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Sometimes Always True: Undogmatic Pluralism in Politics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

Sometimes Always True: Undogmatic Pluralism in Politics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

Jeremy Barris
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Sometimes Always True: Undogmatic Pluralism in Politics, Metaphysics, and Epistemology
    Book Description:

    Sometimes Always True aims to resolve three connected problems. First, we need an undogmatic pluralist standpoint in political theory, metaphysics, and epistemology. But genuine pluralism suffers from the contradiction that making room for fundamental differences in outlook means making room for outlooks that exclude pluralism. Second, philosophy involves reflecting on the world and meaning as a whole, yet this means adopting a vantage point in some way outside of meaning. Third, our lived experience of the sense of our lives similarly undermines its own sense, as it involves having a vantage point in some way wholly outside ourselves. In detailed engagement with, among others, Davidson, Rorty, Heidegger, Foucault, Wilde, and gender and sexuality theory, the book argues that these contradictions are so thoroughgoing that, like the liar's paradox, they cancel the bases of their own meaning. Consequently, it argues, they resolve themselves and do so in a way that produces a vantage point on these issues that is not dogmatically circular because it is, workably, both within and outside these issues' sense. The solution to a genuinely undogmatic pluralism, then, is to enter into these contradictions and the process of their self-resolution.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6217-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Sometimes Always True
    (pp. 1-31)

    The essays in this book explore three themes that are really different expressions of the same set of fundamental concerns. First, the essays identify and try to resolve a particular contemporary problem connected with pluralism. Second, they develop an approach to the “big questions” of philosophy, in the context of understanding this kind of questioning to be (as they argue) an essential dimension of human life. By the “big questions” I mean questions like “What is reality?,” “What is it to be a good person?,” and “How is knowledge possible?” While the essays explore this approach to fundamental questions in...

  6. 1. Comparing Different Cultural or Theoretical Frameworks: Davidson, Rorty, and the Nature of Truth
    (pp. 32-53)

    In comparing and considering dialogue between very different standpoints, whether cultural, subcultural, individual, or theoretical, the nature of truth itself becomes a problem. If, for example, we see the standpoints as genuinely but legitimately different with respect to the truth, we have the problem of conceiving how conflicting views can both be true. If they can, then within one of the standpoints, what the other takes as truth is equally legitimately taken as false, as the opposite of truth. In that case, are we dealing withtruthat all anymore? Further, in comparing them, we occupy a more general framework...

  7. 2. An Internal Connection between Logic and Rhetoric, between Frameworks, and a Legitimate Foundation for Knowledge
    (pp. 54-77)

    In this chapter I take up again the discussion of fundamental justification begun in Chapter 1 (section 4), but here in the context of problems of knowledge, rather than mainly those of the nature of truth. In other words, this chapter returns to some of the same issues but focuses more fully on epistemology rather than on what we might think of as the metaphysics of truth. This focus allows me to give a fuller account of the point, sense, and legitimacy of this kind of justification than I gave in the context of the previous chapter.

    I argue here...

  8. 3. Pluralism, Legitimate Self-Contradiction, and a Proposed Solution to Some Shared Fundamental Problems of Political and Mainstream Epistemology
    (pp. 78-101)

    In this chapter I return to a focus on the mutual meaninglessness and yet essential connection of globally different frameworks, and develop the relevance of this paradoxical connection for the political dimensions of epistemology. I also draw on this new context to expand the earlier discussion of mainstream or unpoliticized epistemology. I discuss political epistemology primarily through the example of feminist epistemology.

    As I shall argue, the field of political epistemology is characterized by unresolved debates that show that it is still widely troubled by problems that it shares with mainstream epistemology. Another feature of this field of thought, one...

  9. 4. The Logic of Genuine Political Pluralism and Oscar Wilde’s Artificiality of Wit and Style
    (pp. 102-128)

    I shall try to show in this chapter that Oscar Wilde’s artificiality of wit and style exemplifies both the logic and method of genuine political pluralism, and that it does so in an unusually consistent and illuminating way. (His work is also pluralist in more wide-ranging ways, but here I want to focus on its political side. I focus on his metaphysical pluralism, for example, in Chapter 8.)

