Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

TRUTH AS TROPHY: GORGIAS’ SOPHISM, CONSTRUCTIVISM, AND SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM Spencer A. McWilliams California State University San Marcos Constructivist.

Similar presentations

Presentation on theme: "TRUTH AS TROPHY: GORGIAS’ SOPHISM, CONSTRUCTIVISM, AND SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM Spencer A. McWilliams California State University San Marcos Constructivist."— Presentation transcript:

1 TRUTH AS TROPHY: GORGIAS’ SOPHISM, CONSTRUCTIVISM, AND SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM Spencer A. McWilliams California State University San Marcos Constructivist Psychology Network Conference June 20, 2008 University of Victoria

2 Modernism & Post Modernism  Constructivism & constructionism as post-modern critique of modernist, realist view Early Greek Sophism of Gorgias as a pre pre- modern, but decidedly post-modernist view  Parallels with constructionist and constructivist psychology  Contribution, expand ideas and practices  Relation to Constructivism, Social Constructionism & Personal Construct Psychology

3 Foundationalism (AKA Modernism, Realism)  Truth, reality as “independent ground” prior to human inquiry and knowledge  Knowledge apprehends the truth that exists in the world  There are methods for this apprehension  There are modes of discourse for conveying this truth

4 Constructivism (AKA post-modernism)  No objective criteria for justifying truth  Ideas, beliefs, etc., constructed by humans in context of a community, language, etc.  Beliefs represent conventions leading to predictability, order, coordination, survival  Alternative explanations always available  Environment, biology, society constrain  Recognition of our “participation” enhances our effectiveness

5 Sophism 5 th Century BCE Greece: logic, rhetoric  Persuading others of one’s point of view  Debates, competing views of truth  No way to validate, came to see all as = true  Rhetorical skill of persuasion determines which ideas become regarded as valid or true  Plato (a foundationalist) characterized Sophists as “tricksters” in his (straw man) dialogues

6 Protagoras Originator of Sophism  “Man (sic) is the measure of all things,  of the things that are that they are,  and of the things that are not as they are not” That which appears to each individual is the only reality  The real world differs for each person  Things exist due to human construal

7 Gorgias  Junior colleague of Protagoras Famous three part argument  Nothing exists  If it did exist we could not comprehend it  If we did comprehend it we could not communicate it to others Foundationalists view this argument as nihilistic and solipsistic Much new scholarship takes a post-modern view

8 Viewing Gorgias as Antifoundationalist  Challenges project of grounding knowledge in criteria independent of human experience  Foundationalism: incoherent Meaning of “exist”: more like “to be so”  Words do not define essential nature of reality  “Things” aren’t what we say they are  Similar to Buddhism, Taoism, Social constructionism

9 Criterion for Knowledge? Can’t rely on reason or senses How could we know if  Human explanation equals or matches  “World as it is” Would need a separate, independent view to compare these two and tell us if they are the same

10 The World’s View Our Human View Independent View

11 Communication Could we describe knowledge? Words and sense phenomena different  Cannot “speak” a “color”  Person has to already have experience May not form the same idea we have  Cannot transfer mental images

12 Knowing and Communicating Truth? Does Gorgias say that nothing exists, we cannot know truth, and we cannot communicate truth? NO, Gorgias says:  Truths are common  We know what exists and does not exist  We routinely communicate truth DENIES  Truth as a property of “the world itself”  Truth as a foundation for what we say

13 How do we determine truth? In the verbal practice of a community  Language as a contest (agon) or game  Speakers with rival ideas, beliefs, practices  Competing to “win” community approval  Follow agreed-upon conventions Words have meaning by how we use them  Similar to Wittgenstein’s “language games”

14 Truth as Trophy Knowledge & truth emerge from debate  Persuade audience of viability or utility Community judges quality, determines victor  Share community conventions, rules, assumptions (discourse, evidence, etc.)  If new views support conventions, accredited as valid “Truth” seen as an award to most persuasive case

15 Conceptualizing “Truth” Not “discovery” of accurate representation of a pre- existing independent world, but  Endorsement of a persuasive argument “Truth” or “Certainty”: a highly convincing case that we cannot counter persuasively  Absence of disagreement occurs when we don’t question a very convincing account Problem: we forget we constructed “truth” and project the responsibility onto nature!

