News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Kicking Illusion's Ass, the Problem

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Kicking Illusion's Ass, the Problem

The following remarks concern the question about how to dispel the lies and deceit people tell themselves.

That is indeed the question. In classical rhetoric, you assume that people are, at heart, disposed by human nature to discerning "the truth," most notably when presnted with an inductive argument that is credible.

One thing that the classisists assumed, however, is that the ones listening to the argument share certain educational and cultural assumptions. ...

With the advent of "the public"--during the Enlightenment, the appeal to reason became a supposedly universal appeal. Yet, as some commentators have rightly noted, those who hear the appeal are in a position to do something once they "see" the truth of the reasoned argument.

Some current theorists base their arguments on the Enlightenment notion of the public. In this regard, what stops people from coming to the rational, democratic solution is the corruption of the means of communication by diverse personal and socio-economic factors--capitalism in particular. The effort, therefore, is to clear away those obstructions to democratic and clear debate.

Others who oppose this view ask a very simple question. How can we ever hope to achieve this "perfect" communication ideal? That is, the model assumes that for the democratic situation to occur, these changes must have already come about. People must change--socially and subjectively--before that ideal itself can be realized. Yet, the socio-economic and subjective factors at work in modern society may be so great that the perfect communication situation will never happen. It's always an ideal-in-waiting, so to speak.

One solution might be to get rid of the rationalistic model presupposed by the ideal communication model althogether. This solution jettisons any notion of "truth" and insists instead on smaller truths. In the best interpretation of this approach, the use of irony and localized, acerbic tricksterism works in ana anarchic way to undermine the prevailing false ethos. This practice opens up the possibility for alternative and creative solutions to injustice and non-democratic structures.

The gist of the preceding is that "the solution" to this question is not simply either psychological or social. It's a combination of both terms. Any solution must, it seems, work at subjective and social levels to bring about a situation in which anything approaching a just and democratic society can exist.

What I find in many of "debates" is the fact that both sides are equally unfair to each other in their understanding and appreciation for their interlocutor's position.

Now, you can go back to classical rhetroic to find the idea that a good debater is someone who can argue the other side's position just as well if not better than him/her. Of course, it's exactly this idea of being able to argue both sides of an issue that's given rhetoric and lawyers a bad name in popular usage.

Yet the point, I think is a valid one. But instead of doing it simply from a desire to beat your opponent, the effort to understand the other side should be motivated by the desire to find what's really motivating them. Based on this, it is perhaps possible to find revelational issues that can serve as the basis for further discussion. A basis that forms a bond of trust that I'm not just jettisoning his/her actual concern for the truth just as much as I have.

The basis for any discussion is the good-faith on both sides. If your interlocutor is only out to score points, this cannot be done. It's like expecting a dog to stop barking when its back's up.

No one is completely wrong. There's always a mixture of truth, fiction, misperception, etc. Only the insane are completely wrong. And it's hyperbole and mean-spiritedness to accuse the other side of such. They may be really wrong, even mostly wrong, but there's always that substrate of whatever you want to call it--human nature, innate human sensibility for the ethical, etc.--that we can appeal to to overcome these differences.

But is that a statement of faith more than one of fact?

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