    As I discuss, the well-known current approaches to political pluralism stop short of genuine pluralism in two ways. One kind of approach recognizes genuinely different standpoints: standpoints that are irreducible to each...

  10. 5. Foucault’s Pluralism and the Possibility of Truth and of Ideology Critique
    (pp. 129-149)

    Michel Foucault’s work involves a pluralism of conflicting but equally legitimate truth frameworks or “regimes of truth,” each of which has its own standards for truth. On a standard set of interpretations of his work, his pluralism eliminates the sense of the concept of ideology as a politically motivated system of ideas that claims to be true but in fact is false, since in his view there are no standards for truth independent of the particular system of ideas and their associated practices. Consequently, his work also makes the practice of identifying and questioning ideology—that is, ideology critique—meaningless....

  11. 6. How to Be Properly Unnatural: The Metaphysics of Heterosexual Normativity and the Importance of the Concepts of Essence and Nature for Pluralism
    (pp. 150-178)

    With qualifications that I discuss below, sexuality and gender theorists have largely rejected the concept of “nature,” and the similar concept of “essence,” except when understood as constructed by social and historical processes. I argue in this chapter that for reasons involving both the sense of these concepts at the metaphysical level and, connected with it, their liberatory political significance, we desperately need to reclaimconstruction-freenatures or essences,andthat we need to think of them as ultimately constructed,andthat these views are irreconcilably contradictory. I propose what I shall argue is a viable contradictory, or genuinely “unnatural,”...

  12. 7. The Necessary Inconclusiveness of Heideggerian Interpretation of Metaphysics and the Undecided Nature of Essential or Logical Connection
    (pp. 179-201)

    Martin Heidegger’s mode of reading or interpreting the history of metaphysics has been very widely influential in contemporary continental philosophy. One aspect of his approach is his frequent assertion ofdecisiveor definitive understandings of the history of metaphysics, a kind of assertion that much contemporary continental work fairly typically echoes, both explicitly and in tone. (I give some examples shortly below.) In this chapter I try to show, however, that there is a central problem with Heidegger’s understanding of interpretation, a problem that much of contemporary continental philosophy consequently shares. This problem does not affect the possibility of Heideggerian...

  13. 8. The Formal Structure of Metaphysics and The Importance of Being Earnest
    (pp. 202-230)

    In this chapter I try to show that the climactic moments of Oscar Wilde’sThe Importance of Being Earnestare structured in a way that displays the formal structure or logic of a central and perhaps the deepest type of metaphysical thinking. This structure, I argue, is fundamentally pluralist in the way I have presented in the other chapters. (In other words, its pluralism is also self-canceling, and in this way, as is appropriate for a genuine pluralism, makes equally fundamental room for nonpluralism.) I do not aim to show that the playismetaphysics, or that itjustifiesthis...

  14. 9. The Logical Structure of Dreams and Their Relation to Reality
    (pp. 231-258)

    Dream narratives are very often thought to be full of contradictions—for example, of shifts in identity as one thing suddenly turns out to be another—and of non sequitur leaps in continuity. These are the most basic ways of being illogical, of violating the conditions for making sense. Although, as I discuss below, a lot of dream researchers and theorists defend dream thinking as not typically violating sense in these ways, I endorse the view that dream narratives do often contain contradictions and non sequiturs. In doing so, however, I am not accusing dream narratives of the kinds of...

  15. Coda: Overviews
    (pp. 259-280)

    In this concluding chapter, I explore what it is to have an overview or a general sense of the kind of situation in which there are simultaneously relevant but wholly mutually exclusive frameworks of sense.¹ What does it mean to grasp these coordinations of mutually exclusive frameworks or conceptual structures? I explore this not only as an issue of intellectual grasp but also with respect to what it requires of us and offers us to recognize and live with these kinds of coordination. I have discussed this kind of overview and what it involves at length elsewhere.² Here I aim...

  16. References
    (pp. 281-292)
  17. Index
    (pp. 293-302)