Ginny dredged up a lot of bad memories here from when I descended into the valley of the shadow of idiocy in grad school. At one point I wanted to go for a dual Ph.D. in Slavic Linguistics / Literature (I hadn�t decided which) and Physical Chemistry, the idea being to get a job teaching both subjects at a small school. Don�t laugh. I got better (in the mental health sense). I dropped the humanities classes and got an MBA instead.
Don�t get me wrong. I have very fond memories of some of my humanities experience, and if you give a rat�s about my views of the relative worth of my humanities education (not that I expect you to), please read this. But I did take enough grad classes in literature to get thoroughly familiar, and disgusted, with Post-Modernism. While I tend to share Ginny�s denunciations of their attempts to show that nothing is true, I tended to treat them as I treat philosophers – with bemusement. Outside of my religion, I tend not to think about, or deal with, truth with a capital �T�. As Mitch said in the comments:
Pragmatism requires that ideas, explanations, and theories are true only as far as they are useful. They must explain the range of known facts. This kind of truth, though, is conditional.
Yes. Truth is constrained by the boundary conditions of current knowledge. It�s like solving a DE with a Fourier Series � that combination of sines and cosines must approximate the solution within the boundary conditions of the exercise, but God only knows what those functions add up to outside that box. You can�t falsify a theory for all time. At one time, to the best of our knowledge, we thought that light was a wave. Then came the discovery of the photoelectric effect and Newton got resurrected by Einstein. But you can falsify something in a closed system, the closed system of knowledge at any given point in time. Or, as Professor Dutch put it:
What is truth? How do we know it when we see it? How can we be sure our interpretation of it is valid? What about rival claims of truth? These are difficult questions, challenging questions, wonderful questions. They tell us a great deal about the limitations of our methods of inquiry. The one thing they cannot do – what I call the Fundamental Fallacy of Philosophy – is tell us anything at all about the nature of reality or the existence of truth. Philosophy since the days of the ancient Greeks has focused on the grand questions and the limitations of what and how we know, and as a result has remained stagnant. Science focused on what can be known and mushroomed.
I am a scientist, and I do focus on what can be known. So I tend to dismiss Post-Modernists’ drivel about the relativity of Truth as the Academic equivalent of drunken philosophical conversations I used to have as a college sophomore. Except when they overstep their bounds and begin to claim that, even within the boundary conditions of current factual knowledge, there is no truth with a small �t�, and science has no more validity than Dr. Emoto�s hocus-pocus. Aside from the massive waste of public monies on professorships and student loans for useless degrees, I guess that is what bothers me most about Post-Modernism – it gives neo-luddites an Academic gloss for their idiocy.
* Taken from Terry Pratchett’s “Thief of Time“: “Miss Tangerine was one of the faster-learning Auditors and had already formulated a group of things, events, and situations that she categorized as ‘bloody stupid’. Things that were ‘bloody stupid’ could be dismissed.”