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Re: Narrative criticism, was Re: [Synoptic-L] Osborne in Rethinking

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  • John C. Poirier
    ... By “alethiology,” I mean simply the “understanding of truth”––that is, what is truth, in terms of its metaphysical grounding? Is it a
    Message 1 of 13 , Feb 9, 2003
      Shawn Kelley wrote:

      > I’m still a bit puzzled by what you mean by ‘alethiological’ and ‘prelinguistic[al]
      > understanding of truth’. . . . Could you clarify?

      By “alethiology,” I mean simply the “understanding of truth”––that is, what is truth, in terms of its metaphysical grounding? Is it a construct of our interpretation, or is it a preinterpretive datum corresponding to the world as it is? (Neither requires us to give a religious response to the question, although theological commitments do have a lot to do with how we might respond. *Viz.*, those who are
      more convinced that Christianity is a book religion often go for a constructionist understanding of truth, while those who put the factic content of the NT kerygma ahead of the book-religion aspect of modern Christianity insist that truth is independent of our interpretation.) By “prelinguistical understanding of truth,” I simply mean the latter.

      At a simple exegetical level, my question about what “the text itself” means can be answered as you answered it. But at the hermeneutical level, a choice must be made, and that’s why I asked the question.


      Mark Matson wrote:

      > Now we could decide that Fish is ingenuous. Or we could decide that there
      > is something more complex the he was pursuing, and that his book was only
      > “part of the story.”

      I am willing, in principle, to give the benefit of the doubt to Fish and other postmodernists, but only to a certain point. When it becomes obvious that neither they nor any of their best students can give a clear account of the seeming inconsistencies, it is time to suppose that the difficulties are as real as they are apparent.

      Among the more Parisian-style postmodernists, the limit that I set on the benefit of a doubt is even more important, because with Derrida, Foucault, Barthes, etc., you have the double problem of not only making the statements line up in consistent system, but also of making the statements themselves (that is, their language) coherent. One has to ask why all their writing is so impenetrably thick. In
      *Quantum Dialogue*, Mara Beller has shown how the thick writing style of the (supposed) postmodernist superintelligentsia functions rhetorically: even these authors’ greatest fans don’t really understand what they are saying, and they put it all down to the towering genius of these thinkers, who are incapable of expressing their lofty thoughts in ways the rest of us can understand. To be incomprehensible
      is seen as a badge of honor. Beller gives a particular interesting example of how fame attends the obfuscatory: Nils Bohr (the pioneer quantum physicist) wrote a paper that was hailed for decades a triumph of abstract reasoning, but not until recently was it discovered that the paper was accidentally published with the one of the pages in the wrong place. (I recommend Sokol and Bricmont’s *Fashionable
      Nonsense*, which exposes postmodernism’s sophomoric misuse of scientific insights.)

      I have tried to give postmodernists the benefit of the doubt for many years now, and have searched diligently for any signs of an argument for the postmodernist view that will actually fly, or that will fly with the fewest number of presuppositions. After reading many books and asking postmodernists themselves for such an argument, I am now convinced that it does not exist: without exception, the arguments
      that they present are all highly presuppositional (e.g., the poststructuralist argument takes as its point of departure the view that meaning is a textual quantity), and the fact that these presuppositions are smuggled into their working definitions (in order to make the argument look like an act of analysis) only makes things work. A truly analytical argument for the postmodernist view you will not find.


      John C. Poirier
      Middletown, Ohio






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