April 27, 2007


Caption: This is him.

This week, in addition to whatever else comes up, El Cabrero has been pondering how people make sense of the world and the uncertainty of our knowledge. If this is your first visit, please scroll down to the earlier entries.

Professor James Hall of the University of Richmond comes up with quite a list of the different ways we try to gain knowledge of the world in his Teaching Company course "Tools of Thinking: Understanding the World through Experience and Reason."

His list includes experience, memory, association, pattern recognition, reason, invention, and experimentation. None of these are infallible or completely reliable ways of getting at The Truth, although in combination they might get us closer to it.

One reason it's hard to get there is that we can't step outside of ourselves. We're creatures not only of reason but of passion and interest and we see the world as we are rather than as it is. As William James put it, "The trail of the human serpent is thus over everything."

There are two extreme schools of thought on the subject of truth these days. One is that of the post-modernists, who are sometimes kind of irritating. They hold that there is no truth, only different perspectives and narratives.

The other school is that of the authoritarians, who are sometimes kind of homicidal. They think Truth is their sole possession.

I try to compromise. My theory is that there may well be such a thing as Truth but we can't quite get to it from here, though we may get closer. Final truths are elusive. This may be just as well--we probably couldn't handle it.

WEST VIRGINIA RANT. Here's the lead of a rant I posted yesterday in WV Blue:

Is anyone else out there as tired as El Cabrero and the critters at Goat Rope Farm re of the ceaseless barrage of commercials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about what a terrible legal climate we have here?

They love to harp on a survey of the corporation-backed American Tort Reform Association that claims to show that WV is a "judicial hellhole." Most likely, they surveyed members, corporate defendants and their attorneys.

Scientifically, methinks it's almost as good as asking eighth graders whether algebra sucks and using the results as a basis to evaluate that branch of mathematics. Here's an evaluation of the "judicial hellhole" rankings from The Center for Justice and Democracy.

The rest is here.

DYING TO WORK. The AFLCIO recently released the latest edition of Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, which covers deaths and injuries in the workplace for 2005 (the latest year for which full data is available). The good news is that the number of deaths declined. In 2005, 5,734 workers died from workplace injuries, compared with 5,764 in 2004. However, the number of injuries went up, as did fatalities among Hispanic and foreign-born workers.


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