Contra Mannheim

(Dan here…another post lifted from Robert’s Stochastic Thoughts)

Contra Mannheim

First rules of blogging.  I type as I please.I haven’t read anything by Karl Mannheim but I think he wrote the phrase “social construction of truth”. I think that is a bad phrase and all use of it or similar phrases should be criticized.

My reason is simple. I think anything true which can be said including the phrase “social construction of truth” can also be said using “social construction of belief”. I think that all such valid claims amount to the assertion that our beliefs develope as part of a process of interaction with other people. I don’t think many people have noted that beliefs are socially constructed, because the fact is so obvious that it (almost always) goes without saying.

Rather, the reason I vaguely remember that some German guy wrote “social construction of truth” is the assertion that there is no truth other than belief. It is an assertion of idealism — that all that exists are minds and ideas. Now I don’t have a problem with idealists (I disagree but I do not denounce). I do have a problem with blocking arguments by redefining words.

If “truth” is redifined to be a synonym of “belief” it is impossible to assert that beliefs are true if and only if they correspond to an external reality. It may be that this assertion (called realism) is incorrect, but I think it is very bad to redefine words so that a view with which one disagrees can’t be stated.

One can assert that “truth” vs “belief” is a distinction without a difference, but it is better not to redefine “truth” so it is a distinction without a distinction.

In particular, I think the appeal of “social construction of truth” is that the meaning is ambiguous. When it must be defended from criticism it is interpreted to mean “social construction of belief” which is an assertion too obvious to make clearly. When it is not subject to criticism, it is defined as implying there is no external reality — nothing but opinions, no atoms and no void.

I think it relies on an equivocation and is invalid reasoning.

—————————————————————————————————– OK now a bit of borderline xenophobia and nationalism. Mannheim’s first language was German. I don’t speak any German but I do speak Italian and have become painfully aware that the Italian word “verita” does not translate the English word “truth”. A closer translation is “realta”. The points are that I now have a larger vocabulary, because I learned Italian and discovered that Italian words are not exact translations of English words, and, also, that there a lot of confusion is caused by semi translated words.

Very often I find what I believe to be incorrectly translated French mixed in the English. I recognise it, because it makes sense as incorrectly translated Italian. I am very sure that this is a more irritating problem for people whose native language is anything but English, as the flow of semi-translation is mainly from English to every other language.