Rationality Rules – Possibilities and Limits of Metaphorical Truth

by | Nov 27, 2020 | Videos

Stephen Woodford of Rationality Rules has a Youtube channel which attempts to debunk spurious arguments for God and Religion. We discuss Bret Weinstein’s notion of “metaphorical truth”, its possibilities and limits.

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1 Comment

  1. Alfons Kuchlbacher

    This is a citation from the end of “Hogfather” by Terry Pratchett, where Susan (the granddaughter of DEATH asked him what would have happened, if DEATH had not saved the Hogfather. The people of the Discworld tell their children if the do not believe in the Hogfather the sun will not rise again. In this story the Hogfather is an equivalent to Santa Claus in our world (and of course DEATH speaks in capital letters):

    ‘Thank you. Now . . . tell me . . .’
    WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IF YOU HADN’T SAVED HIM?
    ‘Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?’
    NO.
    ‘Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. It’s an astronomical fact.’
    THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.
    She turned on him.
    ‘It’s been a long night, Grandfather! I’m tired and I need a bath! I don’t need silliness!’
    THE SUN WOULD NOT HAVE RISEN.
    ‘Really? Then what would have happened, pray?’
    A MERE BALL OF FLAMING GAS WOULD HAVE ILLUMINATED THE WORLD.
    They walked in silence for a moment.
    ‘Ah,’ said Susan dully. ‘Trickery with words. I would have thought you’d have been more literal-minded than that.’
    I AM NOTHING IF NOT LITERAL-MINDED. TRICKERY WITH WORDS IS WHERE HUMANS LIVE.
    ‘All right,’ said Susan. ‘I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need . . . fantasies to make life bearable.’
    REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
    ‘Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—’
    YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
    ‘So we can believe the big ones?’
    YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
    ‘They’re not the same at all!’
    YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY, AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME . . . SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
    ‘Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—’
    MY POINT EXACTLY.
    She tried to assemble her thoughts.
    THERE IS A PLACE WHERE TWO GALAXIES HAVE BEEN COLLIDING FOR A MILLION YEARS, Said Death, apropos of nothing. DON’T TRY TO TELL ME THAT’S RIGHT.
    ‘Yes, but people don’t think about that,’ said Susan. Somewhere there was a bed . . .
    CORRECT. STARS EXPLODE, WORLDS COLLIDE, THERE’S HARDLY ANYWHERE IN THE UNIVERSE WHERE HUMANS CAN LIVE WITHOUT BEING FROZEN OR FRIED, AND YET YOU BELIEVE THAT A . . . A BED IS A NORMAL THING. IT IS THE MOST AMAZING TALENT.
    ‘Talent?’
    OH, YES. A VERY SPECIAL KIND OF STUPIDITY. YOU THINK THE WHOLE UNIVERSE IS INSIDE YOUR HEADS.
    ‘You make us sound mad,’ said Susan. A nice warm bed . . .
    NO. YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IN THINGS THAT AREN’T TRUE. HOW ELSE CAN THEY BECOME? said Death, helping her up on to Binky.

    Thank you!
    (And Happy Hogswatch!)