Sunday, March 20, 2016

New Yorker Sees Stopped Epistemological Clock

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/21/the-internet-of-us-and-the-end-of-facts?mbid=gnep&intcid=gnep&google_editors_picks=true

The New Yorker sees Trump and worries that "Facts have ended". They have been worried for awhile,  due to "Climate Change". In their universe, there is no irony whatsoever in using Hillary Clinton has a model for truth and reality with this telling quote:

But what she means, I guess, is that even some random old lady can see what Republican aspirants for the Oval Office can’t: “It’s hard to believe there are people running for President who still refuse to accept the settled science of climate change.”
We have been over this issue WAY too often -- in order to understand the problem with "settled science", we have to understand the terms "settled" and "science".

"Settled" -- "Metaphysical core unchallengeable base belief taken as self-evident" -- "I think, therefore I am", "I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth".

"Science" -- "Testable hypothesis/theories trusted insofar as all tests to date verify the hypothesis as an inductive proof. Falsifiable if the next test fails, but never settled or proven". I often use the Thanksgiving turkey as an analogy. The turkey operates on the hypothesis that humans are a benevolent creature who feeds and cares for turkeys. This hypothesis is inductively verified each day until Thanksgiving when it suffers brutal falsification.

This means that the term "settled science" is a logical fallacy, like "married bachelor" or , "virgin birth" (which is what makes it a miracle for Mary -> Jesus). The definition of "settled" and "science" mean that putting the terms together proves that we live in a wonderland where terms have no meaning.Which readers of this blog understand, but the vast percentage of modern people don't, and the New Yorker clearly is part of that vast percentage.

This does not however mean that reality fails to intrude on their reverie even though they have sworn rejection of reality rather forcibly. For many on the left, Trump seems to be enough of a shock to the system for them to see the broken epistemological clock of our nation. To wit ...

Lynch has been writing about this topic for a long time, and passionately. The root of the problem, as he sees it, is a well-known paradox: reason can’t defend itself without resort to reason. In his 2012 book, “In Praise of Reason,” Lynch identified three sources of skepticism about reason: the suspicion that all reasoning is rationalization, the idea that science is just another faith, and the notion that objectivity is an illusion. These ideas have a specific intellectual history, and none of them are on the wane. Their consequences, he believes, are dire: “Without a common background of standards against which we measure what counts as a reliable source of information, or a reliable method of inquiry, and what doesn’t, we won’t be able to agree on the facts, let alone values".

The foundation of Western civilization was that there was indeed such a common background -- Christianity, or at least "Natural Law / Deism". The metaphysical recursion stopped at a "prime mover" -- God, who had created us and thus we were able to discern his will / meaning / etc. Civilization requires a foundation, and it HAD one -- we would not have gotten to the lofty peak from which we now decline if there had been no foundation.

Philosophically, it is true that reason can't defend itself even WITH resort to reason. Lifting yourself by your own bootstraps STILL doesn't work, and metaphysical "Free Lunch" is STILL not to be had no matter how many Bernie Sanders voters there are. Reason always reasons from faith (in something) as it's foundation -- faith in the fact of words having meaning and comprehensibility if nothing else. But only those that understand this can even begin to discuss "facts".

The column closes with this rather chilling summary.

He [Lynch] thinks the best defense of reason is a common practical and ethical commitment. I believe he means popular sovereignty. That, anyway, is what Alexander Hamilton meant in the Federalist Papers, when he explained that the United States is an act of empirical inquiry: “It seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” The evidence is not yet in yet".


First,  I certainly HOPE he is very wrong about Lynch (it seems unlikely a philosopher would think that), he is CLEARLY wrong about Hamilton. Hamilton was a FEDERALIST, he believed strongly in Rule of Law, Written Constitution, Separation of Powers, aristocracy curbing democracy, eg. Electoral College, Senators not elected by population, etc. 

"Popular sovereignty" is rule by majority -- mob rule! In the article he blithely wastes a lot of time showing how "proof by trial" is "atavistic" (mere appeal to "previous generations" or "tradition"), and therefore clearly wrong -- because, after all, the dominant modern religion is "progressivism", the faith that the newest is the best. It's "proof" rests on "if they were so smart, how come they're dead?". 

Mob rule is just another form of "might makes right" ... "test by trial" / atavism. Might can come from a ballot, bicep or bullet, but it is STILL just might! For some strange reason, Trump suddenly makes all sorts of people on the left question their metaphysical assumptions -- but amazingly not the column author!  

What Hamilton DID mean is a "Government of Laws, not men" ... some of the aspects I listed above. Our founders understood a great deal of what most moderns clearly do not -- as in my favorite John Adams Quote "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other". 

Even Jefferson, who had the most faith in popular sovereignty of all our major founders rejected "democracy", and rejected it FAR more in later life after the bloodbath of the French Revolution.

Lincoln understood that a "house divided" cannot stand, but it is even more obvious that a house with no foundation cannot stand. We HAD a foundation, as this article and a lot of other "thought" (really emotion) flowing around now shows us that we have none. We will either return to the foundation we had, come up with a new one (which I believe to be impossible) or fall. 

The most likely path at this point is certainly a continued fall to dissolution.

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