10 mar. 2010

Suppose there is a room that nobody has ever been to, whose very location is unknown. It may or may not exist. Some people claim to have privileged knowledge about the room; there is a great deal of discussion about the room, but nobody has ever been there.

Naturally, statements about the contents of the room have to be made with great caution, since nothing in it, or even its very existence, can be verified in any way at all. But what makes a "moderate" statement about the room more acceptable than a "fundamentalist" statement? The moderate says: 'I don't know much about the room, my statements are subject to correction, I could be wrong, but the room is probably divided into three parts, even though it is actually one room in essence." The fundamentalist says "This is what the room is like." It is easy to see why the fundamentalist cannot know what he thinks s/he knows, but the moderate cannot know anything either. Qualifying statements weaken the degree of certainty and thus make the moderate seem a more reasonable person, but really all statements about the room are equally meaningless because there is no way of knowing anything about it in the first place.

Some would say, "It doesn't matter what you believe about the room, as long as you believe in the room. That makes you superior to someone who simply denies the relevance about all conversations about the room."

This seems like the most respectable position. After all, you can't be a good person without paying some allegiance to the idea of the room, whatever its shape or size or contents. You are not being a fundamentalist, because you admit that the room might not be triangular in shape. A noted literary theorist is known for saying that "My ancestors believed in this version of the room; are you calling my ancestors ignorant dolts?"

In fact, the people who claim that the room has a definitive, knowable dimension are the same as those who say that all comments about the room are equally meaningless. The only "moderate" position is to say that you must believe in some kind of room, adjusted to your own personal emotions, and that all other versions of the room, based on any else's emotions, are equally valid.

2 comentarios:

Jordan dijo...

Our brains are wired to encourage feelings of roomness from time to time.

"Our brains are wired" is dumb science journalist shorthand, of course.

Is shorthand dumb?

Jeremy Stewart dijo...

Interesting analogy... but many folks who believe in the room think it is capable of talking, listening, being discovered, or making itself known. That tweaks the scenario a bit.

Some people claim to have seen / heard / known the room. Should we agree that their versions are precluded from being consdiered "equally valid?"

While we're at it, when did moderation become virtuous? If there was a room, and you believed you had been there (or whatever), wouldn't it make sense to tell people about it? Wouldn't it seem not moderate but gratuitous to claim total ignorance of this room?

If there was no room, you couldn't find its non-existence--you could only fail to find its existence. In other words, you would never have "proof" of its non-existence; only of your inability to find the room. You could only take the non-existence of the room on faith.

It is my "emotional" "version" that knowledge of the room must exceed the reasonable. I hold out hope that the room cannot be small enough to be exhausted by one person's mind.

Good post.