Monday, December 1, 2008


Is it possible to have total, absolute truth?

What is knowledge but a set of ideas that someone else came up with because they based it off someone else's set of ideas, who based it off of someone else's ideas, who based it off of....

Are our attempts at creating notions of unbiasedness, of scientific objectivity, an exercise in futility? Every person, in speaking, thinking, creating, communicating, imparts on their creation apart of themselves. How naive are we to think that there can be some ideal, some "ideal type" as Weber calls it, of truth?

If truth, then, is a spectrum, who has the rigtht to judge what is "more true" and "less true"? Is who we deem has the right a reflection of our values in society?

Let's be a little more concrete here: Medicine. Who's account of a person's condition is more "true"? The doctor's diagnosis, or the patient's story? If within the discourse between doctor and patient during consultation results in an agreement of outcome, is that the ultimate "truth" that should be considered? If they happen to disagree, is it the patient's prerogative to believe in their truth, or the doctor's? Should we judge quality of healthcare based on happiness and satisfaction of the patient, or the seemingly "unbiased" diagnosis of the doctor? What gives the doctor, or the patient, the right to claim "truth"?

If objectivity is an exercise in futility, then is it the process towards objectivity that is important? However, if objectivity, or truth, is not even an achievable consequence, then is the process, the procedure, the pathway towards a perceived objectivity even worth trying?

It's a paradox really: my questions beg the truth, even though I claim there is no such thing.

**side note**
We're reading Foucault in theory, and studying medical research in Health and Aging. I can't help that these things are tossing and turning in my head. Haha. Maybe a real personal update should be coming up next. I do need to get in the habit of posting. Sorry for taking so long!


Dan said...

At some point if you have time, read Annemarie Mol's The Body Multiple. We read it in the medicine week in my science studies class, it's a really fun little book that delves nicely into ontological and epistemological issues.

Lastly, about objectivity: it's not an exercise in futility as much as an exercise in power. But power is productive, and not at all futile. Objectivity, and discourses of objectivity, gets things done. Porter's book Trust in Numbers has an interesting take on objectivity, and splits it into two kinds (disciplinary and mechanical). There are some other good works in Science Studies on objectivity that I haven't read more than snippets of.

We should talk about this more sometime!

Devika said...