UFO Conjectures

Thursday, August 21, 2014

For Zoam Chomsky and his "critics"

The July 17th, 2014 issue of The London Review of Books has a letter from Anil Gomes (Trinity College, Oxford) referencing an article in the June 19th issue of LRB.

It goes to H.A. Prichard's philosophical position, adopted by the so-called Oxford realists.

I won't go into the article or argument here but thought this was pertinent to what happens when Zoam Chomsky and his "opponents" get into discussions here (and elsewhere):

"The Oxford realists held that knowledge was a basic mental state, different in kind from belief and opinion. And whereas opinion could be supported on the basis of evidence, knowledge was a basic apprehension of truths. Someone who disagreed with you, then, couldn’t be argued out of his position by appealing to evidence. Rather, any disagreement could only be the result of one or other party to the dispute – most likely one’s opponent – failing to apprehend what was true clearly and rationally." [Letters, LRB]



  • Rich:

    I think I see where you’re coming from on this; hard skeptics like Zoam act as though they have a “basic apprehension of truths” that “believers” don’t. If Zoam were philosophically consistent, he should be an Oxford realist (as defined above).

    But I think you may be giving Zoam too much credit by assuming that there is a philosophical consistency in his position; I don't recall ever reading one. All I've ever read is the simple assertion that when it comes to UFOs, there is no "there" there--the term does not refer to something physically real. If that is an accurate characterization of his position, then I would say he simply has the opinion that UFOs are not real.

    He also seems to imply that his opinion is somehow "scientific" and that this means that differing opinions are "unscientific". As an aside, as a trained scientist, I would characterize that position as a naive misunderstanding of Science; it's "not even wrong", as Wolfgang Pauli might have said. One could refer to this syndrome of UFO skeptics posing themselves as "scientific" and their opponents as "unscientific" as "scientism"--the desire to attach to ones self the presumed virtue and prestige that has come to be associated with Science, without actually being a scientist, doing science, or even understanding it very deeply. Scientism appears to be a kind of totemic worship of Science, from afar.

    Be that as it may, to the extent that someone professes that his opinion is based on scientific principles, then that individual should also logically believe that his opinion is ultimately subject to modification based on empirical verification or falsification. Thus, by claiming that his position is scientific, he would appear to be thereby claiming that it is not an example of “basic apprehension of truths” that defines Oxford realists.

    I suppose he could be claiming that his position is BOTH empirically verifiable AND a “basic apprehension of truth”. His ego could be that big.

    The school of Oxford realism seems pretty close to Platonic idealism to me, a philosophy I resonate with strongly. I may be more of an Oxford realist than Zoam is, but I just don’t see that the UFO question is appropriate subject matter for a claim to “basic apprehension of truths”.

    By Blogger Larry, at Thursday, August 21, 2014  

  • Larry:

    Zoam Chomsky and his critics also, both, look for truth by way of the evidence or lack thereof when, in fact, truth is something enmeshed with things that transcend evidence.

    Zoam's truth, as I see it, is based in a negation.

    UFO advocates' truth is mired in the evidence; e.g., David Rudiak's position.

    Both are errant.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Thursday, August 21, 2014  

  • The whole of the subject strikes me as a language game seemingly disconnected from the subject(s)
    What is used to describe this or that in a "fixed" state is not what is being described.
    Zoam's comments as negation or his claim of being scientific are a source of humorous and naive realism that could be better described as more psychological than "factual".

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Friday, August 22, 2014  

  • Zoam Chomsky's comments here (and elsewhere) have the patina of nihilism but, actually, they represent the view of the Oxford realists; that is, Zoam assumes that that the non-existence of UFOs derives from an innate state of knowledge, eschewing evidence and reports.

    It's a valid philosophical stance, but one that strikes as the heart of scientific methodology.

    While it seems crazy on its surface, just as most philosophical positions appear (to some of us), it is a legitimate mode of expression for debate.


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, August 22, 2014  

  • At my age both philosophy and science ( in terms of their legitimacy deriving from consensus language) pose more questions than answers that highlight their provincial nature when juxtaposed against what Bateson observed.. that the human mind operates one way and nature in another.

    Logic is a local phenomenon posed against experiential anomalies, the human mind being one of them.

    I am as much a naive realist as Zoam in this regard.

    By Blogger Bruce Duensing, at Friday, August 22, 2014  

  • For me, Bruce...

    Scientific and philosophical jargon represents sheer insanity.

    Dementia in the guise of logic and sense, yet anything but...


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, August 22, 2014  

  • Thanks, Rich!

    Good Find! Today we're all grouped under the banner of Scientific realism, which is:

    The world, the Universe, is composed of brute facts and exists independently of our thoughts and talk about it.

    We perceive the world directly and share thoughts and talk about facts so that they purport to be about reality.

    We act as if the world and facts are one, because in effect they are. The historical success of this formalized "good sense" about the world and a universe of unobservables is the ultimate proof that we know, think and talk about the world as it is.

    And that consensus worldview applied to our subject:

    There are as yet no "UFO" facts available for study, no thing, no "UFO" reality, only reports--innumerable, insubstantial and utterly inconsequential reports.

    The origin, history, activity and effects of that mass of reports in our society is best described by the Psychosocial hypothesis. The PSH is not simply about explaining reports; the PSH describes the "UFO" myth, the false belief that real "UFOs" exist, and that latent false belief in populations transmitted by the mass media through decades is the "UFO" DELUSION.

    See Searle's six propositions about the construction of our social reality.



    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Friday, August 22, 2014  

  • "truth is something enmeshed with things that transcend evidence."

    Rich's "truth transcends evidence." That's called non-epistemic truth.

    Are you sure you're not a philosopher? You metaphysician you! (G)

    My definition of truth is the world, the continuously evolving totality of facts, which is impossible for any one of us to ever grasp, much less understand; so we exist in the very small part which we can grasp and speak about the rest in abstracts--and that becomes the truth we know.

    Rich, I think you might be appealing to that individual lack of apprehension of the totality as a rationale for continuing to consider the abstract "UFO," as you are certainly welcomed to do. And as you correctly state, I would require solid evidence of a reality to consider the idea as more than a myth.

    I'd say that defines our different stances on this subject.

    Do you?

    By Blogger zoamchomsky, at Friday, August 22, 2014  

  • I'm Platonic, Zoam...

    Does that help?


    By Blogger RRRGroup, at Friday, August 22, 2014  

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