I Love Richard Rorty

Richard Rorty on “Truth” (with a capital “T”) v. merely human democratic justification via rhetoric and persuasion:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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31 Responses to I Love Richard Rorty

  1. Jared K says:

    I understand the attraction to Rorty’s rejection of “pie in the sky” metaphysics (even though as a theist, I happen to disagree with it), but I do not understand the attraction to what he bundles with it–a rejection of the correspondence theory of truth.

    And Rorty’s rejection of what he calls “certainty” and his embrace instead of a “conversation”–why is this attractive? Only fundys believe in knowledge to an absolute certainty, and only relativists believe that we are only having a conversation rather than learning at least *some* objective things about the way the world really is.

    If science, for example, is just a conversation, then what the hell is the difference between a scientific conversation and a voodoo or young-earth creationist conversation? Are we just fighting over how to construe reality? Or is someone actually closer to being right?

    This isn’t, in my opinion, just some small error that can be overlooked in Rorty’s epistemology–it is at the heart of what he believed.

  2. If you are not a fundamentalist and don’t believe in absolute truths, you must, by definition admit that, for example, the Nazis might have been right, or creationists may possibly be right.

    It’s not, sort of, “merely” conversations as you seem to suggest. It’s also persuasion. A good phiosopher (by Rorty’s definition of a good philosopher) would be able to convince hoardes of people that what he thinks is better than what the next guy thinks.

    He’s not a relativist because as he says, he does think his opinions are better than most others. He is what you would call a post-modernist:

    Look at Kierkegaard (if you’re a Christian). He believed in subjective truth. His belief in God, though sincere, he did not believe to be objective.

    It wasn’t that he had better reason to believe in God, but that he took a leap of faith (over logic and reason) towards God.

    I think it’s also key to note that justification is actually quite signficant in the absence of correspondence truth. You can justify a lot of things that you can’t call “truth” or “reality” for instance I can justify evolution over creartionism as a belief most people should hold.

  3. Jared K says:


    I’ve found that many “post-modern” philosophies, as espoused, are in fact relativistic, regardless of an adherents’ denial of that characterization.

    As for nazis and creationists, sure they might be right. I follow a probabilistic correspondence type of epistemology. I try to admit, both to myself and to others, that I could be wrong about *most* anything I believe. Yet I also reject skepticism and believe that objective knowledge of many things is possible and is actual. I almost certainly am wrong about many things I believe to be truth. Similarly, contra the skeptic, I think some of the things I believe about the universe are objectively true insofar as they go. I do not have certainty of most of my particular beliefs, but many of them are justified by probability.

    I try to rely on probability as measured by what seems to be best established and as guided by justificaton and yes, even pragmatism.

    I think that Rorty’s pragmatism goes wrong in that he rejects correspondence. I myself can’t even make sense of the word “truth” apart from correspondence. If coherence and social conversation are the elements of truth, I do not see how this isn’t synonymous with a form of relativism–even if Rorty denied that his views were relativistic.

    I appreciate aspects of Kierkegaard, but one doesn’t take a leap “over” logic to some higher faith. If she did, then Islamic suicide bombers would be justified along with other religionists.

    How do you justify evolution over creation without correspondence? By your inner feelings about it?

  4. santitafarella says:


    I think that Rorty had very definite opinions about the nature of reality. He was emphatically trying to think through the consequences of what it means to live in a world that consists of atoms and the void.

    He never disputed the human experience of cause and effect. What he disputed is that there can ever be a language for talking about the human experience of atoms and the void that can be justified by anything or anyone outside the democratic conversation.

    In other words, Rorty took very definite epistemic and metaphysical premises, and thought out their consequences. He believed that we lived in a universe consisting of atoms and the void, that reality “corresponded” to this brute fact, and that we experienced the world in cause-effect relations.

    The question raised by Rorty was: Now how do you talk about these brute facts? What language do you use to justify your desires and actions? And to this, Rorty insisted that there was no more justification than the ones that you can persuade your fellow humans to accept. There’s no language out there in nature that we can learn to speak and that is given to us that we must or should speak. We have to create it as we go, and we have to justify it to human others.

