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Monday, October 08, 2012

It Really Is Possible to be a Post-Structural Pragmatic Pluralist Queer And Yet Still Reasonable (Indeed, My Problem With Correspondence Theories of Truth and Parochial Foundationisms Is That They Are Unreasonable)

Upgraded and adapted from the Moot, a more-radical-than-thou critic declares (in the bazillionth variation of a cherished theme of theirs): "You employ harder borders and binaries than I find tenable." I reply:
I strongly doubt that's true, but whatever. As a pragmatist I regard all beliefs, even reasonably warranted ones, as contingent. As a post-structuralist, I regard literal language as the provisional orchestration of the play of signifiers into salience in the service of a plurality of values (prediction and control, belonging, contingent universalization, stakeholder reconciliation, and so on), and always in a way that imposes costs even when it confers benefits. As a queer theorist, I regard sex-gender as a literalizing language through which patriarchy polices material-semiotic hierarchies (stratified by concurrent policing of race, class, ability, sanity, morphology, etc) that systematically denigrate that which is produced and assigned and maintained as feminine in respect to that which is produced and assigned and maintained as masculine, and that through living otherwise and testifying otherwise and connecting otherwise we mobilize the figurative dimensions of that language to resist that policing and render it more capacious. I am not even averse to the Burroughsian suggestion that this figurative dimension in every language might be well described as a "magical universe," and that all artists, indeed all people when and to the extent that they are being creative, inhabit it. This is what I teach my students in critical theory classes at any rate, hundreds upon hundreds of them, and have done for seventeen years now. All this is to say, you don't know dick about me, and when you pretend that not buying into patriarchy or correspondence theories of truth absolves you of responsibility for trying to be helpful or voting or owning up to beliefs you publish in the world of which you are a part whether you like it or not, well I still say that's just bullshit narcissism on your part.


Mitchell said...

While allowing for the poetic and metaphoric dimension of language, and the complexities of truth... I don't understand what you're objecting to in the "correspondence theory of truth", or what the alternative is. If I tell my housemates that I locked the front door, but I actually didn't, then the alleged facts have failed to "correspond" to the real facts. In a practical example, it seems harmless to say that the truth of my statement depends on whether it corresponds to reality.

Dale Carrico said...

I wasn't using "correspondence" in an everyday way, but as a term of art as a person trained in philosophy, where correspondence theories are distinguished from coherence, pragmatic, pluralist, verificationist, and various deflationary accounts. I could summarize, but I'd bet there are a better summaries online already. You might like Close to You.

Mitchell said...

So it's pragmatism... I always found the pragmatist attitude to the concept of truth, hard to understand or empathize with (and I regard pragmatist definitions of truth as simply erroneous). It's as if one is responding to the elusiveness of truth, by substituting something less elusive (current consensus, best-tested model) and calling *that* "truth". Or as if one seeks to combat bad epistemology (e.g. "the voice in my head told me so") by defining truth as e.g. that which it is reasonable to believe.

The only real defense of pragmatism I could muster, is that it is just an open formulation of universally prevailing *practice*, whereby people make assertions as if they are true and known to be true, even when a claim of knowledge couldn't be defended against all possible skeptical critiques. It would be unreasonable and impractical to hedge every assertion with epistemic escape clauses, and pragmatism might be regarded as an attempt to license this practical necessity.

But I can't agree even with that, because it's precisely the idea that the truth of a statement lies in its correspondence to the facts, which allows us to unpack a pragmatically compressed "true" statement, as well as to critique a genuinely false statement.

Dale Carrico said...

Well, there it is. Pragmatism demolished.