Thursday, July 5, 2018

"Veritas Or Veneer"

Way back when, all “Official Pronouncements” were bestowed from “On High”, their recipients accepting them on unquestioning faith.  Which is not as unreasonable as it sounds.

“It’s dark!  Will it ever be light again?”

“Ye must have faithe.”


Next morning, the sun comes up.

“Holy Cow!  Faithe works! 

In earlier eras, “Accepted Faith” reigned gloriously supreme.  There was faith in a “Supreme Being.”  The Lord spaketh and the people – partly so he wouldn’t smite them with his terrible swift sword – worshipfully believed.

There was faith in the “Feudal Protector.”  (Or they would forfeit that protection, most significantly from the “Feudal Protector” himself.)   

(More recently, I had an African-American Personal Assistant who grew up in rural Texas, who revealed that when her young playmates were embroiled in heated disputes, the argument immediately ended when one disputant proclaimed, “It’s true!  A white man said so.”  That one gave me the shivers, {misplaced} faith, alive and well in scattered communities.)

These examples unquestionably reflect an element of fear.  But “Bottom Line” – what you believed was still a matter of faith.

Then came “The Enlightenment.”  (In the eighteenth, or so, century.)  And all bets were suddenly off.

“Don’t take things on faith from ‘On High’ anymore,” the new philosophy espoused.   “You’ve got senses.  Use them.”

So they did.  A lot.  And, eventually, always, “Lofty Certification” no longer the determining sine qua non.  Using your eyes and your ears and your et ceteras, you could now figure things out for yourself.  And since you were using your “senses”, when things didn’t add up, you would excitedly – ‘cause it was a novel reaction – conclude,

“That doesn’t make ‘sense.’”

You see how that works – “making sense”, deriving from the natural “senses”?

Sometimes, people messed up, using their senses.  It was a new toy – “Driverless Cars”, jeopardizing pedestrians while drivers scrolled through their email.

“Hey!  You ran over myfoot!

“Sorry.  My old girlfriend wrote back!”

The incipient “excess” was natural.  People used their “Powers of Observation” with the giddy enthusiasm of someone prevented from doing so for centuries.  With the inevitable occasional glitches.

“I saw a guy die after eating that mushroom.”

“Making the empirical case for not eating that mushroom.”

“Makes ‘sense’ to me.” (At some point, they abandoned the quotation marks.)

“Was his death painful?”

“No.  He ate the mushroom, he got hit by lightning and he died.”

Unfortunate examples notwithstanding – until “further experimentation”, people missed out on a pretty good mushroom – “‘Sensible’ Reasoning” was here to stay.  I mean, for the general populace.  There were always “Logicians”, but they were peripheral “Smart Guys” the general populace put to death for being annoying.

As, seemingly, with all popular inventions – See:  “Facebook:  Election Meddling” – the employment of “Logical Practices” was not inevitably for the good.

The always wonderful example:

“Courtroom Adversarialism.”

In a trial, I would argue, the most felicitous outcome for society – and, more importantly, my own personal peace of mind – is for demonstrable justice to ultimately prevail.  If you were guilty, you paid the price; if you were not guilty, you went home.  A “wrong” was committed, and the judicial process fairly adjudicated that “wrong.” 

That, ideally, is how it should work.

Unfortunately, in their infinite wisdom, whoever invented “Courtroom Procedure” selected a, to me, odd plan for delivering justice.  

What happens in our unchallenged “Adversarial System”?  Both sides present their cases in the form of competing narratives, and the winner is not necessarily “justice”, but instead, whoever, in the jury’s assessment, most skillfully communicates their story.

The thing is, what if “Justice” and “Good Story” have nothing to do with each other, but are essentially disinterested parties on “parallel tracks”?  On one track, an indisputable bad thing happened for which the defendant is either guilty or notguilty.  And there’s the othertrack, involving two opposing combatants offering contrasting narratives, leaving the jury to decide which of them makes more conceivable “sense.”

Though they profess to the contrary, trials are less focused on justice than they are “storytelling contests.”

You might say, “Well, at least it’s not, ‘They immerse them in water and if they drown they’re a witch and if they don’t drown they’re not.”  Yes, that was bad.  But people are still being convicted not necessarily because of innocence or guilt. 

They are convicted by “Competitive Yarn-Spinning.” 

Is that justice, or a counterfeit”surrogate”for justice, which people agree to call justice, so it is?

“Micro” to “Macro”…

“What exactly is culture?” – he asks, and then answers himself,  ‘cause no one else is around.

Culture is “Collective Consensus” on an issue or a certain behavior.  

FRENCH HUSBAND:  “In France, men may have wives and mistresses.”

FRENCH WIFE:  “I’m not ‘Ooh-la-la’ about that, but what can I tell you – we’re French.”

And there you have it. 

“Cultural Truth” is what people in that culture acceptingly believe.

And – See: Yesterday’s post – we need desperately to believe something.

The question is, what if the backing “Logical Argument” is proverbial “sweet-smelling smoke”, less actual truth than consensual folly?

Why do they buy it?  (Besides ‘cause they need to?)

‘Cause it makes “arguable sense.”  (Call it the “witch-drowning” of “reasonable behavior.”)

I understand “arguable sense” works sometimes– scientific conclusions through replicated experiments.

But has anyone pondered how often this vaunted “Engine of Acceptance” is just  “Majoritarian Nonsense”?

“Hey!  It’s working, okay?”

So is a runaway train.

At least for the moment.

Ah, what do Iknow? 

This may a reasonable inquiry.  Or simply a mind, Jackson Pollockling in front of your eyes.

Hey, I’m just thinking.

And now it’s your turn.
Semi-Confusing Post-Blogatory Announcement:

This post and announcement were written several days earlier but they appear today.

Tonight - not the "tonight" I am writing this, the "tonight" you are reading it - I am departing for London for two weeks, one of which will be spent enjoying the greatly anticipated "Oxford Experience."

I do not know if I will have the opportunity or inclination to write blog posts while I'm away.  If I do I will squeeze those "Breaking Bulletins" in, and (hopefully successfully)  move things around.  If not, I will tell you about it when I get back.

I have left enough prepared posts in the meantime, so there will not be any gaps.

And that's it.

I hope I have fun.

Or, at the very worst, have something to write about.


"That's "Ta ta for now."

You see?  I'm already in the mood.

See yuh.

And i hope you enjoy the left-behind posts.


FFS said...

I know I have missed your point but have to say - personal assistant - what’s that all about? Enjoy England.

JED said...

So, you fixed the comments section just as you are leaving so you don't have to deal with us commenters. How is that fair?

I am excited about your trip. Partly for you and Dr. M to have a good time but mostly for us, the readers of your blog, who will have some interesting stories to read when you are ready to write them.

Just so you know, I may be commenting even if you aren't going to be reading them.

A Tree Falling in the Forest