    This is why I hate, say, a book by Sean Hannity—because I can’t say that his language doesn’t work. He persuades people. But he doesn’t persuade me. His language doesn’t “correspond” to reality as I see it. But it doesn’t have to. He just has to justify his positions at a certain level to his particular audience. There are no ultimate justifications, only the one’s that you present to contingent audiences to fit an occasion.

    Unlike Rorty, I’m an agnostic, not an atheist. But I agree with Rorty that, barring some revelation from God of a language that corresponds to reality, that we must make languages for audiences (and not imagine that our languages correspond to reality in some higher sense than the immediate purposes that we put them to).

    I like to speak, for example, Camus, but I don’t imagine that the universe warrants my speech, or that it might not be, not just wrong, but spectacularly so. Nature doesn’t speak. We do.


  5. Jared K says:


    I can see that you are taken with Rorty’s ideas, but surely if you think about it, you can see that this is not what we are doing with language. Or if it is, it only what we are doing with a very tiny number of the propositions we communicate (for example, with truly socially constructed objects like money).

    When I say that “the moon is a natural satellite that orbits the earth” I am trying to communicate through human language a proposition about the way things in the universe are. The actual fact/proposition about the moon, if it is true, could continue to have the truth value “true” a year after all of humanity were to die off following, say, the great flu pandemic of 2016.

    Surely, truth is not something that relies on humans, whether individually or collectively. Except, I suppose, when propositions are about the choices that we make (for example, “Jared is a graduate student” is true in part because I chose, probably poorly, to keep doing school).

    The debate about life on mars, for example, isn’t about us trying to convince one another to construct the truth, it is about trying to discover the way things actually are on mars. Past or present life on mars is something that could be true if there were no lingual or social homo sapiens anywhere in the universe trying to convince one another.

    Sean Hannity, who may sincerely believe what he writes, persuades because he is good at convincing certain folks to believe things that aren’t true (like global warming as myth). It isn’t just bullshit because you and I don’t find it persuasive.

    To deny this, to me at least, smacks of solipsism or constructivism. It also seems to elevate humans to some bizzare privileged “pie in the sky” status as if we fashion all of reality with our collective mind or some such thing. If that is what we are talking about, it strikes me as the pinnacle human arrogance. I think that is why it was so critical for Rorty to couple his epistemology with his anti-metaphysic. You gotta get rid of God first before you can elevate yourself to divine status.

    I think it is telling that few scientists (if any?) follow Rorty’s view of truth. We see it among some philosophers, religious studies academics, and especially in the social sciences, literature, and humanities disciplines. Is it possible that what is really going on here is a power move on the part of insecure thinkers to regain ground from those oh-so-glorified and well-funded science departments? Make knowledge about language and human consensus and science seems like a very silly enterprise indeed–and literature profs become the linchpin for understanding all of human knowledge. ?

  6. Jared K says:


    Sorry to be so aggressive in my last post. I know you are thoughtful and I respect your opinion. But I am amazed that you find this view persuasive. If I pressed too hard, I apologize.

  7. santitafarella says:


    No need to apologize. You should see how they sass me at atheist blogs! Ugly! I’m soft on “accomodationism”—which makes me the enemy and a closet Gish-creationist!

    Anyway, I don’t think Rorty ever denied the fact value of a statement like, “The moon goes round the earth.” Rorty reasoned directly from the assumption that certain things are true (the universe is nothing more than atoms and the void). And Rorty would never have denied that if he kicked a stone, he would feel it. Rorty asked, instead, this: After I look up at the moon or kick a stone, aside from the brute fact of these things, how can we—or should we—talk about them?

