Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The failure of scientism in an Orwellian world
What happens when you are the only one who remembers what actually happened and everyone else believes the rewritten version of history? For that matter, what would happen (Winston doesn't take it quite this far) if no one existed who remembered the true account of things?
Would the Party's version of history then be reality? Is reality actually changed through this process? Is the Party, in other words, actually able to control reality?
I am thinking that just about everybody would say "No": No matter how history is rewritten or revised, there is a reality of which the records of it is only an approximation--a better or worse approximation depending on the extent to which it is in accord with "reality."
I thought about this in connection with all those people (some of whom frequent my comments section) who think that the only way to detect reality is by empirical evidence. If you lived in a world in which all the records had been changed--all of the empirical evidence--then your method would yield the exact reality that those who changed the records chose to portray and, if you believed in "reality," would only lead you astray.
In other words, according to the kind of scientism I hear so much of, the answer to Winston's question would be "Yes": Reality could be changed by the Party merely through the process of historical revision. An analysis of the "evidence" would yield exactly what the Party had revised it to be. The "reality" would then be only a metaphysical abstraction of the kind for which scientism has no patience.