When Harry Graver states in his Oct. 18 op-ed “Rooting the humanities in right” that my “rejection of an accepted methodology goes hand in hand with [my] rejection [of] the idea of conclusive result,” he would have been exactly right — had that been what I said. But that was not what I said. Regrettably, Mr. Graver did not read what I wrote but instead read relativism into an essay which was not written by a relativist.

Substitute the phrase “an accepted” with “the right” and he would have been a little closer to the idea of my essay. We are not debating accepted methodologies here. We are being critical of a belief that the right methodology, the right interpretation, or the making of right meaning is something like a scent that you and I, but very few others today, are onto — indeed, it’s the belief that to be on the trail in the first place one must have a certain kind of nose.

Peter Gayed

Oct. 19

The writer is a medical student and an affiliate of Saybrook College.

  • pgayed

    From Richard Rorty’s “Solidarity or Objectivity?”:

    “Relativism” is the traditional epithet applied to pragmatism by realists. Three different views are commonly referred to by this name. The first is the view that every belief is as good as every other. The second is the view that “true” is an equivocal term, having as many meanings as there are procedures of justification. The third is the view that there is nothing to be said about either truth or rationality apart from descriptions of the familiar procedures of justification that a given society—ours—uses in one or another area of inquiry. The pragmatist holds the ethnocentric third view. But he does not hold the self-refuting first view, nor the eccentric second view. He thinks his views are better than the realists, but he does not think that his views correspond to the nature of things. He thinks the very flexibility of the word “true”—the fact that it is merely an expression of commendation—insures its univocity. The term “true,” on his account, means the same in all cultures, just as equally flexible terms like “here,” “there,” “good,” “bad,” “you,” and “me” mean the same in all cultures.