    It’s easy to make propositional sentences that are superficially true, but harder to decide the value we place on them within a larger language. It is the language as a whole—not individual propositions—that Rorty suggested could not correspond to reality—and that had to be justified democratically. Nature has no languages that it speaks, or dictates that we speak. We can even speak languages that ignore global warming or deny its existence. In one respect, the language doesn’t correspond with reality, but it may be doing other things that are useful to the community that speaks that language (scoring points with Republican constituencies; bringing down Obama’s poll numbers; signalling you hate environmentalists).

    Here is where I draw the line: I agree with you that there are empirical things that we can know, but the moment we move from the empirical—and to a language of values—then how we talk is completely open.

    Would you buy that?


  8. Jared K says:


    I think you are right about Rorty, but I think it goes farther. He did explicitly deny correspondence as truth.

    Your own view, about empirical things, is more reasonable. But it saddens me that you still seem to buy into the logical positivist view (that language of non-scientific things is meaningless or wholly subjective or open or whatever you want to call it). I wish I could convince you otherwise on this.

  9. Jared,

    I don’t think either Santi or Rorty buy into the logical positivist view. I think you do, and that’s what’s sad.

    And what do you mean by “language of non-scientific things is meaningless?” Language isn’t meaningless it is a tool. It’s as meaningful as you can make it. Isn’t it meaningful to turn someone away from what you regard as a horrid belief?

  10. But Rorty is a post-modernist through and through. No question about that. A lot of people-especially most philosopher I’ve encountered-would regard his views as extreme. See “Rorty and his Critics”.

    The fact that they take the time to respond to Rorty means that they’re worried. They’re worried they’ve hit a wall, and cannot go any further.

    Rorty’s philosophy allows for progress, however meager you may regard progress in philosophy that doesn’t find truth, his is a live philosophy. Yours is dead.

    Quick, name me the last breakthrough in metaphysica.

  11. santitafarella says:


    I am told that CS Lewis’s book, “The Abolition of Man”, reads like a direct retort to Richard Rorty (long before Richard Rorty hit the scene). I’m curious to read it now. I’ll let you know what I think of the book after reading it.

    Have you read it? It’s short.


  12. santitafarella says:


    I agree with you about the “hitting the wall” comment. I feel stuck too.


  13. Chris says:

    Santita and Jared,

    The problem I see between reconciling these two views is the difference that has not been made between objective truth – that the moon orbits the earth – and value judgments – the moon is beautiful, killing is wrong, etc.

    The first sort of “truths” are not debatable. No one, when shown the data about the moon, could “not see” so to speak, that the moon is in fact a sphere and it orbits the earth.

    The second bunch of “truths” are quite a bit different. Despite all different philosophies, no one can seem to agree what is “right” or “wrong” in an objective manner, or what is “beautiful” or what is “ugly”. Are these two groups – right/wrong and beauty/ugliness even in the same boat? Are they emotional responses , based firstly on fact? Or do we construe the fact, based on our emotions first?

    This is the main problem with choosing either ojectivism or relativism: are there things “out there” – facts – that actually justify certain responses, be they emotional – the moon is beautiful – or moral – it was wrong for Hitler to kill so many Jews – or even logical – the moon is made of a certain substance.

    Now the last group of things seem to be tautological – or merely definitional/repetitive, but it’s an important question to answer, because, if we, as humans, can set up tautologies which are universally true – i.e. it is unreasonable to reason in such a way where the moon is a square or two and two equals five – then why can not other branches of knowledge be universal?

    This, anyway, is C.S. Lewis’s position in Abolition of Man. He is an objectivist, even a fundamentalist, and, in my opinion, quite effectively demonstrates to me that yes, morally speaking, things “out there” actually justify certain moral/logical responses. He also espouses that beauty is objective, but throughout all that I have read – which is a great deal from him – I’ve yet to be convinced that this is the case.

    So, Lewis completely rejects Neitzsche’s “there are no facts, only interpretations”, on one of the simple grounds that this philosophy is, based on its own premise, open to interpretation and is not more definite than if we believed any other philosophy ever thought of.

