Chapter 18. Infallible Propositions

Here’s a random thought, that I’ve been nursing this couple of days.

Recall that Descartes suggested that one’s doubting is indubitably true, since, by doubting one’s doubt, one is still doubting.  So as long as I doubt, that I am doubting, is infalliby true – for even when one doubts that, one proves it is true performatively.

Here’s a more thomistic example, from John Finnis: suppose someone  says that knowledge is a good, but is confronted with the skeptical challenge that it is not – well, the skeptical challenge, when not whimsical but careful and considered, even rigorous, ironically demonstrates or proves that ‘knowledge is a good’ to be true, or contradicts the very skepticism, since one is here keen, when skeptical, to grasp the good of the truth of knowledge, namely the knowledge of whether knowledge is true or false, or to promote as a good, the knowledge that ‘knowledge is not a good’.

Suppose I say that, Photography affords, semiosically, ethical or religious (to the extent that religiously based moral ideas can be classified as ‘ethical’) consciousness raising. By this I mean that photography, which includes everything I do here – the taking of pictures, the captioning, the blogging or writing about it, etc – has the capacity to lead, as a sign-post, to ethical or religious ideas, either by reminding us of these, or by pressing us to think about the latter, or by holding up the latter to our consciousness when otherwise we would not bother with them. So:

Photography (Ph) affords Ethical (E) consciousness raising, by way of semiosis.

This seems to me infallibly correct, using infallibility in loose way, to suggest that the very posing of this proposition as a question, i.e., “Does: photography afford ethical consciousness raising by way of semiosis?” itself adds to its truth.


Let P be (Ph affords E semiosically)

Interrogate, question, problematize P.

Hence, {Is it true that P?}

Let ?P be the problematization, the skeptical questioning, or the research question in relation to P.

I.e., Let ?P be {Is it true that P?}

How are ?P and P related?

?P asks if P is True.

Now, because through the posing of the question, Ph and E are held up semiosically, hence Ph does afford E.

Comment: when the question is posed, and put out as a research question, the study that interrogates the connection between Ph and E actually puts before our minds E, just when we explore how E is related, effected, caused by, afforded by, or correlated with Ph.  Hence, Ph understood to include the reflective study of how E is afforded, actually affords, by way of this study, E.  Whatever the real relationship between Ph and E are (and there may be some or none at all), the very study of Ph in relation with E generates, even if merely nominally, and not metaphysicallya true relationship between Ph and E where Ph leads, as a sign, to E. 

In which case, then P is true, even when one questions P.

I.e., ?P implies P.

Hence P is infallably true, since even if questioned, P is proven, performatively, by ?P, to be true.

In sum:

?P implies P; ergo, P.

Hence, infalliby P

What does this all mean?

Well it means that, even before the question, “Does photography lead to ethical consciousness raising” needs to be answered through extended study, the answer to that is already that it does.  And this is because the suggestion that it does is infalliby true when posed as a research question and studied. The very researching or study of this question makes it true. Hence the study of whether photography leads semiosically to ethical consciousness raising (or shortened, photo-semio-ethic studies) is very worthwhile, precisely because it does lead to ethical consciousness raising.

Simply put: skepticism regarding the semiosis of ethical ideas in photography is indefensible.  Because: the serious, thoughtful, skeptical challenge, which is willing to test the possibility of photography for signing ethical ideas – that very challenge proves the semiosis of one with the other.  We are speaking of such fair minded skepticism which is scholarly, and which is willing to give it a go, to think through and to see if it works, to give it a chance to corroborate itself or to surface a counter-example, rather than the arbitrary, whimsical skepticism which is not to be taken seriously.

The way photography leads to ethical semiosis is precisely through the study of the affordance of one with the other, and in a sense, or at least one can go so far as to say, that the affordances of photography for ethical consciousness raising in the real is not entirely relevant.  It is not photography per se which needs to afford such consciouness raising.  Rather it is the study of photography in relation to ethics, which leads to such consciousness raising.  This is not to say that there are no metaphysically robust claims to be made in relation to the way photography could afford ethical semiosis. But it does mean that, whatever may be said of these, the very ongoing study to unveil these affordances, is what truly matters, and is what needs to be done.

Hence photo-semio-ethical studies need to be done, not for the results of these studies, but for the very performance of such studying, which effects ethical consciousness raising.

Success happens by choice