Jun 2, 2009

Reason, interviewing Searle:
Reason: You've debated Richard Rorty and Jacques Derrida. Are they making bad arguments, or are they just being misread?

Searle: With Derrida, you can hardly misread him, because he's so obscure. Every time you say, "He says so and so," he always says, "You misunderstood me." But if you try to figure out the correct interpretation, then that's not so easy. I once said this to Michel Foucault, who was more hostile to Derrida even than I am, and Foucault said that Derrida practiced the method of obscurantisme terroriste (terrorism of obscurantism). We were speaking French. And I said, "What the hell do you mean by that?" And he said, "He writes so obscurely you can't tell what he's saying, that's the obscurantism part, and then when you criticize him, he can always say, 'You didn't understand me; you're an idiot.' That's the terrorism part." And I like that. So I wrote an article about Derrida. I asked Michel if it was OK if I quoted that passage, and he said yes.

Foucault was often lumped with Derrida. That's very unfair to Foucault. He was a different caliber of thinker altogether.

I think I sort of understand Richard Rorty's view, because I've talked to him more, and he's perfectly clearheaded in conversation. What Rorty would say is that he doesn't really deny that there's an external world. He thinks nobody denies that. What Rorty says is that we never really have objective knowledge of that reality. We ought to adopt a more pragmatic approach and think of what we call "truth" as what's useful to believe. So we shouldn't think of ourselves as answerable to an independently existing reality, though he wouldn't deny that there is such a thing.

The problem that all these guys have is that once you give me that first premise--that there is a reality that exists totally independently of us--then the other steps follow naturally. Step 1, external realism: You've got a real world that exists independently of human beings. And step 2: Words in the language can be used to refer to objects and states of affairs in that external reality. And then step 3: If 1 and 2 are right, then some organization of those words can state objective truth about that reality. Step 4 is we can have knowledge, objective knowledge, of that truth. At some point they have to resist that derivation, because then you've got this objectivity of knowledge and truth on which the Enlightenment vision rests, and that's what they want to reject.

Post a Comment:

Designed By Blogger Templates | Templatelib & Distributed By Blogspot Templates