16 Gorgias & Post-modernism Gorgias’ view similar to Rorty’s distinction between the claims that the  world is out there  the truth is out there “Truth” applicable to descriptions, not the world.  “Only descriptions of the world can be true or false.  The world is on its own—unaided by the describing activities of human beings” (1995p. 109).

17 Gorgias & Radical Constructivism Gorgias’ perspective similar to von Glaserfeld’s Radical Constructivism  concepts and ideas generated by our own activities  responsible for the world as we experience it  can consider an infinite number of alternatives  “fit” of ideas determines utility  not truth of the world itself

18 Gorgias & Social Constructionism  Reality from social interactions, definitions Gergen (1999): “game of truth”  Cultural ritual: description, explanation, theories establish “truth telling” in a group Rhetorical, persuasive objectives, style  Distancing devices: “world out there”  Authority of investigator as superior view  Denial of passion, emotions, motives

19 Science & Social Constructionism  Social processes determine Scientific Facts Socializing participants into a paradigm (Kuhn)  Collective beliefs & conventions of community  Gives coherence to enterprise and meaning to specific elements—concepts, methods, etc.  Premises so accepted that the paradigm is not subject to productive debate

20 Scientific methods of persuasion Gergen, 1999  Propose candidates for “truth” Conscript support, reduce detractors  Enroll supporting allies  Cite existing supportive texts  Approved rhetorical devices: statistics, graphs and figures, apparatus, journals, organizations Scientific fact: “enormous interlocking arrangement of assumptions, equipments, writings, and so on—in effect, an entire tradition or form of life.” (p. 57)

21 Gorgias and Personal Construct Psychology  Kelly’s Personal Scientist metaphor  Personal as well as Social processes  Constructive Alternativism  Anticipation, seeking predictability For the individual, we might view “Truth” as a prize we award when choosing particular constructions  Choice Corollary  CPC Cycle

22 Sophist elements in PCP Make the world more predictable, meaningful  Within current understanding, assumptions  Avoid “threat” Seek the most persuasive constructions in “debate”  Compelling construction seen as “truth”  Tendency to forget we constructed it  Treat “truth” as characteristic of the event  Example: students in construct elicitation activity

23 Choice Corollary “A person chooses for himself that alternative in a dichotomous construct through which he anticipates the greater possibility for extension and definition of his system” (Kelly, 1955 p. 64) The Elaborative Choice  “Whenever a person is confronted with the opportunity for making a choice…  make that choice in favor of the alternative  which seems to provide the best basis for anticipating ensuing events” (Kelly, 1955, p. 64)

24 Elaboration through Choice  Like social constructions (& science), honoring ideas that provide best basis for future action  Choice among competing candidates  (e.g., “To be or not to be,” Marriage, Career, Abortion)  Our notion of “truth” as the choice that enables most effective future anticipation  Tendency to believe it is the “right” choice  “Rightness” or “wrongness” as a quality of the event

25 C-P-C Cycle  “a sequence of construction involving, in succession, circumspection, preemption, and control, and leading to a choice which precipitates the person into a particular situation.” (Kelly, 1955, p. 515) Preemption as “truth” for the particular situation  The most “persuasive” construction within the context of assumptions and the existing system  Provides control and basis for action May come to see as “right” conceptualization  Tendency to see qualities as inherent in event

26 Implications These perspectives help combat tendency to treat compelling, persuasive constructions as characteristics of events or objects  Regard “truth” and “reality” as human constructions  Not represent “a way that the world itself is.”  Take responsibility for world we experience  Understand contexts, diversity of views  Use as basis for action to advance human interests, goals, and well-being  Remain open to alternatives

Download ppt "TRUTH AS TROPHY: GORGIAS’ SOPHISM, CONSTRUCTIVISM, AND SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIONISM Spencer A. McWilliams California State University San Marcos Constructivist."

Similar presentations

Ads by Google