Richard & all, – from an email today –
I think the statement from Rorty:
“Truth cannot be out there – cannot exist independently of the human
mind because sentences cannot so exist, or be out there. The world is
out there, but descriptions of the world are not. Only descriptions of
the world can be true or false. The world on its own – unaided by the
describing activities of human beings – cannot.”
From MAKING TRUTH: METAPHOR IN SCIENCE, by TL Brown (2003).
is interestingly “garbled” in the usual way self-consistent language has problems referring to inconsistent things.
I’m not talking about the difficulty of even narrowing down what “truth” means. I’m talking about a suspicious distortion that his thinking seems to add in the process.
It’s that in emphasizing how the meanings in our minds are distinctly our own, and different from the organization of the “world out there”, he ends up seeming to say that the outer world has no language of its own. What would make more sense is that the rich world of natural languages that systems evidently develop on their own, seem incompatible with what we are able to fit in our minds.
Both our own varied private thoughts, and what we can share with each other with language, also seem to be phenomena of the “world out there”. Where the sharing most completely breaks down seems to be in the applicability of our thoughts and language to others.
I think the organization of nature can be “true or false” in its own terms, i.e. internally consistent, conflicting, etc. What nature’s organization can also do, somewhat defying logic, is be most successful when full of inconsistent independent self-consistencies. That’s part of what I think people are discussion as “heterogeneity”, or “heterarchy”.
Nature’s “thoughts” seem to display much more variety of individually different kinds of organization than our minds can capture. Our clumsily designed models for them, our invented “gloves” intended to imitate nature’s moving hands, are not presently serving us well at all.
So it’s important to discover that most rules arise from locally developing systems that are quite beyond full understanding, and quite diverse. My thought then is that discovering how nature is changing rather than how it is fixed, would make the glove seek to fit the moving hand rather than resist it’s movement.
Seeing nature as a moving target for our rules follow would let them be much more successful.
Is that included in Rorty’s sense of things?