abscondita - Every great human being exerts a retroactive force: for his sake all of history is placed in the balance again, and a thousand secrets of the past crawl out of their hiding places- into his sunshine. There is no way of telling what may yet become part of history. Perhaps the past  is still essentially undiscovered! So many retroactive forces are still needed!


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