April 17, 2017

"Trump’s playbook should be familiar to any student of critical theory and philosophy. It often feels like Trump has stolen our ideas and weaponized them."

Writes Casey Williams in "Has Trump Stolen Philosophy’s Critical Tools?" in The NYT.
For decades, critical social scientists and humanists have chipped away at the idea of truth. We’ve deconstructed facts, insisted that knowledge is situated and denied the existence of objectivity. The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety. Claiming to know the truth is therefore a kind of assertion of power....

People who produce facts — scientists, reporters, witnesses — do so from a particular social position (maybe they’re white, male and live in America) that influences how they perceive, interpret and judge the world....
How you get from that to the idea that Trump has "stolen" anybody else's "tools," I don't know. It's a description of what everybody is always already doing, and Trump, being one of us humans, is doing it too. He just does it very well. Williams admits as much, but insists that "Trump’s relationship to the truth seems novel, if only because he doesn’t try to hide his relativism." Which would make Trump more honest, no? If only honesty were something real.
In his essay “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” Latour observed that conservatives had begun using methods similar to those of critical theory to muddy debates around issues, like climate change, that required immediate and decisive action. Conservatives were casting doubt on the reality of planetary warming by pointing to “the lack of scientific certainty” around the issue. Latour had made a career questioning “scientific certainty” and worried that his critical “weapons” had been “smuggled” to the other side:
Entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language, that we always speak from a particular standpoint, and so on, while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.
Okay, now I get the idea that the "tools" have been "stolen." There were insights that were not kept secret, because it was thought that they'd help only one political side, and it didn't work out that way. The "tool" and "stealing" metaphors are inapt here, because each mind that thinks an idea contains the idea and doesn't deprive anyone else of the idea. And different minds can reach the same idea independently. And someone who never thinks the idea himself may behave in a way that is illustrative of the idea (which is probably what Trump is doing). I'm not saying Williams doesn't realize all of this. He's just expressing annoyance that ideas that came from the left didn't restrict themselves to serving only the interests of the left. That's not how ideas work. They get out and about and wreak havoc.

115 comments:

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

How you get from that to the idea that Trump has "stolen" anybody else's "tools," I don't know. It's a description of what everybody is always already doing, and Trump, being one of us humans, is doing it too.

That's your take when you're arrogant enough to think that you are the one who invented the tools.

Kate said...

Wasn't Trump a Randian Objectivist last week? There's nothing our President can't do!

J. Farmer said...

Alan Sokal has already settled all of this:

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity

Achilles said...

"There are no facts, only interpretations."

Someone way out ahead of this said this once...

madAsHell said...

Did they run out of palace intrigue stories?

Martin said...

Nobody (sane) actually believes there are no facts and everything we think we know is socially constructed. One could not get through a day thinking like that.

Critical Theory was concocted to undermine what was then seen as the reigning climate of opinion and its supporting facts (liberal capitalism for a short descriptor), but once that was done it would be abandoned as the "true" facts (an updated Marxist analysis developed by the Frankfurt School) came to the fore. But they never had any doubt that THEIR understanding was true and necessary in every respect.

Unknown said...

"The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant"

All of these "philosophers" teaching sociology and English from the point of view that there are no objective truths are the intellectual heirs of Kant? Really?

themightypuck said...

What he really means is that the "right" has decided to use the weapons that are being used against them. Think diving in soccer. Once they do it, you gotta do it too.

EDH said...

Latour had made a career questioning “scientific certainty” and worried that his critical “weapons” had been “smuggled” to the other side.

"Only we can do that to our pledges."

readering said...

"For decades . . . . [w]e . . ." The kid just graduated from college.

Sebastian said...

"He's just expressing annoyance that ideas that came from the left didn't restrict themselves to serving only the interests of the left. That's not how ideas work." It's not how ideas work, but it is how the left works: ideas are tools for the struggle, weapons in the culture war, to be judged by their ability to attain and exercise power. "Critical" theory and "deconstruction" came in some intellectually serious, non-BS versions, but of course were bastardized to aid the cause. Talk about theft is further evidence (you betcha) of the bastardization.

Ken B said...

Variola was socially constructed. We eradicated it by language.

Hari said...

Dump Trump steals the intellectual underpinnings of the academic elite.

IgnatzEsq said...

"In March, the president fired off a tweet accusing former President Barack Obama of wiretapping Trump Tower. Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, dismissed the claim. But the Trump team doubled down, writing off media reports and insisting that evidence of wiretapping would soon surface. It didn’t."

