Saturday, March 04, 2006

On Orthodoxy

My thoughts about ceratin linguistic conventions have a tendency to create breakdowns in communication, so it might behoove me to leave this note for anyone yet to scroll down the page:

'Orthodoxy' is not a normative term. It is a non-rigid designator for a particular kind of subgroup within a larger group that satisfies a certain cluster of definite descriptions. The paradigm instances of the larger groups are religions and political movements, though there are certainly other kinds. An orthodoxy in an ideology (or whatever else) is composed of a subset of adherents of the ideology in such a way that the subset has the following emergent feature: the various ideological beliefs of the subset's members come to define, in some broad and robust sense, the rational expectation of what the beliefs of any adherent of the ideology will be, so that it is a borderline analyticity that anyone who subscribes to the ideology assents to its orthodoxy, partially or categorically. What is phenomenologically interesting about orthodoxy is that there needn't be any alternative faction within the ideology for there to be an orthodoxy within it, merely the epistemic possibility of tension between the minimal definition of the ideology in general and the minimal definition of the orthodox interpretation of it --- and that's because borderline analyticities are also borderline syntheticities.

Everyone who has a passing familiarity with the practice of politics knows that orthodoxy is a real phenomenon. The unfortunate thing is that even intelligent people use 'orthodox' as a normative modifier (almost always pejoratively). The fact that a belief is orthodox has nothing to do with whether or not it is true or false. Nothing follows from the fact that a belief is orthodox, except that it is orthodox. The normative 'uses' of orthodox are genetic fallacy. All of us, but especially those of us who are optimists about the ability of the knowledge of the truths of logic to cure a substantial proportion of contemporary philosophical and ideological pathologies have a responsibility to prevent the adherents of bad logic from defining linguistic convention.

1 Comments:

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Ashish George said...

Look, the problem with what you are doing that I was trying to put my finger on is simply this: When you self-assuredly pose as the one who can see through everyone else's insularity, there is a very real tendency to find like-minded poachers and, wonder of wonders, become just as insular as any of the victims of your criticism. Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens, and many of the contributors to The New Republic are the best representatives of this descent into a very irritating tribalism. All of these people have interesting and important things to say--as do you. But when the debate is rigged so that everyone who disagrees is a dupe or worse, the upshot is at best a churlish reiteration of pre-prepared points, not the co-operative construction of new, more precise formulations on boths sides. And that--the amelioration of both sides of a debate on debatable points--is as good a sign of healthy dialogue as I can think of. And one that I, too, don't always value enough.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home

Vitals
  • E-mail me: Dan Koffler
  • My YDN Column: Smashing Idols
  • The Reasonsphere
  • Hit & Run
  • Matt Welch
  • Julian Sanchez
  • Jesse Walker
  • Virginia Postrel
  • Tim Cavanaugh
  • Ringers
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Josh Marshall
  • Crooked Timber
  • Matthew Yglesias
  • Kevin Drum
  • John Cole
  • Leiter Reports
  • Pharyngula
  • Gregory Djerjian
  • Atrios
  • Mickey Kaus
  • Jim Henley
  • Radley Balko
  • TNR's Plank
  • Balkinization
  • Glenn Greenwald
  • Thomas Knapp
  • Justin Logan
  • Laura Rozen
  • Mark Kleiman
  • Print Culture
  • Arthur Silber
  • Tom Tomorrow
  • James Wolcott
  • OxBlog
  • Eric Muller
  • Majikthise
  • Pandagon
  • The American Scene
  • Daniel Drezner
  • Will Wilkinson
  • The Volokh Conspiracy
  • Intel Dump
  • Prequels
  • Johan Ugander
  • Dan Munz
  • Josh Eidelson
  • Future Less Vivid
  • Sequels
  • (not)Delino Deshields
  • Actual God
  • Hidden Hand
  • I am justice
  • Death/Media Incarnate
  • (not)Marquis Grissom
  • Yanqui At Cambridge
  • Beneficent Allah
  • Mr. Wrongway
  • The Hippolytic
  • Discourse Decision
  • Tight Toy Night
  • Mulatto Jesus
  • Sago Boulevard
  • Immortalized Stillicide
  • Nick's Corner
  • Dead Trees
  • Reason
  • Dissent
  • The New Republic
  • The New Yorker
  • The Atlantic Monthly
  • The American Prospect
  • Arts & Letters Daily
  • The Economist
  • The Nation
  • Yale Daily News
  • Virtual Reality
  • Wikipedia
  • Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  • Symbolic Logic into HTML
  • Slate
  • Salon
  • The Huffington Post
  • Crooks and Liars
  • The Smoking Gun
  • The Smoking Gun: Bill O'Reilly
  • Romenesko
  • The Christopher Hitchens Web
  • Draft Russ
  • Rotten.com's Library
  • Urban Dictionary
  • Homestar Runner
  • Planet Rugby
  • Flex Online
  • Card Player Magazine
  • Gawker & Such
  • News
  • Politics
  • Gambling
  • Gossip (NY edition)
  • Gossip (LA edition)
  • Cool Shit
  • Cars
  • Video Games
  • Photoshop Fun &c.
  • Travel
  • MacGuyver Yourself
  • Porn
  • Prepare For The Worst
  • Bull Moose Blog
  • The Corner
  • Instapundit
  • Reel Blogs
  • BathTubYoga
  • More TK
  • R.I.P.
  • Jamie Kirchick
  • That Girl