Friday, January 19, 2007

Post-modernism's fallacies (II)

In the first instalment of this post we looked at fallacies 1 to 5. This morning I could add a tenth problem to the list, placed conveniently on 7., sandwiched between how a person's political affinity differs from wet bathing water on 6., and on 8. the intricacies of the French Revolution.

At this stage it may be practical to remind ourselves of the definition of relativism. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy states the following:

"Relativism is sometimes identified (usually by its critics) as the thesis that all points of view are equally valid. In ethics, this amounts to saying that all moralities are equally good; in epistemology it implies that all beliefs, or belief systems, are equally true. Critics of relativism typically dismiss such
views as incoherent since they imply the validity even of the view that relativism is false. They also charge that such views are pernicious since they undermine the enterprise of trying to improve our ways of thinking"
... to which I have nothing to add. Back to my list of post-modern problems. Not all, but most of them can be directly attributed to the relativist world view and we will see indeed how pernicious and pervasive the consequences are.

6. Fact is not opinion.
It is a fact that the table is made of wood. In my opinion a red table cloth would be nice.
- You can discuss the choice of a table cloth with your neighbour, who may think a blue one would be better - and go in the end for a green one.
- The fact that it is a wooden table, cannot be changed however long the matter is debated. It is not open to interpretation; it is a fact of life and the law of nature. This may seem obvious, but it is sadly a commonly made mistake.

7. The truth about the Questionable Cause, or Causality, or the Law of Cause and Effect
Having for some time witnessed how some people are struggling with cause and effect, I was not particularly surprised this morning, to find there is a relationship with post-modern thinking. Without going deep into the basics of Aristotle's work "Metaphysics", it can be said that up to modern times causality was a law of nature and moreover, plain common sense. It was also the basis for St Thomas' proof of God's existence: matter unable to create matter, giving rise to the First Cause, a.k.a. God.
Since this state of affairs couldn't stand for the New Man, a number of philosophers and scientists have posed views to the effect that the universe is but an accident, a random chain of events (determinism) and there is no such principle as a free will (incompatibilism). The principle of free will is also often forgotten by Christians, struggling as they do with wars and holocausts that they forget are committed by humans at free will.
Nietzsche's philosophy on the meaningless universe and existentialism did the rest for a cynic world view, that is ruled by boredom and trivia.

Since ideas have consequences, with the corresponding abolition of the time-line in education (boring) and teaching instead centered around themes (fun!), it becomes apparent that some people started developing problems with Law of Cause and Effect: the understanding that cause happens prior to the effect and the effect being a reaction to the cause.
You cannot really explain without getting seriously pedantic, that when a book is on the table, and next it is on the floor, any normal, reasonable person would assume that the book has fallen off the table, on the floor. In grown up current affairs' terms, for example: the events in New York on the 11th of September 2001 (Cause) happened prior to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 (Effect), not the other way around.

8. Equality means, equal before the law.
During the French revolution the people called for "Liberté, Egalité et Fraternité", Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood (Solidarity). By Equality they meant, equal before the law, so as to put an end to the commonly practiced, nasty habit of class justice whereby there was one law for the people, and another for the aristocracy.

Lately we have the tendency to take equality to mean "the same" or "identical", and often not used in a legal context either. That you are not the same person as your neighbor may be self-evident and only clones are (more or less) identical. It would therefore be better to speak of equivalance when we mean to say that somebody shouldn't be giving himself any needless airs.
Even if we are all equal before the law, judges will still have to be careful and interpret the law from a legal language into a human one, taking for example human dignity and fairness into consideration. Only in totalitarian regimes is the law considered above the people. In democratic countries the law serves the people and not the other way around.

To be continued.

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