Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Second Class Meeting

Well, it seems that the mortality rates due to the first class were not as high as had been projected. The population actually increased by nearly 20%, which by the way makes the room that much more uncomfortable. It is not the courses or the writing which will determine if Cohort 16 has the stuff of doctoral character, but rather endurance or perseverance in a small confined space. This aspect was designed by former cold war and Vietnam war prisoners. If we can make it through the confinement, the other tortures will just be routine. In a more enlightened world, where prison suites parallel the best Dubai luxury hotels, ASU doctoral students would have an easier life. But it is as the ancient prophet said, "Through much tribulation we must enter in to the kingdom of God ...." Why should today be different.

The dilemma that the class faced yesterday appears to me to be endemic in scholarly societies where dog-eat-dog is the rule of law. There is also something here to argue against radical individualism and constructivism. If everyone is in the habit of making their own meanings, they take little time to actually define terms. Terms that we confronted with double and triple reference were paradigm, ontology, subjectivity, objectivity, and reality. This lack of concrete definition is no fault of the class. A great deal of the blame should go to writers like Guba who first blames Kuhn for multiple references to the work paradigm, then himself does the same for ontology, ignoring the age-old philosophical denotation of being, existence, for his own connotation and epistemological confusion (Guba 18). Such tampering with the terminology is inexcusable.

Guba lists ontological as a methodological question, then defines or references the termonology as "what is the nature of the knowable or what is the nature of reality." I don't believe that this is an accurate reference of ontology. The word ontology derives from the Greek participle of the intransitive or linking verb "to be, to exist," not to be confused with Hinduism's articulation of all being or creation, OM, though the connection is interesting. Therefore ontology is what exists, what is, or being. It is neither how we know it, which is epistemology, or how it is perceived, which is one of the theories of reality, either nominalism or objectivism/realism. For instance, an ontological question is "does God exist." This question says nothing of either how or if we can know God (epistomology) or if God is an objective reality (objectivism) or only in our minds (nominalism, subjectivism, constructivism). What is knowable tends to center in epistemology; what is reality tends to center in modes of perception, neither of which constitutes what exists. To be frank, we neither know, understand, nor perceive much of what is real in the universe, if indeed energy is real. That dark energy, dark holes, and about 95% of the universe is currently neither known nor understood by humanity does not negate its existence. There are many things known to various species of the animal kingdom that are not known to humanity, these elements are both real and exist, though they are not yet a part of the perception of humanity.

Some of these perception may have even been lost between lower and higher life forms. Take the parallel between certain animals and birds which seem to have an innate sense of direction and the male homo-sapiens, who claims a innate sense of direction, but the data collected by the female of the same species proves the contrary. The male of this species, when confronted with the data, may claim that there is no one right way to get to the convenience store two blocks away. The female, of the same species, claims that she can see the store's sign when standing on an ironing board on top of the roof of the car, so there must be a direct route to anyone to who God gave enough sense to get out of the rain. (A map or GPS are only instruments of instrumental rationality used by positivists, and such items are not taken seriously by relativists, since who knows if the lines or roads may change under the cover of darkness).

At this point a light comes on in the females head (one of the ladies in class even called this a paradigm shift). The female remembers distinctly that her mate often fishes in the rain, plays golf in the rain, mows the grass in the rain (at dark), and will even wash the car in the rain. It is also a proven fact that males wash the car to make it rain, which has replaced the native American rain dance in form, although not in ritual. With this data, the female of the species deducts that possibly the male of the same species does not have enough sense (God given or otherwise) to get out of the rain, and there drops the issue as a fruitless waste of time that could be used to chase the kids that have now spread to the four-winds whiles the parents were attempting to navigate two blocks to purchase de-vitalized food imitations and drinks with enough sugar to give a horse a rush and a good start on the road to diabetes.

We have now entered the first phase of becoming true philosophers, having collected and logged all the wrong answers. The next step is to collect an equal mass of all the wrong questions, and finally to associate questions and answers with the precision of a game of pickup sticks. We are not entirely confused at the present, but given time, each of us should become at least as daft and illogical a Guba or any other relativist within 4.9 miles of the Duncan Hall.

Let me close today's ramblings with a little story. I was recently told by an ASU professor of philosophy: "I was a relativist, until I became a parent." Can any class member verify the ontology of this statement or offer a supporting narrative?


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