A Study of Intractable Ideological Disputes

Dissertation, University of Missouri - Columbia (1991)
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This thesis attempts to show that the problematic nature of intractable ideological disputes may not be due to any lack of brute evidence, but rather may be due to the influence of ideology on the facts and observations that are used to support claims. Although the concept of brute evidence is sometimes assumed by disputants, as is the case in the Chomsky-Flew debate, this assumption is misleading and can even retard efforts to resolve them. A change in the "epistemological venue," however, not only offers insight into the difficult nature of these disputes, but it also suggests an approach that might be used to resolve them. ;Following the Introduction, the study is divided into three parts. Part I is a discussion of several preliminary considerations regarding disputes and arguments. The first chapter delineates the rational dispute and further explicates those that are both intractable and ideological. These remarks provide the foundation for Chapter Two, which presents the foreign policy debate of Chomsky-Flew as an instance of such a dispute. ;Part II involves a discussion of conceptual considerations. Chapter Three examines the concept of brute fact as well as N. R. Hanson's criticism of it. This leads to Chapter Four, which presents Hanson's Thesis of the Theory-Ladenness of Fact. This thesis is modified for an analysis of intractable ideological disputes. The next two chapters are devoted to similar treatments of the concept of observation, with Hanson's Thesis of the Theory-Ladenness of Observation being modified in terms of ideology. These modified theses offer a unique view of intractable ideological disputes, including the Chomsky-Flew debate. ;Part III is then devoted to a discussion of the impact that these different conceptions of evidence have on the resolution of such disputes. It is argued in Chapter Seven that these disputes are susceptible to a mutually beneficial resolution or compromise, but only if the polarized argumentation is reduced and dialogue initiated and sustained. It is proposed that a consideration of evidence as ideology-laden may bring this about. It is further argued that this may have ramifications for world peace



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Rory J. Conces
University of Nebraska, Omaha

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