22 May 2007
In a recent book on the contending definitions of truth in philosophy today, a book with a distinctly Russellian/Wittgensteinian focus, I've found a passage that bears on that accusation. To me, its a very funny piece of writing too, though I'm sure it wasn't intended as such.
The author, Matthew McGrath, early on mentions sentences that contain the word "sake," as in "Lois Lane risked her life for Clark Kent's sake."
He then discusses the problems that we might run into if we regarded a "sake" as a thing, something Clark possesses. (Like a pet?) -- so that we might try to understand the sentence as analogous to, "Lois Lane risked her life for Clark Kent's collie." He calls this "sake realism."
"The opacity of sake-talk makes sake realism objectionable. But it is objectionable for reasons of a more general relevance. By accepting sakes, we would confront a panoply of seemingly unaswerable questions: Do all things have sakes? My socks? the number 7? Do sakes themselves have sakes? Why is it that the things that have sakes have only one sake?"
You might think that I'm being unfair, taking this out of context. Surely he was attempting a reductio? Some opponent's view strikes him as analogous to "sake realism" and, accordingly, absurd?
Not quite. He's playing defense in this passage. As near I can tell, he's trying to say that although his view of truth bears some relation to "sake realism," it is sufficiently distinquishable to survive such a reductio.
But never mind about that. The next time you want to give your mind the cleansing benefits of an Zen koan, just recall the question: "Do sakes themselves have sakes?"
But don't do it for my sake.
Mr. McGrath needs to get out more.
Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.