Reality Based Community

I, too, am a proud member of the reality-based community!
That said, it strikes me as fairly unlikely that Suskind's source was really positing a kind of power-based ontological constructivism. Maybe, maybe. I have no doubt that much faith-based nutjobbery is afoot. But some people do have a bad habit of using 'reality' in a confusing de dicto sense according to which different people have different “realities” simply because we are separate centers of experience and hold sometimes conflicting assumptions. It strikes me as eminently plausible to think of the liberal-ish press corps as sharing a set of assumptions about the politically feasible, call it “the conventional wisdom,” according to which certain kinds of policies and programs are outside the pale, and this poses a serious public relations problem for politicians like Bush. It's the task of a conservative administration like Bush's the act forcefully in a way that shatters the conventional wisdom, shows the insufficiency of the accepted categories, and remakes the de dicto “reality” of all those pointy-headed pundits who are so blinkered that they confuse the CW, “reality,” for reality.
As Bush's hero Karl Marx wrote: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”
(The problem with reading too much Davidson and Dennett is that it makes it hard to accept that people are speaking perfect nonsense.)

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

4 thoughts

  1. This same problem is faced is by St. Bernard Parish outside New Orleans, almost all of which was flooded in connection with Katrina. When I was there in the Spring, a saw miles of tract homes that were only spottily inhabited. I was struck by the thought, that everyone might be better off if the whole thing were razed and people could start from scratch rather than being wedding to property divisions that no longer made sense.

  2. Youngstown, OH is trying to do the same thing.
    Part of the town’s justification is that shrinking the city also reduces the cost of providing public services (road maintenance, garbage, sewage, police and fire protection of abandoned buildings, etc.).
    I can see a scenario where the municipality could offer the property owner a “choice” of either a buyout or higher fees/taxes.

  3. To expand on my previous comments re. KH’s article, I think neither of you are making the precise distinction between nature and culture (convention), the former being necessary for understanding the latter. For instance, I can say I don’t wear a powdered wig and stockings like George Washington, but I adhere to his view of natural right. Or take the phenomenon of men wearing earrings. While the initial turn to earrings some years ago appeared to coincide with a certain effeminacy of contemporary men, which it does to a large extent, there nevertheless are distinct sex roles evident in the now-established conventions for wearing earrings. For example, you rarely if ever see men wearing hoop earrings; there is generally a man’s way to wear earrings and a woman’s way. In other words, culture tends to follow nature, even though absurdities abound, toward both license and oppression, which are to be expected since culture as such is merely a manifestation of man’s freedom. More generally, this topic reflects what Aristotle means when he says in the Ethics that natural right has the same power everywhere but is everywhere changeable. Nature is completed by freedom, but nevertheless guides freedom. KH and you are right to the extent that some conservatives (paleocons, by and large) adhere to cultural stasis, but you’re perhaps insufficiently aware of the extent to which your embrace of cultural change is merely the obverse of that conservatism.

  4. Take a look (if you haven’t already) at the website
    There now is a whole sub-genre of architecture and city planning working on concepts of “rueckbauen” (~de-building) not just living and commercial space, but also infrastructure such as roads etc.

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