From: ccw94@xxxxxxxxxx (COLIN WIGHT)
Date: Wed, 04 Jun 1997 09:48:49 +0100
One just can't help laugh here. Firstly the rampant positivism (in its
subjectivist variant) made explicit here:
Have you been at the game or do you
>know about it from the media? If from the media, then your truth claims have
>to do not with simple descriptions of sense data about the game, but with
>a complicated web of assumed credibility and authority that mediates the
>relationship between a media report (or non-report) and the conclusions
>we draw about "facts".
Pray tell me Rene (Descarte), by "know" do you mean absolute and utter
certainty? I know it is not a good idea to walk in front of Buses, but I
have never done that either, nor seen anyone get hit by one. I suppose, you
only know this to be true because you have tried it. I wonder if I am real
too I suppose. From your metaphysical position it could well be that I don't
exist. After all, all you have to go on is these posts (be careful here,
there is a realist metaphysics waiting round the corner when you try to
answer this one)
This seems to me like a very strangely selected example.
Aren't they all>
To say "blacks are
>intellectually inferior to whites" is pernicious not because it is a lie
>in the simple sense of being contrary to some empirically verifiable fact,
>but because it makes free with certain words which do not have any socially
Such as? But I think your take on language here is very strange, I suggest a
liberal dose of Wittgenstein (the later). The words in the sentence have a
very clear socially agreed upon meaning which they acquire in virtue of the
other words in the sentence and the context in which they are used. You
could, for example, have asked for clarification, which is how we normally
proceed, as opposed to acepting an a priori commitment to the no socially
agreed meaning thesis.
How can you say that the statement is a lie? Wouldn't
>you first have to know exactly what I am asserting by it? Am I asserting
>that blacks have not contributed much to the development of Western
No, this is not what is meant by the sentence although if you want to give
it that spin you would have been better to say 'blacks have not contributed
much to the develoment of mathematics' (this by the way is also a lie, the
Egyptians developed a very clear mathmatical structure pinched mainly from
those they called the Ethiopians I think.
It is actually better 'm' to try and be as clear with your words as is
possible. If you mean the maths thing say it. If you mean the more general
intelligence thing say that. However, the fact that intelligence in this
statement is a very one dimensional view of this concept highlights the
politics at play in such statements, but this ambiguity of terms is not the
same thing as saying there is no socially agreed upon meaning. If you
really want to argue this we could never begin to communicate and I would
have to question your motives in attempting to communicate when you are
denying the possibilty of such a thing.
>That a certain sample of blacks to which I gave a certain test did more poorly
>on this test than a sample of whites? These may all be empirically true.
>But the statement "blacks are intellectually inferior to whites" is _not_ like
>the statement "my cat sleeps, on the average, 14 hours a day".
Er no. one refers to cats the other to means of measuring intelligence
relative to a certain social group. I mean look, the word sleep also has no
socially accepted meaning either, but it doesn't stop us using the word. To
doze, to nap, to slumber.....
And it is
>precisely the way it is not, it seems to me, that gives it the potential to
>function in damaging ways socially and politically.
Well of course, if you are a cat and your master or mistress insists on
reading boring academic texts all day such that you never get any attention
and thus sleep (meaning indeterminate) 14 hrs a day, then you too may well
consider this a political gesture. And if you are a cat lover all the more so.
Department of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth