Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Does this paradigm make me look fat?

I am coming towards the end of the philosophy of religion tape series I've been listening to, and we're starting to delve into the more subtle dimensions of religious discourse. Dr. Hall has laid out the notion of paradigms as Thomas Kuhn described them in The Stucture of Scientific Revolutions, and the notion of incommeasurability -- that no paradigm can be understood or criticized by a different paradigm's language and rules. That line of thinking is particularly handy for many religious thinkers, who would maintain that religion and logical positivism are simply separate paradigms that shouldn't have much to say about each other.

Hall goes on to give a resounding rejection of incommeasurability and the seeming relativism that it entails. He declares that paradigms can be evaluated, based on all the same criteria normally invoked to prefer one argument over another: parsimony, simplicity, elegance, consistency, flexibility, rigor, etc.

What I find most fascinating about these criteria for evaluating paradigms is that they are subjective and immediate. Like Pirsig's "Quality," they are properties difficult to quantify but immediately recognizable. They are properties so basic to human thought that they challenge language to contain them. A logical positivist might think that he is grounded in something tangible and firm, but the bedrock of his whole worldview rests in something as intangible, intuitive, and indescribable as the average mystical experience.

It's yet another vindication for the primacy of self-knowledge. No matter what paradigm you are operating in, wisdom begins in recognizing why you believe what you believe.



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