    But I think the problem – which is basically responsible for the birth of existentialism – of connecting value truths to fact truths is still there. Lewis comments a little on this distinction – being again ahead of his time, as at the point existentialism by Mr. Satre had not yet become academically popular – in some of his essays, which I could go back and look at my notes on if you are interested. The main problem is – how are is statements connected to ought statements?

  14. Nehamas answers the objection Lewis raise (though he was not the first. It had been raised by Nietzsche himself and refuted for one thing) of Nietzsche’s philosophy – mainly that Nietzsche’s philospphy itself is self-refuting – in his masterpiece “Nietzsche: Life as Literature.”

    First let me state Nietzsche position correctly at least around the time when he wrote “The Birth of Tragedy”: “there are some ultimate facts, some noninterpretive truths, concernig the real nature of the world. But he denied that these facts could ever be correctly stated through reason, language, and science” (Nehemas, 42). First notice that although he accepts that there may be some “Truths” out there in and of the world, he coaxes it with a may. The reason being that none of these truths have been put into a universal language.

    “The world is round.” A simple statement of fact like that even falls on its own head. “Round compared to what?” And if you keep at this you will realize that the language itself is vague and unscientific. More on this: “to engage in any activity, and in particular in any inquiry, we must inevitably be selective. We must bring some things into the foreground and distance others into the background… If we are ever to begin a practice or an inquiry we must, and must want to, leave unasked indefinately many questions about the world.” Nehemas and in turn Nietzsche are rendering the very ideaof objective truth meaningless. “We do not and cannot, begin (or end) with “all the data.” This is an incoherent desire and an impossible goal. “To grasp everything” would be to do away with all perspective relations, it would mean to grasp nothing, to misapprehend the nature of knowledge” (49).

    And now to answer the supposed “Lewis question.” But first off all let me make something else clear. Interpretation and possible falsehood are not the same are “mere” interpretation and “actual” falsehood. What I mean is that just because something is an interpretation does not make it something less. And just because something could possibly be false does not make it false.

    All of you except Santita seem to get this point. This brings us to our main point. Perspectivism is not “merely” an interpretation. And although it could possibly be false I would argue it isn’t.

    I’m not going to rattle off the hundred of arguments Nehemas, Rorty and Nietzsche make for this. And yes, Lewis might be right, but he’s not necessarily right and Nietzsche’s view is not necessarily wrong. It just might be. And this isn’t a big deal. It’s not really a great objection to it as you make it out to be.

  15. Chris says:

    I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying Bahram, but the fact remains that if you are holding any sort of Nietzschean “interpretation of facts”, you have no ground in which to have any argument at all. Even claims to logic and reason are, by the very philosophy’s admission, subject to interpretation.

    Also, just because there is confusion about interpretation does not therefore mean there are no facts. There wouldn’t even be any confusion unless there *were* facts in the first place to be confused about. So the fact that language is sometimes a barrier for understanding one another does not in any way diminish things being true.

    And as far as needing a “universal language” to make things be universally true… who cannot understand the concept of round? And, since it is not a quantitative term, it does not need to be compared to be apprehended. It is definitional. The world is a sphere (I would not really call it “round”, but that’s beside the point). A sphere is a certain shape. You don’t have to have squares and triangles in order to compare it to to see that a sphere is a sphere. All you need to know is, what constitutes a sphere.

    I’m not quite sure what you’re espousing, but I just want to make the point that Neitzchean philosophy breaks down the moment it says anything other than “There are no facts, only interpretations.” Indeed, if that is so, that philosophy is itself subject to rejection, purely on the grounds that it claims every road to truth cannot – not may not, but cannot (these are very different claims) – bring you one inch closer to the real thing.

    If we truly cannot know anything, then we cannot even know that we do not have the ability to know. The skepticism Neitzsche espouses actually renders the thinker completely. He becomes unable to say, literally, anything meaningful. Perhaps this is why Neitzsche went mad. Luckily for most people, though they espouse some sort of relativism, they do not really hold to it like they should if they thought it all the way through.