I don't even like Trump, but I can at least acknowledge there is some truth behind his claims of 'wiretapping.' Talk about pliable facts. I'll be honest, I stopped reading at that point as critical interpretation didn't appear to be the author's forte.

Jeff Roth said...

All I can think of is they forgot Sir Thomas More's classic scene from "A Man for All Seasons":

"Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!"

roesch/voltaire said...

Understanding how power and language have been used to construct social differentiation doesn't destroy the truth of natural law, gravity still works,and there is the certainty of death, but it does make us question where a social position came from and why we believe it-- for example the different historical takes on hemp as helpful,used in sailing, then evil, and now as tax generator for states. Of course the nature of it always got one high.The left has used this approach to debunk the claims of authority,the trickle down theory of economic for example, but somehow this seems different than Trump claiming he has the largest winery on the East Coast when a measurement of other winnery in Virginia proves that wrong, or that his inauguration crowd was bigger than the "other" one when photos offer different evidence. Still I think a critical skepticism that demands as much "evidence" as possible is useful for both the right and the left--as long one doesn't claim the performance artist Alex Jones is an example of critical theory in post-modern practice-- or is it?.

Scott said...

So there are no such things as objective facts?

Therefore if ISIS takes the author to the top of the NYT building and throws him off the roof, he won't fall because there's no such thing as the fact of universal gravitation, or the fact of what happens when a person falling from 52 floors hits the sidewalk?

/sarcasm off

Gahrie said...

it all depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

Static Ping said...

Conservatives were casting doubt on the reality of planetary warming by pointing to “the lack of scientific certainty” around the issue. Latour had made a career questioning “scientific certainty” and worried that his critical “weapons” had been “smuggled” to the other side.

Well, someone has no idea how science works. It is always entertaining to see the intelligent fools out themselves.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

IgnatzEsq, We all know where Trump got his "wiretapping" story: From Page 1 of the New York Times. It was there. I read it myself. Why the NYT itself is now pretending that never happened, I don't know.

Comanche Voter said...

Issues "like climate change that requires immediate and decisive action" rather assumes facts not in evidence for most of us. But for Latour that's a "fact"---at least in his world view. Aside from the problem that facts are slippier things, arguments that assume that one point of view has all the "facts" and "science" on its side tend to be circular. At that point we are talking faith, and disagreement is heresy. And Torquemada wouldn't have a patch on what our secular left would like to do to those who disagree.

virgil xenophon said...

Entropy is a bitch, n'cest-ce pas?

Lewis Wetzel said...

"the trickle down theory of economic for example"
Didn't Will Rogers come up with the term "trickle down economics"? What else has Rogers written on economics?
What the heck is the "theory of trickle-down economics"?

Lewis Wetzel said...

One should at least be able to distinguish between a priori and posteriori reasoning. How can it be a "fact" that sea levels will be ten feet higher in a century if we do not enact a carbon tax? The word "fact" itself has an interesting history. It used to be that people said that their opinions were informed by reason, now they say it is informed by facts.

buwaya said...

"One could not get through a day thinking like that."

Sure you can. Humans are very capable of dealing with compartmentalized information. We get through the day dealing with a very small subset of facts out of all "facts" that could possibly matter personally, and even more that don't and never will. You can certainly think like that about a great number of things and still live and prosper. Just don't ignore, dismiss or reinterpret those few, important ones that do matter.

And there is the other odd thing about humanity, that you can assert a position that is inconsistent with your behavior. We would rather win an argument than admit a truth, if that amounts to losing an argument, but that doesn't mean that it isn't true and that we don't, at some level, know its true.

Let us consider the possibility that these philosophers know that the facts behind their assertions are incorrect, or at least that there is reason to doubt. But they are human philosophers and they also have the human superpowers above, where they are able to ignore abstract, non-personally relevant facts, and behave inconsistently, if it suits their human purposes.

glenn said...

In other words "If I say it, its right. If you disagree you're wrong". See how simple that is.

Michel said...

It's the knife fight from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid played out at a very high level.

DanTheMan said...

Is it a fact that there are no facts?

buwaya said...

"It used to be that people said that their opinions were informed by reason"

This became the thing to do as several things have changed -
- technology gave humanity instruments to misinterpret.
- knowledge expanded too much for any one brain to grasp more than a certain specialty. So one must rely on authorities, who retail "facts".

DanTheMan said...

Is it true that there is no truth?

DanTheMan said...

But we are certain we can never have certain knowledge.

rehajm said...

Trickle down economics is a pejorative and not something economists debate or discuss in an academic setting.

rcocean said...

