Validating Both Primary Societies - Point 8
The claim is that it is very valuable to us to parse the world of meaning into a web of meaning in its actual complexity and the common pools of shared meaning enjoyed by groups and cultures. This point follows on directly from the previous one and is partially addressed there.
In organizing the world of natural meaning and knowledge in the manner of lifescape and conceptscape the purpose is to shape how we approach living with a natural and non-idealistic point of view of these. The old division into beliefs and real has been a powerful tool to build accurate categories in an historical period, but the games of who's-got-the-accuracy and oh,-but-you-have-these-hidden-motivations are leaving our contemporary societies in growing disarray. We have more accurate observations to pop holes in each other's beliefs. The new, proposed division eschews accuracy as the primary criteria for knowledge in favor of membership.
This Page, this Point:
Sharing a belief defines a group, a group society within the conceptscape of such groups. The questions for membership are whether one wants to belong and whether one likes the identity. One can thus seek to change beliefs of a group, change personal beliefs and membership, act as a bridge between two groups and so forth. There is never a condition of permanent exile called "being wrong." At worst there is the condition of being alone. The former is a contamination; the latter can be intrepid or outdated but still with visiting rights to other communities of belief.
When meaning is divided into the accurate and the innacurate, there are problems of belief-enforced intolerance, religions of perfection, eschatologies of arrival, dissatisfactions with the present. When meaning is divided in membership and non-membership as the conceptscape focuses the web of meaning, we can only guess at the problems but we can see that the old problems will have the driving power taken away from them.
“What, then, does a post-sovereign epistemology have to say about the legitimation of knowledge? The crucial point is not that there is no legitimacy, but rather that questions about legitimation are on the same ‘level’ as any other epistemic conflict, and are part of a struggle for truth. In the circulation of contested heterogeneous knowledges, disputes about legitimacy, and the criteria for legitimacy, are part of the dynamics of that circulation. Understanding knowledge as ‘a strategical situation’ rather than as a definitive outcome places epistemological reflection in the midst of ongoing struggles to legitimate (and delegitimate) various skills, practices, and assertions.” Rouse, Joseph. “Beyond Epistemic Sovereignty” pps. 398-416 in [Editors unknown] The Disunity of Science. 1996. Stanford University Press. p. 412-3.
“... it is simply wrong to insist that all systems and structures necessarily totalize and inevitably repress. What Derrida cannot imagine is a nontotalizing system or structure that nonetheless acts as a whole. Taylor, Mark C. The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. University of Chicago. 2001. p. 65.
“General knowledge, I argue, is a dubious ideal even for specialists inside their own fields. As subject matters grow in complexity, their literatures grow unmanageable; too big and too interdependent with further literatures. Organizational complexity precludes breadth of vision. Complex fields aren’t single conversations to which one can rationally acquiesce; their innards aren’t fully transparent. Competence comes with focus. It waxes in microcosm and wanes in macrocosm. It multiplies specialties and narrows their focus. And general knowledge is doubly dubious seen as a field-spanning wisdom. It ignores the division of labor needed for decision-making in a complex society. There are too many knowledge claims in the world. No rational person would try to evaluate each one comprehensively. Public problems cross many field boundaries, but individual expertise can cross only a few, and so complex decision-making is surrounded by a penumbra of unintelligible communication.” Willard, Charles Arthur. Liberalism and the Problem of Knowledge: A New Rhetoric for Modern Democracy. University of Chicago Press. 1996. p. 19.
"As Donna Haraway has recently argued, rationalists speak as if they were ‘nowhere while claiming to see comprehensively.’ Instead, she sees relativism as ‘a way of being nowhere while claiming to be everywhere equally.’ As she puts it, both stances are ‘god tricks’: one claims not to be speaking from a specific, identifiable place and pretends, instead, to be able to evaluate the matter globally–either by being everywhere or by seeing everything. Haraway’s proposal for avoiding both ‘god tricks’ is to think in terms of situated, partial knowledges.” Biagioli, Mario. “From Relativism to Contingentism” The Disunity of Science. 1996. Stanford University Press. p. 193.
“Noise is always in formation; there can be neither form nor formation without noise. When information is understood as a process rather than a product, the line separating it from noise is difficult to determine. Noise is not absolute but is relative to the systems it disrupts and reconfigures, and, conversely, information is not fixed and stable but is always forming and reforming in relation to noise. Forever parasitic, noise is the static that prevents the systems it haunts from becoming static. Static makes systems shifty. If, on the one hand, structures become too rigid to adapt to changing circumstances, the systems they support collapse; if, on the other hand, there are no systems to process data, noise becomes fatal. Life is lived on the shifting margin, boundary, edge between order and chaos, difference and indifference, negentropy and entropy, information and noise. The interplay of noise, which is informative, and information, which is noisy, creates the conditions for emerging complexity, which is the pulse of life.” Taylor, Mark C. The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture. University of Chicago. 2001. p. 123.
[This is a short description of Gregory Bateson's concept of the Double Bind, which I would maintain is evidence of the lifescape. In this quote the missing arena from discourse is described as "the field" or even "Rule A.2."] "However, the double bind is not merely a 'damned if you do, damned if you don't' situation. In and of itself, a no-win situation cannot drive someone crazy. The crucial element is not being able to leave the field, or point out the contradiction; and children often find themselves in just such a situation. Thus Laing sums up the double-bind predicament as: 'Rule A: Don't. Rule A.1: Rule A does not exist. Rule A.2: Do not discuss the existence or nonexistence of Rules A, A.1, or A.2.'
"What happens to a child caught in such a situation? Clearly, he will have to falsify his own feelings, convince himself that he really doesn't have a case, in order to maintain the relationship with his mother or father.
"'He was glad to see her [writes Bateson] and impulsively put his arm around her shoulders, whereupon she stiffened. He withdrew his arm and she asked, 'Don't you love me any more?' He then blushed, and she said, 'dear, you must not be so easily embarrassed and afraid of your feelings.' The patient was able to stay with her only a few minutes more and following her departure he assaulted an orderly and was put in the tubs.'" The Reenchantment of the World, Morris Berman, Bantam, 1981, pps. 226-7.
Validating both primary societies, lifescape and conceptscape, provides a path to deal with the rampant contemporary complexity in both spheres as well as a consistent mechanism to let larger, established social groups set conceptual standards. These two “societies” of lifescape and conceptscape have continually divided philosophies into religious types that adjust to the territory’s (lifescape’s) vastness through physical and emotional adjustment tactics or into ideal types that harness conceptual logic into effectiveness. Not including the idiosyncratic complexity of the lifescape leads to diverse estrangements of the heart and unreformable dogmas. To use only the powerful conceptscape to view into another human’s depths is to crash about crudely and dysfunctionally while destroying the basis of sociality. On the other hand, not treating the hard-won concepts of the methodological sciences and cultural heritage groups as powerful clusters in their own rights leads to relativistic dissipation. The validation that status societies give to concepts is enough normative help to epistemology as well as the best we can ever hope for given there are no external sources of validation.
Thoughts or suggestions; Email
Page updated 3/5/03