Posted by Mike Molesworth on 13 February, 2006 at 11:25:22
On truth and fiction (Crichton as a journalist) I am reminded of the discussion Mihai Spariosu produces in Dionysus Reborn: Play and the Aesthetic Dimension in Modern Philosophical and Scientific Discourse, (Cornell University Press, 1989). Spariosu suggests that fiction has come to be presented as a lie in order that we might accept non-fiction as a truth. But in our currently troubled, postmodern times when endless spin means that facts are known to be constructed fictions, we may find that we turn to fictions to find a truth (which is not the same as THE truth, of course). Even The American Association of Petroleum Geologists need to sleep easy after they have kissed their children goodnight.
And didnâ€™t I read somewhere about a new film upsetting big drugs companies because it suggests they sometimes have unethical drugs testing practices?
Posted by Joe on 13 February, 2006 at 12:48:15
Well, it’s one thing to problematise the discursive nature of the scientific method and conceptions of what is ‘true’ like good post-structuralists do, but it’s another to discount the ethical problem of the partisan conflation of what most people concieve of as a distinct divide between ‘impartial’ fact-finding and story-telling, surely?
Especially when there’s a clear financial motive for doing so.
So for example, I can’t take AAPG seriously when they talk about the environment, as they have clear motives not to replace oil-based economies, unless they become the American Association of Hydrogen Geologists. Also I’d take Crichton’s criticism of environmentalism more seriously if he wasn’t affiliated to groups funded by Exxon.
Posted by Joe on 13 February, 2006 at 13:03:14
Uninteresting fact no 734: in 1999 I got sacked on my first day in a temp job at a company specialising in marketing campaigns for pharmaceuticals because I told my line manager I thought drug companies exploit disease-afflicted developing countries for fun and profit. ;)
Posted by Mike Molesworth on 13 February, 2006 at 13:35:22
I donâ€™t disagree with Joe. My point was that when large corporations start to present fiction as fact (and worry that fiction might include fact), then they are demonstrating that they themselves have lost a clear sense of what might constitute objective â€˜truthâ€™. Under such circumstances individuals are left to construct a truth for themselves. The web seems to aid this process because we can select only those sources with confirm what we want to believe, ignoring sites, or articles which may challenge our beliefs. Do we even seek an objective truth (for example on the issue of manâ€™s contribution to global warming), or do we seek only to confirm our suspicions and believes which may be bundled with all sort of other issues (such as a suspicion of large corporations)? So the illusion of a consensual, objective body of knowledge on a subject is lost. Sounds â€˜badâ€™ at first, but what is the alternative? The assumption that it must be true because I read it in the Times, or saw it on the BBC? Would this be better that a view of the world constructed from a dozen blogs and special interest communities?
Posted by Joe on 13 February, 2006 at 13:48:58
In the absence of a way to discover ontological truth, we can only choose what we choose to believe. However, we can decide to take an ethical approach to that choice – so for example, when faced with someone claiming to speak the truth, we can ask, what is their motive for taking that position, rather than, what is the relative truthfulness of that position? Like being Foucault, except having the balls to make a decision :)
So if I discovered that BU was sponsored by Fox News, I’d expect to be taken to task over anything I say, whatever the position I take. We’re not sponsored by Fox News, are we?
Posted by Mike Molesworth on 13 February, 2006 at 16:13:31
Didn’t ethics go the same way as truth?
Posted by Joe on 13 February, 2006 at 16:46:35
If you’re a politician or a plc, probably :)
Posted by john on 13 February, 2006 at 19:56:06
yeh, because cosumers are always ethical. that’s why they drive 4wd monster trucks on the school run, or, for that matter, steal music via p2p
Posted by Joe on 13 February, 2006 at 21:07:40
maybe politicians and plcs are the victims because they can’t make ethical decisions because if they did, they’d lose power or profit, while consumers can make ethical decisions but don’t?
with p2p – is the law the only context which ethics can be measured? So yes, it’s illegal to download copyrighted music. But what if someone decided they didn’t want to contribute to Universal Music’s coffers because their profits get spent on Mariah Carey’s rider of drugged puppies?
Posted by Andrew Newman on 14 February, 2006 at 00:00:52
As Bertolt Brecht put it
Grub first, then ethics.
Posted by Mike Molesworth on 14 February, 2006 at 07:04:28
It is probabaly true that laws and ethics are not always the same thing, but I suspect very little p2p practice is political or moral protest. Most is opportunism, I think. But you got my point about the problems the oil company bosses might have.