Yeah, once you let those ideas out of the barn, they run wild, and end up in amazing places!

rcocean said...

That's why the Left usually keeps their ideas on a tight leash.

tcrosse said...

I think that I think, therefore I think that I am.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Blogger buwaya said...
. . .
This became the thing to do as several things have changed -
- technology gave humanity instruments to misinterpret.


The Medievals preferred reason over facts because reason was unchanging. Reason tells you that a cause will always precede its effect. Facts about the real world are slippery. People perceive colors differently, our sense of the passage of time is plastic. When Bacon came up with the scientific method, he proposed it as a thing that might have some use -- if we insisted on repeatable experiments and multiple observers, we might strip away the subjective part of the experience of reality.
But science isn't like that anymore. The IPCC deals in probabilities, and the IPCC says, in writing, that part of determining probability is a judgment call by the climate scientist / observer.

rcocean said...

Ever since Trump started campaigning the Liberals have been hitting the "He doesn't know what he saying" or "He's C-r-a-z-y" buttons, over and over.

This morphed into "He's a liar" which led to "fact-checkers." The liberals never really proved any of this, but treated it as a self-evident truth.

Matthew Sablan said...

I always like that the same people who tell me there is no truth, also insist the science is settled. It is usually best not to point this contradiction out to them though.

Trump is Trump; I doubt he's the genius philosopher demon corrupting thought itself that these folks want us to believe him to be.

M Jordan said...

Dan the Man is The Man. Everything's relative ... including this sentence.

DEAL WITH IT, PHILOSOPHERS!

Matthew Sablan said...

"All of these "philosophers" teaching sociology and English from the point of view that there are no objective truths are the intellectual heirs of Kant?"

-- I'm curious why they don't go farther back. Plato had a lot of things to say about true forms and things.

Fernandinande said...

(maybe they’re white, male and live in America)

Apparently parrots can type now, but they still can't think.

Owen said...

buwaya: "'It used to be that people said that their opinions were informed by reason'

This became the thing to do as several things have changed -
- technology gave humanity instruments to misinterpret.
- knowledge expanded too much for any one brain to grasp more than a certain specialty. So one must rely on authorities, who retail 'facts'."

This seems right to me, but it didn't just happen yesterday. We have always relied on others for some or much of what we "know," and use to make our decisions. And we have had to trust others when we do that.

What may be different now is the almost total dependence on others for the information on which we rely. And, at the same time that we are more dependent than ever, we find less and less basis for trust. The old institutions and assumptions that were supposed to deliver that information --the media, the Government, the Church, the people in the lab coats or publishing in a scholarly journal-- are revealed as only too human.

Laslo Spatula said...

I've been enjoying the recent 100+ comments posts where it turns to WWE in the night hours. being that this could turn into one of those, I introduce The Ruthless Umlaut...

The Ruthless Umlaut says...

You are all Orange Locusts! Portentous Biblical reference! The Lies! America! Germany 1917 reference -- you know the one! Or do I have to spell it out for you, you ignorant Dampfnudels!

Can you people even read? Allusion to an Important Book I've read! Do you get it!? Or is it too much for you to understand -- maybe Allusion to Another Book I've Read is more your speed, you there in the slow lane of the Autobahn of Rational Thought! Kraftwerk Lyric!

Name of Philosopher I Know About -- can you not put your head around that, you Orange Monkey Lover? Or would you prefer Orangutans, which you probably think are monkeys but are really apes, you worthless slice of Baumkuchen!

Austria-Hungary 1889 Reference! I bet you pronounce it "Hungry", don't you! Big Word: Adjective! Big Word: Noun! Or is that too much for you, you being so stupid you probably can't tell your own Shit from Spritzkuchen!

Auf wiedersehen, you Mohrenkopfs!

I am Laslo.

Laslo Spatula said...

The Ruthless Umlaut says...

Do you even read what you write? Do you even know water is wet? Hellen Keller reference! 1792 France reference! You all are ignorant Gugelhupfs!

You people add two plus two and get ass! Eighteenth-Century Mathematician reference! Allusion to Important Book I've read! But that has Big Words, so it probably would only scare you, you morons! Tolstoy Quote! Ha!

Big Word: Adjective! Big Word: Noun! Put THAT under your beds with your jars of urine!

Auf wiedersehen, you Mohrenkopfs!

I am Laslo.

Owen said...

Lewis Wetzel: "...The IPCC deals in probabilities, and the IPCC says, in writing, that part of determining probability is a judgment call by the climate scientist / observer."

