the logic of three kinds

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Archive for September, 2007

The Blogosphere as Public Sphere: Dr Everett Piper and the idiocy of theodicy

Posted by achresis on September 15, 2007

If philosophy is to be worth anything at all (and perhaps it is not) it needs to be studied.  To study philosophy, though, is to think; and it is to think in ways that one can live by.  If philosophy is to be worth anything, one must be able to live by it.  But one must study it in order to live by it.  The study of philosophy is thus always at the same time to live by philosophy.  And one is always learning to live by philosophy because one is always learning philosophy.  With the beginning of philosophy (at least with Heraclitus more than two and a half thousand years ago) this meant an unqualified love: philia (love/friendship/attachment/association); sophia (the wonder that drives study and dwells with wisdom as its inspiration).   Philosophy is loving the wisdom derived from wonder.  

When Jacques Derrida was dying (he was one of the last of the great philosophers of the twentieth century), the internet helped to answer our needs in the guise of the google news alert system, which kept us up to date with the latest on the ailing sage’s condition.   However since that moment on we have continued to receive notifications of “mentions” that take us to sites that, with more or less disingenuity, offer either deliberate or naive “accounts” of Derrida’s philosophy.  Some of these are just plain stupid.  Some are more engaged yet still hopelessly opiniated and uninformed.  One typical very mainstream example came in today.

In a blog post in Crosswalk.com (which claims to be at the “intersection of faith and life”) one Dr Everett Piper (who for some reason is President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University)  claims he:

“was recently reading the works of contemporary scholars such as Michel Foucault, Richard Rorty, and Jacques Derrida who argue that there is no such thing as objective truth and that all knowledge, all values, all morality, and all ideas of right and wrong, good or bad, are merely the products of an ongoing “community narrative” and social dialogue within a “global village.” They say that truth is a construct not a precept. It is a conversation not a conclusion. Truth is really not true you know. It’s all relative. It’s all a matter of opinion.”

(it’s all here: http://www.crosswalk.com/blogs/EPiper/)

If he had really been reading these actual authors then he would know that they do not argue this.  It is indeed absurd to say that they do.  It may be his opinion.  Perhaps this is Dr Piper’s own brand of truth.  What he claims they argue would be better applied to his own skewed understanding of truth.  We would be well advised to do our own studying rather than listen to the opinions of Dr Piper.   I will say nothing against Dr Piper personally (by his photograph he would seem to be cheerful and smartly turned out if a bit grey–every bit the benevolent and good natured administrator).  And I would normally have no interest in websites like Crosswalk (except that there are so many of them and they all look like online shopping sites).  But the level of everyday absurdity that is peddled as wisdom on the so called blogosphere is startling in its banality and naffness.  It’s all just endless bollocks.  Who reads it?  Do they believe it?

The bald fact–the truth in the good, well-tested, Platonic sense of the word–is that when people like Dr Piper complain that contemporary philosophers have done away with the truth then, by saying so, it is poeple like Dr Piper that are doing away with the truth.   I don’t care much for most brands of organized Christianity but surely this kind of thing gives even that a bad name.

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