Headbangs and reality

October 10, 1997

OH DEAR, only in "the lower reaches of humanities and social sciences" would an argument that does not appeal to reason appeal. So says Ray Monk in his review of The Last Word by Thomas Nagel (THES, September 26).

Philosophers, by implication, would never do such a thing. Monk does not speak for all philosophers but to contend that one discipline has a monopoly on the bottom line of epistemology is not on. Epistemology is at issue here, not logic. The world is real because when I bang my head against it, it hurts. But do I know my reality is the correct one? To imply that there is a unifying reason all humans understand is asking a lot. People have different and opposing beliefs; these may be evaluated by reason or science and one will be favoured. The holy grail of objectivity is no guarantee of utopia. What does Monk think will happen if we discover an over-arching objectivity to which there can be no denial?

Liam Murphy

Sociology and social policy section, British Association

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