So here's my big problem with the IPCC's notion of "probability." To me, the word means "based on N trials, the frequency with which Q result comes up." You roll the dice 36 times, you might get 1 pair of 6's. You roll them 3600 times, you have some greater confidence of getting between 90 and 110 pairs of 6's. Or whatever.

My point is not the exact output, it's the process. Frequentist statistics are based on actual, living, breathing frequency of results. Which have some claim on what we call "reality."

But what does the IPCC traffic in? Some reader's incredibly informed seat-of-the-pants conjecture about what "feels like" a good number for that probability. BY DEFINITION they cannot perform the relevant trials, they are left with nothing more substantial than a FEELING about the right number.

Therefore, BS.

Fred Klein said...

Get over it Dukie boy

exiledonmainstreet said...

Brilliant, Laslo!

buwaya said...

"Tolstoy Quote! "

I can't do Tolstoy quotes? No more? Not even to Ritmo?
Sadness.

buwaya said...

I also don't know if I can do without big words.
I have a tender relationship with some of them. I will miss the dear things.
euphemism bourgeois contingent ubiquitous

cubanbob said...

Mel Brooks summed it up best in his scene of the standup philosopher in his "History of the World Part One".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tl4VD8uvgec

buwaya said...

"BY DEFINITION they cannot perform the relevant trials, they are left with nothing more substantial than a FEELING about the right number."

For the most part they construct complex computer models, based on a variety of data inputs, that predict a global temperature output. They test them vs various historical global climate estimates, which are, mostly, themselves models based on very limited data. They "back cast" to validate their models, or at least some of them do. None of this is anything like experimentation in validity.

Granted, there are whole fields of Science where one cannot really experiment. Plate tectonics is not really subject to experimentation. There you also have models and data is collected and the models checked against whatever data is available.

The difference is that very few people have much to lose if someone screws up in plate tectonics. Someone may lose money placing a bet on, say, exploratory drilling based on some geological model, but that's not a big deal. You will not be tempted to risk the global economy by spending piles on heroic engineering to preserve New Delhi from getting crushed into the Himalayas.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

So Trump has adopted the Bad Ideas and made them his own, they're still Bad Ideas.

Steven said...

How may days ago on this very blog was it that I was pointing out, in reference to post about an article by a Ms. Mead in the New Yorker, that facts had been undercut from within the academy for decades, and that is why the academy and its trainees were no longer accepted as arbiters of facts by the common man?

JimT said...

This is nothing new. Rather it is simply another example of an Idea so stupid only an intellectual could believe it.

After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it -- "I refute it thus."
Boswell: Life of Johnson

Plu ca change ...

Mark O said...

Yes. Hell yes. The TRUTH.

I don't think we can watch this too many times.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KiIP_KDQmXs

Quayle said...

One side lived by the rule that words have no intrinsic meaning, but are only tools - weapons - in the broader power struggle of classes, gender, and races.

Then the other side stopped listening to the one side's words. The other side didn't care what the one side said. They ignored them.

And the one side was totally surprised. Shocked. Caught off guard.

More words came - lots of words!

More ignoring.

Venomous words. criticism! ridicule!

More ignoring.

But these are words they shouted. Important words! Big and fancy words! You have to listen to them!

But the other side didn't listen.

And the one side was totally and utterly stumped.

The end.

I am certainly not Laslo.

rhhardin said...

Beware the Ideas of March.

Lewis Wetzel said...

It's the absolutism of modern leftists that gets to me. Everything has the same value -- all language is a tool to oppress -- other than the statement that all language is a tool to oppress. That statement has only one value, and is not a tool used to oppress. Every single person who says they are homosexual was born that way. Every single Black person in the US is oppressed by white culture. Every unequal outcome is a result of implicit racism, which is proven because there are unequal outcomes. Every white person is privileged. Everything is a social construct except the belief that everything is a social construct. That has an objective reality.

Phil B said...


" It often feels like Trump has stolen our ideas and weaponized them." Yes, but first he gold-plated them.

Aretae said...

The claim of uncertainty is actually Hume. Kant was attempting to defend certainty against Hume's onslaught.

DanTheMan said...

>>" It often feels like Trump has stolen our ideas and weaponized them."

"Bloody instructions, which being taught, return to plague the inventor."

How am I doing, Laslo?

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

I don't care about any of that sh*t. I just know that y'all hate reality.

And people.

The Toothless Revolutionary said...

While absolute certainty may be a challenge, degrees of certainty are not. Some things are just plain a hell of a lot more likely than others, and the whole point of American political "conservatism" is to pretend that all things are equally unknowable - which is a lie.

DanTheMan said...

