"truth" (or coming full circle)

Holly Swyers (nesn-info@CCE.ORG)
Fri, 26 Apr 1996 01:47:44 GMT

Mr. Joanis has some noteworthy points. Most notably on 4-25-96:

start quote==============
BUT, since it has been VERY clear that that my view is considered
"wrong" by many on this list, as evident by the response my post
provoked, than it is clear that those who subscribe to the relativist
and subjectivist world view are contradicting themselves. They are
guilty , as Mr. Pastore would say, of the "ultimate racism"
espousing their views as superior.
=========end quote
This is a valid criticism - particularly in terms of the inherent pitfalls
and hypocrisies of a relativist stance. Earlier (I'm sorry, I've been doing
a lot of deleting and can't remember the source) someone talked about what
happens when a person decides what is "right" or "correct" or "wrong." The
basic idea was that a decision was made and that the effect was of closing a
door to new ideas. However, we all (I assume - perhaps incorrectly?) draw
some lines in our lives - some basic "this is wrong," "this is right" type
distinctions. Aren't those judgments necessary foundations for any other
judgments we make? Or can we operate at all without some point of reference
(this wanders into psychology about which I know nothing, so I'll stop here).

Another point Mr. Joanis makes:
start quote===============
By now many might begin to see that
this sort of world view just doesn't fly in science. What does fly in
science is the acknowledgement that there is a single ultimate truth in
most situations. This ulitmate truth is what is sought by scientists. We
may often fall short, we may often become blinded by our social back-
ground, but that does not change the nature of the truth we seek.
===============end quote

Whether you agree with him or not, this is a nagging question. This gets
back to my question about why we should study anthropology at all. If we are
truly relativists, there is no better or worse - only different. If there is
no "truth" to be found (and I am not certain that there is). If anthropology
is about sitting around, seeing what is different and just saying - "oh,
that's interesting" (which is in itself a judgment - what is not
interesting?), it's a leisure activity and I'd rather be a concessonaire at
Wrigley Field for all the good I'm going to do in the world - I'm already
qualified to do that and it would be more fun than a dissertation, I imagine.
However, if there is something deeper to anthropology, which Richard Calo
among others has suggested, than is that something deeper something which we
can call "truth"?

This could get back to the issue of jargon (which I have mentioned unclearly
in previous posts). Are any of us taking the word "truth" to mean the same
thing? And if we all mean different things, does the word really mean
anything at all? How do we know, or how would we go about finding out?

Thanks for listening- Holly

"...for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
-William Shakespeare in _Hamlet_ II,ii,247-48