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Sender: Lawrence Chickering
Subject: Re: on "truth" and change
Date: Mon, Mar 9, 2015
Msg: 101171

I have two thoughts on this.

1. Some issues have clear boundaries of right and wrong. As an example, Michael Novak proposes rape. I am willing to create space for someone to come forward and say why rape is right. I can't, myself, think of any reason why that statement might be true -- I believe rape is always wrong. It might be useful to open this discussion to anyone who can come forward with something no one has thought of on this issue.

2. My second thought is much more complicated and has to do with different aspects of the truth having to do with process and substance. Relations with an adolescent child might provide a useful illustration of the point. On issues of behavior, parents commonly (almost invariably) have opinions about what the child should do', reflecting what they think is 'true'. On a particular issue, they might be entirely right (let's say, as a proposition). Yet a crucial element in adolescents' search for the truth requires an increasing willingness (by parents) to allow children to undertake that search. Decisions about what is true will only be 'true' if the child makes them; they will not be true if made by the parents for the child.

This latter point has crucial, practical applicability in the challenge of counterinsurgency warfare in relation to the traditional and tribal societies that have become the new priority concerns of foreign and security policy. GEN Petraeus, in a famous article he wrote in early 2006, which provided important elements of what became the Army's Counterinsurgency Field Manual (2007), quoted a famous statement that T.E. Lawrence made in 1917 about the Arabs: 'Do not try to do too much with your own hands,' Lawrence wrote. 'Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. . . . [T]he work . . . may take them longer and it may not be as good as you think, but if it is theirs, it will be better.' What you (the Europeans) do may be 'true', but the real truth, Lawrence argues, is what they (the Arabs) do for themselves. Most of our policies toward development are based on expert judgments of what developing countries 'need' -- we take this to be true; yet it fails because the real truth requires letting them do it. That is the guiding principle of my organization, Educate Girls Globally; and it is the central reason, I believe, why we accomplish such powerful results.

Hope this is useful.

Lawry Chickering Educate Girls Globally

On Feb 14, 2015, at 18:48, Michael Briand wrote:

> Esther had written: "I...question the term, search for 'truth', since that implies that someone is right and someone is wrong." > Personally, I find it more helpful to allow that truth exists, but isn't knowable. "Beyond" ("beneath," "behind," etc.) what we are able to verify with observation, induction, and deduction there may be a reality we are unable to capture with our metaphors and models. Indeed, it is because direct apprehension of that reality is not open to us that we must content ourselves with metaphors and models, which are approximations of "the real thing." We can know many things, but not the truth about them. Consequently, no one can be right and someone else wrong about truth. Our knowledge, however, may be more or less precise, more or less complete, better-founded or less well-founded. > Most of the time, the metaphor of the blind men and the elephant seems to me more useful. We all "see" a part of the beast, but none of us sees it all. Only collectively, by sharing our partial perspectives, can we get a sense of the whole. This does not rule out a distinction between views that are not as "good" and those that are "better." (Feeling the trunk probably provides more information than feeling the tail.) The issue is not right or wrong, though, but rather completeness. > Incidentally, our values and principles are more "factual" and "objective," and our empirical propositions and conclusions less so, than we commonly assume. > > Roger had written: I have worked with vaccine and critics of vaccines in the past while at CDC. Little change has occurred. I have seen emails this week that could have been written 15 years ago and been relevant back then." > > If little change has occurred, and we assume that change should have occurred, should we ask whether we have really understood and appreciated the concerns, needs, fears, perceptions, values, priorities, assumptions, etc. of those whose views have not changed? Have we probed deeply enough--and with sufficient goodwill--to identify the (likely multiple and interconnected) sources of those views? Have we done the same for the views of persons more accepting of the prudence of vaccination? Have we compared the two to see what insights the comparison reveals? > > Michael Briand > Chico, CA > > > To unsubscribe from the TRANSPARTISAN list, click the following link: > >

A. Lawrence Chickering Founder and President, Educate Girls Globally (EGG) 1485 Main St., Ste 103B St. Helena, CA 94574 415.235.6628 email:


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