The next line is even better. But all you umlauts can go look it up, since, unlike me, you don't have it memorized.

Gerry Daly said...

I like the whole part about requiring immediate and drastic action, in a piece written in 2003. No immediate action occurred, and what occurred was far from drastic. Yet, here we are, with the hockey stick looking ever more foolhardy.

DanTheMan said...

>>whole point of American political "conservatism" is to pretend that all things are equally unknowable

I thought it was smaller government, more freedoms, and lower taxes.
Darn.

DanTheMan said...

>>>>whole point of American political "conservatism" is to pretend that all things are equally unknowable

Who can forget Ronald Reagan in Berlin, and that famous quote:
"Mr. Gorbachev, don't you realize that we can never know if there is a wall here or not!"

Earnest Prole said...

I was thinking of something analogous this weekend as I watched Trump supporters beat the hell out of a bunch of anarcho-communists in Berkeley. For many years these black-clad lefties thought they had a monopoly on political violence and behaved accordingly, but it turns out they were mistaken.

ThomasD said...

"All of these "philosophers" teaching sociology and English from the point of view that there are no objective truths are the intellectual heirs of Kant? Really? "

Yes, really. Pretty much all are on a direct line back through the Young Hegelians to Kant.

Greg Toombs said...


If there is no truth, there is only persuasion.

Angel-Dyne said...

"In his essay “Why Has Critique Run Out of Steam?” Latour observed that conservatives had begun using methods similar to those of critical theory to muddy debates around issues, like climate change, that required immediate and decisive action. Conservatives were casting doubt on the reality of planetary warming by pointing to “the lack of scientific certainty” around the issue. Latour had made a career questioning “scientific certainty” and worried that his critical “weapons” had been “smuggled” to the other side:...

Uh, no. Skeptics about things like AGW who question the "scientific certainty" of its proponents are not questioning the validity of the data and the validity of the conclusions from the data via some sort of adopted "critical theory" approach to epistemology. They're questioning the validity of the data and the validity of the conclusions from the data on much more straightforward, pragmatic grounds that have nothing to do with debates about the metaphysical foundations of scientific knowledge.

If Latour thinks that that's what's going on, Latour is a dope. Iirc correctly from exposure to Latour back in the day, I never thought he had much of interest to say about anything that was going on. But at any rate, the article writer is indisputably a vaporing dope.

Iow, what Laslo said.

Lewis Wetzel said...


Blogger Greg Toombs said...

If there is no truth, there is only persuasion.

4/17/17, 9:11 PM

You mean "power," not persuasion.

YoungHegelian said...

@Toothles,

and the whole point of American political "conservatism" is to pretend that all things are equally unknowable -

Oh, sure. Because everybody knows that the phrase "Il n'y a pas de hors-texte" was always at the ready on Jerry Falwell's lips.

Do you really believe the stuff you write?

Lewis Wetzel said...

and the whole point of American political "conservatism" is to pretend that all things are equally unknowable
Do you actually know any conservatives, R&B?
Can you find some conservative here at Althouse who will bear witness to believing that all things are equally unknowable?
I don't think you will. I think that you are stuck in a funhouse hall of mirrors. Again.

Original Mike said...

"People who produce facts — scientists, reporters, witnesses — do so from a particular social position (maybe they’re white, male and live in America) ..."

Oh, my God....

Fernandinande said...

I bet you pronounce it "Hungry"

Even better than that, when I want to eat I say "I'm Hungarian".

Original Mike said...

"People who produce facts — scientists, reporters, witnesses — do so from a particular social position (maybe they’re white, male and live in America) ..."

Witnesses? Sure.
Reporters? Unfortunately, to their shame,
Scientists? Not real ones, no.

southcentralpa said...

And yet, if he called up the faculty credit union to get his checking balance, he'd expect to get a clear, factual answer. Hmmm.

It's not so much that Kant, et alia, expected to know everything certainly, but I would say that they hoped to establish as much as they could be known, and establish the means for verification.

We should be working from what is certain in the direction of making as much that is uncertain certain, rather than just throwing up our hands and saying "We can't know anything, fuck it, let's just teach Left activism...."

#whyIamaSAHDandnotaphilosophyprof

AprilApple said...

Ideas from the left.

AprilApple said...

Democrats in a public, political meeting cheer and laugh at the mention of the increased number of white men committing suicide.

The speaker says, maybe I should not say this in public, but when I heard more White men are committing suicide, I almost said “yeah, great!”.

But he does say it, and the crowd likes it, as he knew they would.

Naut Right said...

In effect, all this is saying is "Your deductive reasoning isn't as good as my deductive reasoning."

Lewis Wetzel said...

There seems to be a wrong-headed idea about what "privilege" means. People who have privilege are not open to criticism. Wealth and social class earn you privilege in America and just about everywhere else. There are people on the Left who believe that some opiate-addicted hillbilly living in a trailer park in Missouri is more privileged than Obama, who, at this moment, is vacationing in the South Seas aboard David Geffen's super yacht.
If you feel you have the right to tell people that they are exercising undeserved privilege, you are not a warrior for social justice.
You are privileged.

Lewis Wetzel said...

It's science!

Scientists have witnessed the first modern case of what they call "river piracy" and they blame global warming. Most of the water gushing from a large glacier in northwest Canada last year suddenly switched from one river to another.

http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/canada-glacier-melt-rerouted-rare-case-river-piracy-46844951

So this is what happened: a glacier that has been receding for over a century changed its morphology so the melt water ran down one side of the glacier instead of the other.


The scientists calculate that there is only a 1 in 200 chance that the retreating glacier and river piracy is completely natural without man-made global warming. They used weather and ice observations and a computer simulation that models how likely the glacier retreat would be with current conditions and without heat-trapping greenhouse gases.


Uh . . . okay.


"This is an interesting study and reconfirms that climate change has large, widespread and sometimes surprising impacts," Pennsylvania State University glacier expert Richard Alley, who wasn't part of the study, said in an email.


Well, who can argue with that!

aritai said...

Entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language, that we always speak from a particular standpoint, and so on, while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.

The left used to lie? This is a secret? Politicians adapt "god given truths to their purpose? Shirley you jest. The media would love to beat T. to submission given his "lies" are obviously at difference with their "so called" truth that any non-insane person must believe is true.

My mother told me to keep hold of my wallet anytime anyone spoke from authority, starting with "this is true" and "this is a lie".. Anyone who didn't start the statement with "maybe" wasn't worth the time of day, save for a polite greeting and dismissal.

She said to help others the most use not only the golden rule, but persuasion in its best possible form, leading the irrational part of every being to a better place, and a better life by fitting the models they've created for their own lives, in that mess of jelly we call a brain. Mr. Trump excels at this, As did Jesus Christ. Leading by inspired speaking from the heart what most people want to believe to be true. What others think just doesn't matter. The people think of them as slave masters, who they are glad to be rid of.

Doc said...

"The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety." Are we entirely certain about that?
Also: even if this is true as a practical matter (no one but God knows everything about everything, after all), it is an illogical leap to go from the above statement to the idea that no one knows anything for certain at all.

SukieTawdry said...

Latour's got some nerve associating a rational skepticism of "planetary warming" with his science and technology studies gobbledygook. If anyone is guilty of "social construction," it's they who claim the "science" is settled.

Sebastian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sebastian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
wildswan said...

The weapons the left uses against the right work quite well against the left. You won't build a lasting philosophy with lefty weaponized knowledge but you can counter skepticism with skepticism, climate change "science" with analysis of who benefits from that "scientific" point of view. And they hate it when you do that.

Achilles said...

Laslo Said...

You people add two plus two and get ass!

I am going to have to steal that... Not sure who to quote though.

Achilles said...

The Toothless Revolutionary said...
I don't care about any of that sh*t. I just know that y'all hate reality.

And people.

...

While absolute certainty may be a challenge, degrees of certainty are not. Some things are just plain a hell of a lot more likely than others, and the whole point of American political "conservatism" is to pretend that all things are equally unknowable - which is a lie.


Do you get tired of carrying water for the "left?" Please stop acting like there is some moral superiority or special knowledge associated with progressivism. The left of the political sphere has just as many shitheads in it as the right side.

Joan said...

Was just about to post that Lewis won the thread, but then Laslo introduced the Ruthless Umlaut. Excellent work, people.

I was sad to see LaTour in this discussion, though. In my nature & philosophy of science classes, LaTour is a well-respected voice in discussing how we get from the concrete real world to data and words that enable people to understand what happened without personally experiencing it.

Philosophy sounds a lot like bullshit, and it can certainly be used for more or less evil purposes, but some of it's actually... useful.

Bob Loblaw said...

"Critical social scientist". Is there anyone outside academia who sees a use for such a creature?

Big Mike said...

If there is no truth then there is no science. If there is no science then there is no settled science. If there is no settled science then there is no anthropogenic global warming. QED

I think I've got it! By Jove I've got it.

Mad Boston Arab said...

What a self aggrandizing fool, as if reporters produce facts in the same way as scientist.

Paco Wové said...

