Piscis ipse dixit

Stanley Fish is back.

Evidence, understood as something that can be pointed to, is never an independent feature of the world. Rather, evidence comes into view (or doesn’t) in the light of assumptions…that produce the field of inquiry in the context of which (and only in the context of which) something can appear as evidence.

Yes yes yes, but it doesn’t follow that any and all assumptions are reasonable and sane and that therefore any old evidence is good evidence as long as it ‘comes into view in the light of’ some assumptions.

Then there is a swerve into a new topic, the fact that some people who commented on his previous musings on God claim that religion is too optimistic. Fish knows better than that.

The religions I know are about nothing but doubt and dissent, and the struggles of faith, the dark night of the soul, feelings of unworthiness, serial backsliding, the abyss of despair.

Really?! Nothing but doubt and dissent? So the religions he knows do not include any of the majors, which are about considerably more than doubt and dissent? If the religions he knows are about nothing but doubt and dissent, he must be acquainted exclusively with very peculiar very tiny minority religions which hardly anyone is aware of. His post on the other hand seem to be about ‘God’ which usually refers to a character with some connection with the familiar and well-known monotheisms.

Brian Leiter asks Does the NY Times Not Realize That Stanley Fish is Philosophically Incompetent? Jason Brennan has an interesting comment:

Nicholas Shackel has a fun paper in Metaphilosophy called “The Vacuity of Postmodernist Methodology.” Among other things, he describes the method of “Troll’s Truisms.” The idea is that postmodernists like to express radical claims about reality and rationality, but when pressed, retreat into trivial claims no one disagrees with. Shackel gives Fish as an example of someone who does this.

I actually saw Fish perform this maneuver in person. A student group had him out here (to Brown) a few years ago. He spent 20 minutes saying that there is no objective reality, etc.–all the typical twaddle and poppycock. When some student criticized postmodernism, Fish berated the student, and then said that postmodernism is nothing more than the simple claim that all our beliefs are mediated by concepts. I was stunned.

Yep. Susan Haack calls that ‘the bit where they say it and the bit where they take it back.’

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