Monday, November 05, 2007

A Follow-up on MENSA

In my lecture I argued both realist and anti-realist paradigms have potential to turn totalitarian. The strongest objection raised against choosing one over the other came during the Q&A time: there are so many different conceptions of truth even within a realist framework, that functionally it seems to make little difference whether we adopt a realist or anti-realist metaphysic. For all practical purposes, it's still me imposing my moral vision on others. Granted. But there is a difference.

Imagine I had a persistent headache, consulted a number of doctors and healers, and received varied diagnoses. If I approached this physical ill from an anti-realist perspective, I would be working from the assumption that there is no real, objective solution to the headache. Each doctor would simply be sharing his own opinion, the weight of each having little relation to what was actually causing my headache. One doctor does a CAT scan and diagnoses a brain tumor; a psychic healer does a psychic scan and concludes that my spiritual equilibrium is off center. Both opinions are equally valid. I just need to choose whatever works best for me.

But the reality is that when I have a headache, I assume there to be an objective cause. And when I seek medical advice and receive differing opinions, I don't view the differing opinions as evidence there is no real objective cause of the headache. Rather the differing opinions merely cause me to conclude some of the opinions are right, and some of them are wrong.

The point of the analogy is that differing opinions of objective reality needn't--and typically don't--cause us to deny the import of objective reality. The only appropriate conclusion is that some opinions are right, and some are wrong.

When we adopt an anti-realist metaphysic, we are at the same time denying the objectivity of the moral ills that plague society. The denial of objectivity in the medical world would lead to disaster. Not much different in the moral world, from what I can see.

No comments: