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A bridge to the dreaded

I have gone through the dreaded reading list. I have to admit that the last two were beyond my capacity to cope. But much of the rest I found pretty interesting. Well, some of it pretty interesting and much of it bearable.

There was one paper, though, which wasn't in the actual list but which I read because it was alluded to and was written by someone whose paper I had liked.

It was about reflexivity - basically, about accepting that every person - researcher, philosopher, whatever - is embedded in a cultural framework, that everyone has the education and family and neuronal patterns of themselves and not of any kind of imaginary 'everyperson'.

The way they approached this was not just to consider their own situation but to make it transparent. So, while part of the paper was expressing this view that in order to be transparent, writers should - in some way - make clear their own perspective, and part was done in the form of a sort of autobiographical note.

What really got me was that they quoted Nietzsche, James Rachels (whom I like) and Onora O'Neill (who I think was friends with Iris Murdoch) all saying that philosophers start from a moral intuition, as assumption, that cannot be logically proven, that either, say, deontology or consequentialism rules. But they never seem to acknowledge this. They try to make the grand claim that their thesis is THE thesis - but they can only use logic within the system of reference that they have already asserted without logical proof.

This relates to something IMcG talks about - Kurt Gödel's incompleteness theorem. Essentially, what that says is that inside every closed system there are things that the system cannot prove... he was really talking about mathematics and it's hellishly complicated... but the idea seems to be a useful corrective for hubris.

The paper I read asserted that there may be a responsibility for a philosopher and more strongly for a researcher to state clearly their stance - because the stance one takes will affect the questions one asks, the examples one focuses upon and the meaning one draws from any given evidence.

This, it seems to me, is practical. What's more, it made me feel less alone in my frustration with the occasional dogmatism of theorists. A bridge to the dreaded and beyond!!

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