"In my nature & philosophy of science classes, LaTour is a well-respected voice"

Around 1990 or so, I was part of a seminar that involved graduate students in biology and philosophy. We read a few excerpts from Latour's Laboratory Life, and I recall the philosophy students thinking it was insightful and the biology students thinking it was crap, setting up a strawman of science and knocking it down. (I was one of the biology students, so you can probably guess my viewpoint.)

I found the Latour piece that was excerpted here to be truly awful. However, I would be interested in knowing if he produced anything else that might explain his reputation.

Jon Burack said...

A very revealing article and great commentary from Ann. Here is a side angle on it regarding that climate change issue. Evidence of the laughable incoherence of the left's annoyance at the right on all this is the statement from this Latour guy about climate skeptics supposedly applying relativism to throw doubt on climate alarmist certainty. Not even close to what the skeptics are doing. They in fact are insisting on solid science to either confirm or disconfirm the fictional model-based fantasizing of the alarmists. It is those alarmists who are using their model-based images to impose a truth through the exercise of power. They'd love to get the Middlebury thugs to do their bidding, if only they could.

Phil 3:14 said...

Laszlo, please continue.

Phil 3:14 said...

"You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who's trying to convince himself of something he doesn't believe in his heart."

CJ said...

This is the kind of post I like in the mornings - a post that summarizes the issue and flat out states the correct reaction to it. Thank you!

"Okay, now I get the idea that the "tools" have been "stolen." There were insights that were not kept secret, because it was thought that they'd help only one political side, and it didn't work out that way. The "tool" and "stealing" metaphors are inapt here, because each mind that thinks an idea contains the idea and doesn't deprive anyone else of the idea."

"He's just expressing annoyance that ideas that came from the left didn't restrict themselves to serving only the interests of the left."

Well said.

Todd Galle said...

While in college at Gettysburg years (and years) ago, my fraternity had a small segment of philosophy majors - most of the rest were history types. Almost to a man, the philosophy types went, well, off. 'Round the bend if you will. I saw enough infused madness that I vowed never to even put my little toe into the philosophy game. You can name all the Frogs, Krauts, Danes and Commie 'thinkers' you like, I will not truck with it.

bagoh20 said...

Aaaaaw, intellectuals. Such adorable creatures. Please remember to spay and neuter. Like fancy koi, or Pomeranians, they don't do well on the streets hungry and unprotected.

MPH said...

Obama was the the first post-modern president. Trump is the second. This is not an endorsement.

tim in vermont said...

Entire Ph.D. programs are still running to make sure that good American kids are learning the hard way that facts are made up, that there is no such thing as natural, unmediated, unbiased access to truth, that we are always prisoners of language, that we always speak from a particular standpoint, and so on, while dangerous extremists are using the very same argument of social construction to destroy hard-won evidence that could save our lives.

Ha ha ha! He is so close to understanding the real problem here, but he can't see it because he has taken sides. Actually, if he reads Steve McIntyre's early posts on the hockey stick, over at ClimateAudit, and drops his partisan pom poms and works to truly understand the issues behind that graph...

Well whatever, the irony is so strong in that passage I almost spit my coffee on my new brand new MacBook.

tim in vermont said...

"Immediate and decisive action" means imposition of a socialist world government. It's science people, BTW, science is bull shyte, but it's SCIENCE!

Angel-Dyne said...

MPH: Obama was the the first post-modern president. Trump is the second. This is not an endorsement.

The relationship between truth and the political speech of either one of these men is no different from that of previous politicians. The idea that either is uniquely or anomalously "fact-challenged", Orwellian, dishonest, confabulating, reality-denying, or whatever, relative to the pols before them, is itself so much "post-modern" bullshit.

Fernandinande said...

Mad Boston Arab said...
What a self aggrandizing fool, as if reporters produce facts in the same way as scientist.


His background is sociology and anthropology, both of which are SJW operations which justify their existence and activism with science-y affectations.

Peter said...

Martin wrote, "Nobody (sane) actually believes there are no facts and everything we think we know is socially constructed. One could not get through a day thinking like that.

Critical Theory was concocted to undermine what was then seen as the reigning climate of opinion and its supporting facts (liberal capitalism for a short descriptor), but once that was done it would be abandoned as the "true" facts (an updated Marxist analysis developed by the Frankfurt School) came to the fore."


And as another politician said, “democracy is like a train. You take it where you have to go, and then you get off.” And so, too, with this PoMo "there is no truth, only power" claim. Now that it's served its (destructive) political purpose, it must time to discard it (lest our enemies may use it against us)?