    Good thing too, because it is absurd.

  16. Just because we cannot KNOW anything doesn’t mean that one thing is not a better interpretation than the other.

    My point which you still fail to understand is that just because something may be false does not mean it is actually false and just because something is an interpretation does not mean it is a mere interpretation.

    A sphere on its own is nothing. If there were no other shapes the concept sphere would be meaningless. It would be nothing. It is only rendered meaningful compared or relative to something else.

    Take numbers as the most obvious example. What is 7? Tell me without reference to other numbers.

    Likewise, explain what a sphere is without reference to other shapes.

    Nietzsche’s philosophy is an interpetation. A damn good one. That’s all it needs to be. Likewise, whatever philosophy you espouse is an interpretation, but likely a worse interpretation. Better and worse are term of relation. It is meaningful. Perfect, absolutely moral, etc… are not therefore they are meaningless.

  17. Calling Nietzsche absurd without evidence and at the end of dribble (which lack an understanding of the other person’s point) is bad etiquette. In very poor taste. I hope you apologize for that.

    All you did was restate your position. You did not show me that you understand the point of my last post (two before this one) that:

    just because something may be false does not mean it is actually false and just because something is an interpretation does not mean it is a mere interpretation.

    I have a question for you: are you a catholic?

  18. Chris says:

    No, I’m not Catholic.

    And yes, you are right, I fail to see the significance in the statement that “just because something may be false does not mean it is actually false and just because something is an interpretation does not mean it is mere interpretation.” I’ve never contended that Neitzsche’s philosophy *may be* false. I’ve said it must be false, or you cannot make any meaningful statement at all. Well… you can continue to make them (as you are doing), but it’s only because you are not following through with your philosophy.

    Neither do I understand the relevance of what you say here: “Just because we cannot KNOW anything doesn’t mean that one thing is not a better interpretation than the other.”

    As soon as you say you cannot know anything, you lose the right to say anything at all. This includes saying something is a “better” interpretation. How could these words even have meaning if we cannot know anything?

    You’re also hung up on this issue with shapes. How does the fact that multiple objects exist support Neitzschean philosophy? Yes, in order to explain to you what things mean, I do have to use adjectives. So? Our understanding of language is not 100% the same, and no two people’s are, but that does not therefore mean that everything is subject to intrepretation. On the contrary, that means there must be some facts which we all have some common, fuzzy notion of. What gets confused is the interpretation *of those facts*.

    I don’t mean to sound rude. You seem to have been offended. If that’s the case I do apologize.

  19. Chris says:

    I guess I would ask you to demonstrate how it is so that we cannot know anything and yet still maintain that some things are “better” than others, as you have claimed is the case.

  20. Fair enough. How can we not “know” anything and yet somethings be better than others?

    If I explain this don’t tell me you don’t understand or fail to see the significance. If that’s he case your abstract thinking skills are lacking, not my explanation.

    I will explian this notion of better and worse without absolute knowledge or truth with an analogy:

    If Billy goes outside and plays in the mud, just because he cannot get absolutely clean does not mean he cannot be cleaner or dirtier.

    So, in othr words, just because there is no foundational knowledge that can be gained in which to declare this absolutely right and that absolutely wrong does not mean that this can’t be closer to right than that and that can’t be closer to wrong than this.

    You have equated the fact that something is not perfect knowledge with it being completely false. Just because the statement “Hitler was a bad guy” is not objectively true and knowledge, does not mean that it is as good an interpretation as “Hitler was an alright guy.”

    Do you understand now. I will repeat this because this explains everything if you understand it:

    “just because something MAY be false does not mean it is ACTUALLY false and just because something is AN interpretation does not mean it is a MERE interpretation among hundreds of equal interpretation.”

    Since I have answered your question, what is 7 without reference to other numbers. Your failure to answer means that 7 is relative. That was my point. Everything is relative; some less than others, but still.

  21. “Johnny is cleaner than he was before since his bath”

    You said we couldn’t make any meaningful statements. That’s meaningful.

