OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.
“If lions kill a giraffe and eat it without anyone witnessing the event, did it happen? If you say no, then aren’t you giving priority to the human perspective over that of the giraffe (now the ex-giraffe) and the lions (now with full stomachs)?”
What is the use in asking “did it happen?” That is the pragmatic point. Not, yes or no, did it really happen? But, what is the use of asking “did it happen?”
“This seems like another variant of idealism to me.” Of course it does, because you seem to be under the impression that I am talking about ideas, but I’m not. Think of it this way: there are still external pressures impacting humans. Giant waves that we call Tsunamis still kill lots of people. The word “Tsunami” is part of a broader causal network of words and technologies that enable humans to usefully coordinate their response in the face of this thing we call a Tsunami. Is Tsunami the real, accurate word is unimportant. What’s important is how we use the word to coordinate a response that limits unwanted suffering? Like, for instance, everybody runs when someone says a Tsunami is coming. That is not idealism. That is pragmatism—and there are important ontological and epistemological differences between idealism and pragmatism.
“There are postmodern, atheistic pragmatists who contend that schools should teach creationism in parallel with evolution because there’s a large community of people who believe creationism to be true.”
Such as…name some names.
“Sociologist Bruno Latour famously claimed that no one died of the smallpox virus before Pasteur discoverd it.”
Logically speaking it would have been impossible for this disease that we call smallpox to exist before it was named as such. Just like it would be impossible for Jesus to be a libertarian, which some conservative seem to think, because libertarianism was not linguistic or practical possibility at that time period. It only became possible to be a libertarian when that word was invented.
“By implication, a community which claimed that no Jews were systematically slaughtered during the Holocaust would be pragmatically justified in teaching this version of history to its children.”
How do you get that? I’m not sure. In fact, I think just the opposite. It is useful to teach that this mass killing did happen. It is a great tool for teaching people about the evils of people and the great sacrifices of people. Teaching about it can be a useful way to limit suffering in the future. Again, the question is not did it really happen, but what use is this story for our community today? There are very good uses for retelling the stories.