Fernandinande said...

Joan said...
philosophy of science classes,


"Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds." -- some science guy.

Rick said...

This is the closest anyone on the left has come to describing why their criticisms of Trump don't have the impact they expect. He doesn't quite get home because that isn't his goal.
Thus he focuses on climate change rather than the numerous far more revealing issues.

Consider this passage:

But Trump’s relationship to the truth seems novel, if only because he doesn’t try to hide his relativism. Mexican immigration, Islamic terrorism, free trade: For Trump, truth is always more about how people feel than what may be empirically verifiable. Trump admits as much in “The Art of the Deal,” where he describes his sales strategy as “truthful hyperbole.” For Trump, facts are fragile, and truth is flexible.

While it's accurate to describe Trump's approach as truthful hyperbole it isn't novel. It's novel to the left only because their own use is so deeply internalized. Obvious examples include the claim that 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted on campus, or that women earn 77 cents on the dollar for the same work as men. Or the claim that the poor remain poor even though the method they use to prove this is counting different people at different times rather than the same people. The left's entire policy program is based on such misleading statistics and similar fake news. Thus when they claim to be offended by Trump's tangential relationship with the truth the effect is to highlight their own hypocrisy rather than Trump's failings.

How you get from that to the idea that Trump has "stolen" anybody else's "tools," I don't know.

The left believed the institutional backing of academia and media was required to use this weapon because it allowed them to exclude any voices which didn't accept their framework. Their role as judges allowed them to pronounce what was acceptable and what not and for decades is worked to such a degree that even those against it accepted the outcome. Only with the advent of Fox, the internet, and now Trump has that control been broken.

Now consider these passages:

Even if we felt comfortable asserting the existence of something like “truth,” there’s no going back to the days when Americans agreed on matters of fact — when debates about policy were guided by a commitment to truth and reason. Indeed, critique shows us that it’s doubtful that those days, like Trump’s “great” America, ever existed.

For this very reason, these strategies remain useful, however much something like them may be misused, and however carelessly some critical theorists and philosophers have deployed them.


This is a recognition that on balance the acceptance of mythology rather than fact benefits the left. While the academic and media's impact can no longer be considered control it is still powerful influence. Thus he argues for leftists not to over-focus on fact but to accept that fact-focus is sometimes appropriate and sometimes "misused".

Rick said...

BTW here's a link to campus left wingers claiming "objective truth" is white supremacy.


Reason

Historically, white supremacy has venerated the idea of objectivity, and wielded a dichotomy of 'subjectivity vs. objectivity' as a means of silencing oppressed peoples. The idea that there is a single truth--'the Truth'--is a construct of the Euro-West that is deeply rooted in the Enlightenment, which was a movement that also described Black and Brown people as both subhuman and impervious to pain. This construction is a myth and white supremacy, imperialism, colonization, capitalism, and the United States of America are all of its progeny. The idea that the truth is an entity for which we must search, in matters that endanger our abilities to exist in open spaces, is an attempt to silence oppressed peoples.

Sigivald said...

Latour observed that conservatives had begun using methods similar to those of critical theory to muddy debates around issues, like climate change, that required immediate and decisive action.

1) No amount of immediate and decisive action that was going to happen was going to "stop" climate change, even going by IPCC projections, so who cares? The world wasn't going - period - to stop emitting carbon, even if the effect was horrible. Two billion people in India and China, alone, weren't going to put up with "impoverish yourself to keep the seas from maybe rising some in decades".

2) If critical theory is correct* about Truth, it doesn't get to complain about other people using it for ends its creators disapprove of**.

(* Philosophically, of course per Kant we can't know the ding an sich of the world, and our truth claims are necessarily colored by our mental state and experience, etc.

On the other hand, this doesn't seem to actually mean much in the world of testable "truths", as evidenced by scientific experiment actually working - or as I put it "reality is what happens whether you believe in it or not".

When the "critical" types move their truth-talk from truths about narratives into truths about reality they lose their way; that they don't recognize that there remains a fundamental difference between critical analysis of a text and of claims about the world is their own problem.

** Because, naturally, to claim it's doing something improper is a truth claim, and thus one that can be denied as subjectively biased and deniable with a mere counter-claim.)

tim in vermont said...

When they build a 747 using a different physics and engineering framework than the western one, I will eat my hat.

Gahrie said...

When they build a 747 using a different physics and engineering framework than the western one, I will eat my hat.

Cultural appropriation old chap. The ancient Zimbabweans were flying jet aircraft doncha know.....

Douglas said...

The other word for "trickle down economics" is "economics."