Because I’m often obsessive and just can’t help myself, let me have one last go at this…
First, what am I talking about when I say representation?
This is simple; what I’m rejecting is the idea that the mind is a mirror, or a reflection of objective reality and that in some manner or another our words get us closer to that reflection. Furthermore I reject the idea that through science, metaphysics, logic (whathaveyou) we are brought closer to a commensurable dialogue through which to communicate and know things. Along with this realist view is also the idea that we can be in come manner or another certain of the notion we’re representing, certain that we’re closer to truth, so on and so forth, even though it’s generally agreed upon that such a certainty cannot be maintained outside of a circular argument.
The map analogy has been often appealed to in this conversation, however there’s a problem I see in that. First off, I don’t reject the sort of rhetorical language that likes to say this squiggly line and this box represents this and that particular thing as in these instances we’re not talking about philosophical matters, we’re merely navigating the world and behaving as humans behave. In a better way, we’re merely being metaphorical; we’re being intelligent tool users.
Here-in lies the problem - and I think it’s pretty simple:
A representational / correspondence theory of truth is being maintained, however, a pragmatic / utilitarian justification for that position is being used. Now, more then a mere contradiction, the justification raises the anti and/or trumps the held position as it reduces the position to the state of affairs of the justification.
You said the following on your blog:
“There is no contradiction in saying that to discard representation is incorrect, yet at the same time no map can be the 'correct' one.”
In other words your justification is that, whereas there are no correct maps, we know that some maps work better then others – which isn’t a justification of representation at all. Let me put this in a simpler way; a realist position is one that says quite clearly, idea X is better then idea Y because it better represents phenomenon Z. However that’s not your argument at all, your argument is; idea X is better then idea Y because it better suits our needs and interest with respect to phenomenon Z.
If this is your argument/justification (which seems clearly the case), then representation is (like I’ve said) merely rhetorical and/or simply a nice way of talking about things. Your contradiction is simply that you’re not arguing for the ontological reality of your position, but merely trying to justify talking in a certain way. Since this is all your doing, and I have no problem whatsoever with the tool like use of saying that formula X represents phenomenon Y, then it’s really unclear that your even arguing a realist position at all. In other words if I assert “GOD”, the realist position would argue for the grounds at which God is represented in reality – but you, relative to your justification, would look for in what way making that assertion “WORKS”. If you took the realist horn however, I would simply forfeit my response and ask that you prove your representational position, in which case you’d grasp the other horn and we’d never get anywhere. The bottom line is, my justification can merely be that it works to talk about God; furthermore that God, as I’ve said, is metaphorical. Now here you might be tempted to ask, “a metaphor for what” (grasping realism), but then I’d ask, “what are you representing in your position and how do you know?” Which would get us right back to, “IT WORKS”.
Bottom line – you maintain realism, however justify it pragmatically. So you’re suggesting, as William James did, “Truth is what works by way of belief.” Not, truth is a correspondence with reality. But more accurately you seem to being saying; “It’s True that truth is a correspondence to reality as it works by way of belief.” More importantly, your pragmatic justification rendors your position of representation arbitrary.
Can I say, “It’s true that I’m an atheist because God say’s I am.”