“Some of these stories are closer to my own life than others are, but not one of them is as close as people seem to think.” Alice Murno, from the intro to Moons of Jupiter

"Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see." Arthur Schopenhauer

“Why does everything you know, and everything you’ve learned, confirm you in what you believed before? Whereas in my case, what I grew up with, and what I thought I believed, is chipped away a little and a little, a fragment then a piece and then a piece more. With every month that passes, the corners are knocked off the certainties of this world: and the next world too. Show me where it says, in the Bible, ‘Purgatory.’ Show me where it says ‘relics, monks, nuns.’ Show me where it says ‘Pope.’” –Thomas Cromwell imagines asking Thomas More—Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

My favorite posts to get started: The Self-Righteousness Instinct, Sabbath Says, Encounters, Inc., and What Makes "Wolf Hall" so Great?.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reading Subtly's Epistemology

A truth is only as good as the methods used to derive it. This is what I call neopositivism. Of course, classical positivism is the stance that the only meaningful statements are those which can be proven or disproven, and it has historically been hoisted on its own petard because it's difficult to prove that only confirmable and falsifiable statements are meaningful. I suggest that the stance, a truth is only as good as the methods used to derive it, since it is a relative rather than an absolute claim, is in fact recommended by itself. Witness the welter of ideas on the blogosphere: some are better than others, and it tends to be the best researched, the most scientific, that bring us asymptotically closer to truth.

But neopositivism is recommended most by its utility. We must establish a standard of truth or we'll be lost in the infinite regress of "I have the heartfelt belief that my proposition is true" squaring off with "Well, I have the heartfelt belief that your proposition is untrue, and mine represents the real truth." The issue must be settled through an investigation into the methods used to arrive at each of the competing truths. In the heartfelt example, the issue can't be settled, and both "truths" can only be accepted by those unconcerned with the fact that their "truth" has nothing to recommend it over others.

What does this mean for Reading Subtly? The best blogs are usually the most researched. But I don't mean for this to be primarily a scientific blog. I take literature to be an epistemology as well, one which must play a supporting role to science, but an important one nonetheless. So while the best science blogs tend to be the most researched ones, the best literary blogs must have their own methodological standards. I suggest the best literature blogs will tend to be the ones which have undergone the most revision, the ones on which the author has spent the most time. So my standard for blog entries, my fiction and poetry, will be that only work I've spent sufficient time assessing and improving from its original state of inspiration will be posted.

This poses a bit of a problem because the blogs that garner the biggest audiences tend to be those that post frequently and regularly. So be it. I'll do my best to value quality over popularity. And anyway, I'm only posting my writing out of playful vanity... I think.

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