Zoom out and contextualize

by Suspended Reason

Recently, Crispy and I wrote about how pragmatic or instrumental truth begins to resemble correspondence theory when sufficient pressure is put on it.

This is what I’d like to call a zoom out and contextualize” move. Here’s another example, from a Conversations with Tyler blurb:

What does it mean to uphold disability rights, or the right to economic liberty? What framework should be used when rights appear to conflict? Constitutional law expert Jamal Greene contends that the way Americans view rightsas fundamental, inflexible, and universal is at odds with how the rest of the world conceives of them, and even with how our own founders envisaged them. In his new book, How Rights Went Wrong, he lays out his vision for reimagining rights as the products of political negotiation. The goal of judges, he says, should be to manage disagreement in a way that leads to social harmony and social cohesion-and by doing so, foster the ultimate goal of peaceful pluralism.

Any materialist out there has likely, at one point in zir life, balked at the idea of natural and inalienable rights.” Clearly these rights are violated regularly—were violated for most of history, and are still violated today in most of the world—without issue. Clearly concepts like freedom of speech and religion are cultural or social constructs which feign to naturalness” as a rhetoric tool: their naturalization makes them less liable to being questioned or revised.

And yet within the social reality of natural and inalienable rights, much of what we know about freedom of speech or religion can be preserved. Just as many of the insights of correspondence theory can be preserved.

Zoom out and contextualize moves are about taking facts of social reality and grounding them at a higher level of material and historical reality. Much of social construction theory constitutes such a maneuver; so too does Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations. (Although neither philosophy was, in my opinion, sufficiently compatibilist.) Crucially, they are about shoring up” coverage of the social reality heuristics, which work in most typical cases, but fail or uncouple from reality when too much philosophical pressure is put on them—when edges and boundaries and foundations are examined.

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