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The (discursive) construction of ‘reality’. CARDINAL BELLARMINE VS. GALILEO GALILEI RICHARD RORTY (1931-2007) I have excellent independent evidence for.

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Presentation on theme: "The (discursive) construction of ‘reality’. CARDINAL BELLARMINE VS. GALILEO GALILEI RICHARD RORTY (1931-2007) I have excellent independent evidence for."— Presentation transcript:

1 The (discursive) construction of ‘reality’

2 CARDINAL BELLARMINE VS. GALILEO GALILEI RICHARD RORTY (1931-2007) I have excellent independent evidence for the geocentric model, namely from the Holy Scriptures: they clearly say that everything moves around the Earth – we are the fix-point of the Universe…! Look through my telescope, Eminence, and see for yourself whether it’s true or not: the Earth moves – and it moves around the Sun… ! “When Copernicus began saying ‘The earth goes round the sun’, this sentence must have seemed merely a ‘way of speaking’. But when the Copernicans had finished redescribing portions of reality in the light of these sentences, we started speaking of these sentences as hypotheses, which might quite possibly be true. In time, each of these sentences became accepted, at least within certain communities of inquiry, as obviously true.”

3 … Eppur si muove. (And yet it moves). ( Roy Harris ). Set against a magnificent backdrop of humanity’s place in the universe, Galileo’s sotto voce pronouncement ( Eppur si muove ) exemplifies how time-honoured linguistic usage can be called to account in the latest court of science. In making this statement, Galileo challenged the very definitions of terms designating the familiar heavenly bodies as bodies ‘revolving around the earth’. If Galileo’s substantive claim was to be upheld, there was no way that the use of the verb ‘to move’ could carry on quite as before. The question now is: Who’s got the right definition of the terms ‘sun’, ‘earth’, ‘planet’…?Do Galileo and I mean the same by ‘sun’ and ‘earth’?

4 [Dawkins’ voice-over]: Isn’t Deepak Chopra just exploiting quantum jargon as plausible sounding hokus pokus? Chopra: Quantum healing is a theory that a shift in consciousness creates a shift in biology. That’s it! [...] Dawkins: Where does the quantum theory come into that? Chopra: Oh, it’s just a metaphor. Just like an electron, or a photon is an indivisible unit of information and energy, a thought is an indivisible unit of consciousness. Dawkins: Oh, it’s a metaphor for ‘unit’. It has nothing to do with ‘quantum theory’ as in physics. Chopra: No, as quantum theory has a lot to say about observer effect, there is a school of physicists who believe that ‘quantum leaps’, for example, are examples of discontinuity, and creativity and consciousness is also an example of discontinuity. And that healing may be a biological phenomenon that relies on biological creativity, that at very fundamental levels it may be a discontinuous phenomenon – something unpredictable that happens in the proliferation of uncertainty. Dawkins: It sounds like a sort of ‘poetic’ use of the word discontinuity – it’s actually confusion, isn’t it, to bring in quantum theory other than as a metaphor – it sounds like you’re both using it as a metaphor and a little tinge of something like what physicists are talking about as well. Chopra: Well, I think there’s controversy: the afficionados in the world of quantum physics have somehow ‘hijacked’ the word for their own use. Dawkins: Oh?! O.k. So they have hijacked your word ‘quantum’? Chopra: I think what happens is there are fundamentalists in science... Dawkins: That is absolutely wrong! Scientists try to sort out those bits that we don’t understand... Chopra: Scientists have become so arrogant...in its premiss that it has all the answers in a mechanistic approach that it has. (Dawkins, Enemies of Reason )

5 When asked by a man about the ‘why’ of our existence, and what science has to say to that, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins stated the following: What I would say about the question ‘why?’ is: ‘why do you have any right to ask it?’. It’s not a meaningful question, except – unless you specify the kind of answer you’re expecting. As a biologist it’s very easy to ask the question ‘why do birds have wings?’, for example. We can do that in Darwinian terms. If you say, however, ‘why do mountains exist?’: there are some questions which simply don’t deserve an answer. I mean, the question ‘why do mountains exist?’: you could give an answer in terms of the geological processes that give rise to mountains. But that’s not what you want, is it? You want something about the purpose of mountains: ‘What is the purpose of a mountain?’. It’s a silly question – doesn’t deserve an answer. The mere fact that you can ask a question, the mere fact that you can frame a question in the English language doesn’t mean that it’s entitled to an answer. If I say to you: ‘What is the colour of jealousy?’: it’s a perfectly grammatical English sentence, but it’s not a question that deserves an answer. The correct answer is: ‘Don’t ask such a silly question’. (Dawkins 2008)

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7  One of my sister’s neighbours once told my sister the reason why, every Monday, she had to look after little Nicholas, the son of her cousin Barbara: her cousin Barbara was suffering from the baby- blues and needed help; this neighbour of my sister’s also told her that Barbara was expecting her second child, soon to be born. Some time after this episode, my sister was briefly introduced to Barbara by her neighbour, as the latter two happened to be driving by her house. Shortly after the incident, the neighbour invites my sister to her place, together with other mothers; there my sister meets cousin Barbara, well advanced in pregnancy. Her child, Nicholas, is present too. Around the same time (it is the end of August), school starts again. At the parents’ evening, the couples introduce themselves, among whom my sister and her husband, as well as a pregnant woman called Barbara (with her husband): later on, my sister recalled the two mentioning that they had a son called Nicholas. In the following weeks my sister sees Barbara on a few occasions, as they both take their children to the same kindergarten in the mornings.

8  The first day of school she briefly talks to Barbara, for she seems to be desperate (her child is crying because he does not want to stay in kindergarten). Some time after that, my sister learns from her neighbour that her cousin Barbara has given birth to a girl. Shortly before Christmas, the kindergarten teachers invite all the mothers to a dinner party. My sister is the last to arrive at the restaurant and finds a place next to Barbara. As she could not remember her son’s name, she asked her; Barbara tells her that her son is called Nicholas. My sister, somewhat apologetically, explains to her that she is asking because the mothers, including Barbara, have usually already left by the time she arrives with her child. She adds that she only recalls seeing her two or three times with her boy at the kindergarten. Barbara then mentions to her that they had actually met for the first time at her cousin’s, and mentions my sister’s neighbour. My sister cannot believe her ears: this woman, mother of the boy who attends the same class as her child, is the same woman as the one she was introduced to in front of her house and whom she met at her neighbour’s place some four months before? An important detail in all this is that Barbara apparently did not change her look between the first time she met my sister and the school-related episodes that followed. (Pablé, Integrating the ‘real’, 2011, p. 26)

9  With respect to this particular episode, does it make sense to claim that reality is a ‘discursive construct’ and respectively a ‘cultural (or social) construct’? Discuss.   Is this episode ordinary or extraordinary? Or perhaps both? Discuss how important ‘recognition’ is for our everyday affairs.  What does it mean to be ‘one and the same’ person? What is ‘sameness’?


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