Humanity has always been gripped by an urge to seek knowledge; “the truth”. Quite possibly because people believe having knowledge is most likely to help them live a happy and successful life e.g. find a good job, have enough food, find a partner, buy a home. However before you can look for knowledge, you first have to know what it looks like – what does it or does it not consist of? Fortunately for us Philosophers have for thousands of years, through the subject of Epistemology (literally meaning the study or knowledge or understanding) specialised in trying to establish the answer to this very question. For much of this time it was claimed that knowledge was Justified True Belief (the JTB model) i.e. something that was true, believed and could be justified. However this model has never fully satisfied critics, for the model always required other bits of knowledge in order to do the justifying with. Another epistemological model claims that there is no ultimate truth. The truth is what a community holds to be true. Today the community could believe the World is flat and for all intense purposes it is, and tomorrow it could believe the World is round. This would then constitute the new truth or knowledge. This form of epistemology is the foundation of the philosophy of pragmatism. The truth is what is believed by a community and allows it to survive.
So then what should a community believe. Well it could start by believing what it has seen with its own eyes. Surely if I throw a ball up in the air 100 times and it falls back to my hand, then if I do it once more the same will happen again? Well one would have thought so. However for hundreds of years philosophy has struggled with the problem of induction (or inductive reasoning). Inductive reasoning states that known facts can be used to predict the future e.g. because of gravity if I throw a ball up in the air, it will come back down again. However the problem of induction was a concern that there was no way of guaranteeing that something would not change, e.g. the laws of physics, or had not previously been observed; which meant on the 101st throwing of the ball in the air, it might just not come down. The basis of this concern is that in the vast World in which we live, what seems even a very simple situation is in fact infinitely complicated and so the next time we experience what appears to be an identical situation, it may actually unfold in a way previously unseen. Newton’s laws of gravity were held as an absolute truth for 2 centuries until new means of observation at sub-atomic level exposed anomalies with the laws; which prompted Einstein to discover the theory of relativity and supplant Newton’s laws.
So then what does this have to do with mutuality? Well a mutual organisation is a community consisting of members with certain shared values. Members are considered equal and have one vote each for deciding on key issues. This gives equal right to each member. It recognises each member’s set of personal experiences and beliefs which leads him or her to form an opinion before voting for a decision. This is important because by giving everyone’s personal experiences and beliefs equal validity a mutual takes into account every member’s experience of throwing a ball up into the air and the subsequent result. If one of those members had genuinely seen the ball not come down again, there would be reason to question whether or not belief in Newton’s or Einstein’s laws was sound and whether or not the mutual’s following of such principals was still likely to secure happy and successful future for its members.
By pooling together the views and experiences of the whole community, you are maximising your chances of someone seeing something which calls into question the validity of an existing theory and thus enables the community as a whole to investigate the theory in greater depth and if necessary remove and replace it. So this is the strength of a mutual. A mutual makes the determination of the truth (the determination of the right thing to do) everybody’s business.
Does the internet not have the most amazing ability to embezzle those few precious hours of freedom following ones return home from work? Superfast broadband able to bring to one at the slight depression of a finger an unending assortment of jokes, quotes, messages, news, explanations, anecdotes – in fact these days one merely needs to utter the words “Okay Goog…” followed by whatever spurious request that strikes ones fancy and immediately and unquestioningly the digital world-wide brain of knowledge is plumbed and an answered picked out for us and neatly presented on the screen in front of our very eyes…… How could one not be ensnared?
But time is slipping by and with it opportunity. Why not instead ink one’s quill and pen some words of received wisdom? Vent ones spleen after the day’s antagonisms? After all paper has no way to quell beliefs and aspirations. But of course is there the need for any more than oneself for this to indeed happen? Where to start? Where to end? How not to doubt oneself?
Luckily for me however a good friend of mine reminded me that the parchment of a blog is little more than the opening statement of a conversation. No more… no less…. How many times has one in anticipation made the opening statement to a conversation only to find no response is forthcoming. Ones words had no more effect than the exhalation of ones breath and yet no harm is done.
And so today pen has touched paper, digits depressed keys and what is there of it? Well if there is no more than nothing then no harm and otherwise perhaps the unexpected. For me, no more than that is reason enough.
A short quote from Wikipedia page on “Production for use” that I would like to share:
A number of irrational outcomes occur from capitalism and the need to accumulate capital when capitalist economies reach a point in development whereby investment accumulates at a greater rate than growth of profitable investment opportunities. Advertisement and planned obsolescence are strategies used by businesses to generate demand for the perpetual consumption required for capitalism to sustain itself so that instead of satisfying social and individual needs, capitalism first and foremost serves the artificial need for the perpetual accumulation of capital.
Surely this is immoral? Hence should it not be made illegal. The problem comes from the difficulty in proving whether something is or is not to the benefit of the consumer. For sure it should not be assumed that the consumer knows.
A couple of other associated and interesting Wikipedia articles I’d like to highlight:
More to follow….
Recently on my various personal social media accounts, as well as reported in the media, there have been a number of reactions to those who oppose or question the merits of gay marriage. The type of responses I am referring to are vociferous condemnations which leave little room for discussion. For the respondents there are no questions to be asked or answered on the matter – the limiting of traditional marriage to a man and a woman is wrong – full stop!
Off the top of my head I have 3 reasons for which this makes me feel uncomfortable:
Firstly the manner in which no room is left for discussion constitutes nothing less than an authoritarian claim to absolute truth; a stance positioned to force other views on the matter, wherever they may be on the spectrum of agreement or disagreement, out of the public sphere.
Secondly I question what argument they have for taking such a stance bearing it is generally recognised by social scientists that there is no such thing as an accurate prediction of what is right and wrong when it comes to social matters.
Thirdly their stance apparently lacking in substantial argument, makes little reference to the roots of culture.
It is the third point which concerns me most. How will a change in cultural practices affect society? It cannot be predicted as there are too many possible un-intending effects to consider. In keeping with the Darwin’s concept of evolution one can say that the net effect of specific practices that have survived millennia must have emerged as effective or fitness enhancing, despite any negative side-effects and a pragmatist would claim that what is right is what stands the test of time. On the other hand what stands the test of time may not stand a recent change in our environment.
So have there been any changes in our environment which would mean the traditional concept of marriage is no longer valid? What constitutes a change in environment? The questions stretch out ad infinitum….but this I feel is an important and so far under-explored area of the debate.