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Fr. 675

September 28, 2015

2. We do not allow all information to pass through our theoretical filter; we restrict this to linguistic and empirical considerations subject to verification thereby.

Indeed, we operate from a position of epistemic or methodological nominalism, in conformity with that laid out by Stout:

Roughly, the view that “essences,” “concepts,” and “natures,” if they exist, can be known about only by two means, namely: (1) empirical investigation of, or moral reflection upon, the objects to which the relevant terms apply and (2) the kinds of reflection on language use found in works by Ludwig Wittgenstein, J.L. Austin, and Donald Davidson; not equivalent to the negative ontological thesis that “essences” do not exist (Ethics After Babel, p. 297).

In short, to our call to further detail and nuance are joined strict standards as to the kinds of information that come to complete that picture. Put simply, not just any nuance will do: only those with a basis in empirical objective reality or effective linguistic reality stand to contribute to the picture being developed. Concretely, this means that those elements most likely to enter into our deliberation derive either from the findings of science on notions of self, e.g. the relation between genetics and environment in the formation of personality, and from considerations of how one speaks of oneself, e.g. the manner in which one invokes self and identity as substantive, fixed or changing.

This precludes from the beginning details unconnected with the factors in which our lives and, by extension, selves are embedded; idle navelgazing and spiritual soulsearching will not do. In so restricting our focus, we make it all the easier for our more complete picture to come full circle and to issue in concrete principles for restarting discourse.


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