Myth & Ideology & Truth-look

Somniferum (2453mauri@UMBSKY.CC.UMB.EDU)
Sun, 14 Apr 1996 13:49:38 EDT

Mr. Foss,
You have provided flesh for the mere bones I offered up on Thursday:
Thank you for that lovely, touching and perspicacious posting (Subject:
look of truth: consider the cindy crawfords of the field).

So now that we have a passable Golem to impersonate truth for us, how shall
we study it? I would like to watch how it cobbles knowledge together in
order to make children: what will his synthetic wife be made of (I
intuitively feel that our Golem is masculine...perhaps Jana Fortier can
explain this)? I want to understand the process by which effective truths
are manufactured in our culture, and ideological myths in other cultures
(too poor to manufacture technologically advanced scientific Truth for
themselves, of course). What compels belief in America? In Bhutan? In 18th
century Hawaii? Why?

By way of example, I suggest that Richard Calo has sketched the outlines of
one particular method of knowledge production, a venerable device
frequently employed in larger, more sophisticated "apparatuses of
knowledge," namely a variant of the "progress" paradigm:"
(Calo wrote:)
>>"Moreover, as the argument progresses, it starts to become streamlined,
as it were. From any number of competing posts, each encapsulating a point
view/perspective/take/etc., several more solid or substantial threads
or strings start to emerge (witness Marcus Aurin above, followed by me)--
these soon appear as competing versions or sides (I wonder if we have
gotten to that point yet-- probably); and soon enough, maybe even a
conclusion looms in the very near distance. Arriving at this conclusion,
or very near to it-- since in all probability its attainment is
asymptotic--it starts getting easier to turn back, look over the shoulder,
and "see" the point of origin [but we must not forget that point of origin
and conclusion are simultaneous projections, forward and backward, a
kind of anchor of consistency in a field of change; and that they are
therefore a part of the field of change, and change along with the field].
"Now, I don't know if this process can be called historical, or even
how we can account for its historicity, but it does produce 'something'--
even if this 'something' is nothing more than the "as if" quality
attributable to `myth models.'"
I venture that theorists (of whatever persuasion) are often able generate a
degree of veracity or sanctity (in Rappaport's sense) by situating their
ideas within such a framework: the progress myth model.

This, I think, is what Daniel Foss has been talking about in his mytho-
historical soliloquies and what John Pastore indicated with his Ka Xiik
Teech Utzil quote: "Oh, what balls we do weave, when we practice to
believe." What are some other truth producing mechanisms?

On another note, I think my secret suspicions have been confirmed. The
reason I mentioned Marx and Foucault in my first posting is because I have
fancied that they are the twin bogeymen from whom anthropologists
increasingly shrink. To whit- "This kind of postmodernist argument is very
extreme: it leaves room only for one other argument: that of power-- i.e.,
which of the cohering, accreting, and constantly developing/coming into
being versions gets to be 'it.' Justifiably Foucault (I think it was Marcus
Aurin who mentioned him somewhere) set about, or suggested we set about,
examining 'power,'..." I take Calo's usage of "very extreme" as a betrayal
of his repulsion from "this kind of postmodernist argument." In any case, I
don't think there ever, at any time or place, is a "version [that] gets to
be `it'." This is the point of this kind of argument: pluralism is
everywhere. "Versions" are forever competing, especially in our own socio-
cultural environment (where we have Jimmy Swaggert and Shirley MacLaine and
Bill Moyers all on TV). And people are themselves plural in their beliefs,
which is why culture works so well. Thus, within such an "argument,"
individuals are accorded a creative agency vis culture and reality--over
their own cosmologies and over other people's. That's why advertising

Enough. Perhaps someone can sharpen these question: how do we come to know
what we know, and how do we know it is true (in a broad, lower case sense)?
How do we adjust what we know to changing circumstances? What types of
circumstances prompt such adjustments? Is there a limit such adjustments,
or what are the parameters of knowledge plasticity?

--Marcus Aurin