  22. “before since” sorry for the grammar.

  23. Better is a relative term. Justified as well. True can be a relative term too.

    Everything can be relative and yet meaningful i.e. 7 is relative and yet meaningful.

    That was a good last comment though. If you still don’t understand, ask me a question that will clear it up.

  24. Chris says:

    Bahram, I’ve not made the claim that something must be “perfect” in order to be knowledge. In fact, I don’t believe we can actually have “perfect knowledge”. Or at least, I doubt it very much. I do not think the mind can hold *everything* there is to know. With that said, I do think we can have partial knowledge. And you think this too. The problem is, in order for it to be even possible to have *some* knowledge – regardless of how much – you *must* admit that we have the ability to know some facts.

    Unless you admit this… unless you admit that we can actually know things outside ourselves, and that we can actually know the universe as different from merely “what our minds make of it”… unless you grant that at least *some* things are knowable, objectively, you cannot claim to really know anything at all. If you do not grant this, you are only saying “this is what my mind interprets when presented with x… X, therefore, is I know not what, but my mind does this when presented with it.” Unless we can actually know – partially or completely is irrelevant, we only need to actually be able to know *something* – then you cannot say anything about the actualy universe as it is, but only as what your mind does, or how it reacts, to whatever it is that’s being presented.

    The reason I don’t think you dirtier or cleaner analogy works is because it assumes we can already *know* what it means to “become dirty”. We may disagree about what constitutes “very dirty” or “not very dirty”, but we must all be able to *know* factually speaking that if we get dirt on ourselves we become, in some measure, dirty.

    But Neitzchean philosophy does not grant this as possible. If you follow the Neitzchean philosophy you must believe that some people will not think Johnny is dirty at all. They would think he is, in fact, quite clean, since, after all, *everything* is relative, *including* what it means to be dirty in the first place. Your analogy fails to encompass Neitzchean philosophy because it only pushes it back a step. You are, in fact, describing an objectivist standpoint, by assuming that everyone already *knows* the *FACT* of dirtiness, only, there is confusion about the *INTERPRETATION* of how dirty Johnny is. Again, according to Neitzche, Johnny being dirty would be nothing more than an *interpretation* to begin with.

    And also, you have crossed a bridge between a logical objective statement – Johnny is dirty – to a moral one – Hitler was bad – without showing how this jump connects. But, according to Neitzchean philosphy, this is merely a subjective interpretation also, as is ALL judgments, whether they be of logical or moral significance. You could only say “Hitler was bad compared to someone who killed more people than him.”

  25. I still hold the position that everything is interpretation, that there are no objective facts out there to grasp (for all practical purposes), or at least, if they exist out there as part of the objective world we have no way of grasping them as they are (objectively) but only as we see them:

    “To engage in any activity, and in particular in any inquiry, we must inevitably be selective. We must bring some things into the foreground and distance others into the background…

    The whole family of visual metaphors to which perspective belongs fits well in this familiar context. Since every inquiry presupposes a particular point of view, it therefore excludes an indefinately large number of others. We must be clear that this does not imply that we can never reach correct results or that we can never be “objective,” since it is impossible to be correct about anything if one tries to be correct about everything. The fact that other points of view are possible does not by itself make them equally legitimate… Perspectiveism… is not equivalent to relativism [I think I may have called it relativism once before and I apologize for the mix up]. But perspectivism does imply that no particular point of view is priviledged in the sense that it affords those who occupy it a better picture of the world as it really is than all others. Some perspectives are, and can be shown to be, better than others.”

    You said that “Hitler was bad” “is merely a subjective interpretation.” This proves that you still don’t understand that just because there are multiple interpretations, that multiplicity does not in and of itself render each interpretation a MERE interpretation. Some are better and some are worse.

