- Capitalism and Alternatives -

5 ways to pluck a chicken OR more on the opinion/fact

Posted by: Copenhagen ( L'America ) on April 06, 1999 at 11:08:28:

I have just scanned some of Joel's more recent posts, in them, he denies that words like 'exploitation', 'clean environment', 'sustainability' etc can be used meaningfully in thwe debating forum. They are he says creatures of 'mere personal opinion'. I must admit that i fail thew see the cogency of his argument. I will say why in the whirlwind tour of linguistic philosophy that follows.

For our purposes, there are two types of objectivity that that a descriptive sentence can have (i think i read this in a book by John Greenwood, though whether he is the originator of this, i know not):
1) linguistic objectivity
2) epistemic objectivity

A description will be linguistically objective if it makes a claim about an entity and attributes properties to it. So the description will be true or false or accurate or inaccuratte according to if the entity has the attributes described.

So the sentence 'Joel is being exploited' will be true iff joel is actually being exploited.

A description will be epistemically objective if its truth or falsity can be determined either rationally or empirically. Mathematical descriptions are obviously epistemically objective as their truth or falsity can be determined frok deduction from self evident axioms and rules of derivation.

'Joel is being exploited' is epistemically objective as it can be empirically evaluated whether Joel is actually being exploited.

Here the meaning of the word 'exploited' is derived from conventions of linguistic usage. We can all look to the relevant data and see if what is being done to Joel actually measures up to the social meaning of 'exploited'. Of course we may not all agree as to what makes for exploitation, the use of the term not being subject to different degrees of understanding. But there is intersubjective meaning, if there was not, i could not say 'exploited' and have you understand anything meaningful by my utterance.

Now to get back to what was said in the debate room, we can esablish by an examination of the evidence whether something constitutes 'exploitation' or a 'clean environment'. Whether these things are so is not just a question of a personal opinion, but are in fact open to rational debate via an assessment of the evidence avaliable.

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