    I can’t prove to you that mine is better, but I can show you this piece of evidence, that one, “it’s allowed us to fiercly combat genocide, etc…”

    You say that I could only say ‘”Hitler was bad compared to someone who killed more people than him.”‘ I think you meant “Hitler was bad compared to someone who killed less people than him”, but fine. He’s not bad-save a very good interpretation of his actions which renders him bad.

    You also wrote, “unless you grant that at least *some* things are knowable, objectively, you cannot claim to really know anything at all.” What does “really know” mean? I know I am alive. Do I have to “really” know it?

    If you mean that I can’t find a solid foundation upon which my knowledge of my own existence stands such as attempts like “I think therefore I am” than you’re right. I don’t “really” know anything.

    Should I walk away from this all huffed and puffed? You “really” know things and I just sort of pretend to know things. That’s where pragmatism come into play. If it doesn’t affect cultural politics, I don’t care if I sort of know, really know or kind of know things.

    What’s your point? I don’t really know that Hitler was bad. What would you like me to admit? I do really know, but I’m pretending to just know (practically) and based upon my perspective of moral reasoning.

    I know what you’re trying to say. You think Nietzsche gives up a lot. He’s gives up on philosophy itself. You’re right. Does that make him absurd?

  26. Chris says:

    I fail to see how perspectivism is not in fact relativism in disguise. I also fail to see how things can be “better” or “worse”, if you admit that we absolutely have no absolute knowledge of any kind. I also do not understand how this glaring contradiction – that we know we cannot know anything – is dealt with.

    Also, any attempt you make to “justify” or “give evidence for” your interpretation being better, falls back on some objective standard for support. In your post above, you try to say this by appealing to the fact that x “helps us prevent genocide.” By why is this taken as objectively a good thing? According to the philosophy you hold, this is only an interpretation of what you deem to be “good”. Maybe I don’t give two shits about genocide. Maybe I, like Hitler, prefer it.

    The point is, you cannot make any correction to *any* claim or value, or actually even reason, *unless* you admit to some absolutely *good* and *true/reasonable* fact(s). And “I think, therefore I am” does not even come into play here. What I espouse is more of an appeal to consequences. I contend that we cannot, by any rational proof, prove that things are knowable in and of themselves. This is impossible, because in order to make any proofs, we must use our brains. But, our brains are the very thing in question. We cannot prove our brains work by using our brains, because they themselves may not actually work. So, being in this corner, I admit that this *may be* the case… we may in fact not actually be able to know anything. But, if that actually is true, I cannot say anymore about anything. I cannot say “I do not know” (for I actually may); neither can I say “I do know” (for I actually may not). I cannot say anything of meaning here…. UNLESS I admit that I *can*, *absolutely*, know some things *as they are*… not as my brain perceives them, for this would take me right back to where I was saying I do not know if I *really know* anything.

    I do admit, this is an appeal to consequences, and does not, therefore in the strictest sense, *make it* true. But it is the only way anyone could say anything at all. Furthermore, neither could I *prove* in the strictest sense that I am not some brain in a vat, that I wasn’t created 1 minute ago with all my memories programmed, or that I’m not in the matrix… Point being, there are many things I cannot strictly prove.

    I really do admire the pragmatist point of view, but I think it is a grave error not to realize that belief does not therefore make right or make fact. Again, unless there is first a foundation in truth, we have no grounds in which to criticize Hitler, or, say, Muslim terrorists, for the acts they commit. They were, after all, doing what they believed to be right… but as I said, I do admire pragmatism and am one in some fashion myself, but only on certain matters. I do not, for example, think one should believe any sort of moral action is ok, if it seems ok to him/her. On the other hand, I do think one should follow one’s notion of the divine, as it appears to him/her. I have logical reasons beyond pragmatism though for thinking this.

    *sigh* Sorry for the long-windedness. And no, I do not think Neitzchean philosophy is absurd by abandoning philosophy. It is only when it attempts to criticize other philosophies that I think this is so.

    *Whew*. I’ve enjoyed the discussion so far!

  27. You write, “I cannot say “I do not know” (for I actually may); neither can I say “I do know” (for I actually may not). I cannot say anything of meaning here…. UNLESS I admit that I *can*, *absolutely*, know some things *as they are*…”

    Why can’t you say “I do know” even if you actually may not? I’ve triedto explain how this is possible in every comment. I admit I may not know anything. I don’t even know if perspectivism is correct. You’re right. It falls on its head. I’m not bothered by this. That’s what perspectivism is. It’s the declaration that even the most nasty, and mendacious interpretatino MAY be right. That’s what naturalism is, really, in my opinion.

    You also write, “I think it is a grave error not to realize that belief does not therefore make right or make fact.” Once again I agree with you. I am not right about anything. I just believe my perspective is better. I can give you “reason” as to why it is better, or at least justifications, but I cannot tell you it is certainly better.

    You also write, “we have no grounds in which to criticize Hitler, or, say, Muslim terrorists, for the acts they commit…” finally you got to the whole point of this discussion. That’s what you’re worried about. Thing is, you’re right again. We have no grounds. No grounds at all. We are floating on thin air. I’m still not bothered.

    Nietzschean philosophy can only criticize other philosophies in the same way it can criticize other perspectives different from it’s own (through perspectivism). It can say “your perspective is not good for this or that.” If you say “I don’t care about either this or that” you’re right. There would be very little reply from me. If you don’t care about genocide, what can I really do to persuade you? I’ll show you pictures, try and make you empathize with the pain, etc… But ultimately I can’t do anything philosophically to change your mind. I can’t use logic. Not at all.

    I might try to persuade you as (I am doing right now) but actually giving you a strict theory which would account for why I am right “objectively”, I cannot do this.

    Here’s a Nietzsche quote. This is from memory so forgive me:

    “We are contented with knowing less.”

    Nietzsche didn’t abandon the search for some sort of objective knowledge before his death (arguably) but he did not end up finding any. By the way, no one else has either. The difference is that Nietzsche was okay with this.

    You’re going to contend with my claim “no one else has either” found objective truth. Go ahead, it’s your turn.

  28. Chris says:

    I really have nothing else to say. We do not, I think, really disagree about that much. For all practical purposes we are on the same road. I merely contend that there is some sort of absolute knowledge – though I cannot define what all that entails. But my point is that I do not need to. I only need to grant that there is in fact objectivity, namely, that there is an objective system of value and logic, and that we all share in it. And from this admission can we begin to talk about things. But this does not mean that we therefore must always agree. There are still different *perspectives*. We may know objective things differently, for example. I may know more about the engine of a car, while you know more about the tires. We do not know the same thing, though we know *about* the same objective thing. So just because there are different perspectives does not mean that things are unknowable in and of themselves.

    Again, I do not have to have an exhaustive list of these objective truths. But I admit that I do have to have some – at least one basic concept that is objective – in order to hold my view. But in order to have that, I would have to posit some sort of Theism, which, I’m afraid to say, I haven’t the muster to do tonight.

  29. Chris says:

    And to add another thing. Would most Neitzsche scholars agree that he was “ok” with what his philosophy led him to?

  30. What do yo mean, “what it led him to?” His conclusions about epistimology the end of metaphysics, etc… He was not only okay with it, but would love that these ideas were ganing popularity.

    I do believe it is possible that there is an objective world. Actually I think it is likely. What I disagree with you about is that you could name one of those objective aspects of the world.

    You do need some sort of theism. That’s my big contention here. A lot of philosophy has been based around theism for so long that since most philsophers have started to be atheists they still have some of those theistic beleifs they have yet ot shake off.

    Anyways, good discussion; glad we could resolve it. I haven’t started writing yet, but if you want ot check out my blog:

    continentalcritics.blogspot.com you’re welcome to comment all you’d like. You’re quite an intelligent bloke anyways. I’d be thrilled to run into another discussion with you on my blog.


  31. Chris says:

    Hey man,

    I look foward to reading your blog and offering whatever meager insight I may have. It was fun discussing things with you. Have a good one!

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