Showing posts with label JMISC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label JMISC. Show all posts

Friday, February 25, 2011

Back to Truthology: "The Real Truth Project" Needs to Become a Reference Site

I still believe in the critical need for work on "Practical Epistemology", or maybe I should drop the Latinism and call it Truthology.

A blog should be a small part of that project.

About 15 years ago, I started the web site, or JMISC.NET (one is a synonym for the other) to explore and try to understand and share understanding of the period around the 1830s, with frequent excursions a couple of decades in either direction.  The title page said "Tales of the Early Republic", and I spent a lot of time looking at "miscellaneous" period documents, and, on an email list called "Jacksonian Miscellanies", publishing excerpts from these documents, with some commentary.  There were newspaper stories on spontaneous combustion, some very odd poetry, which was welcomed as filler material for newspapers in those days, a dueling manual (A high percentage of "Southern Gentlemen", including many congressmen had fought at least one duel -- in the majority of cases nobody died though injuries were common).  I got to have a mailing list of several hundred people, including many of the best historians of the era.  After a year or so I began going to conferences of the leading historians of the era, and in time it seemed to me that around half the people I met there were aware of my work, and very encouraging.

I started out not knowing anything about this period.  What it took was a lot of patience, reading historians past and present, but always going back to the original sources when I wanted to make a contribution, finding something that cast a surprising light on things, and putting it into one of my "Jacksonian Miscellanies" posts.  And meanwhile, gradually building a encyclopedic framework for jotting down detailed information as I learned of it.  What was New York like in 1830?  Well for one thing, New York much less than half of Manhattan Island -- not the other way around.  What sort of roads existed between Boston and Portsmouth, Maine.  When were they first connected by railroad?  What were the issues of religious controversy?  I built up a file of particular schools and colleges, small town, even particular churches and who had served as minister there and what their politics were.  I never knew enough to write a work giving important insights into some particular issue, but could hold my own in conversations with historians.

Ultimately, I need to build up TRTP (The Real Truth Project) to be something like that.  And it is mostly too abstract for me to try to deal with the issue of truth in general.  If I spent too much time on that plane, I would probably end up building all encompassing ideologies, like those of Karl Marx and Ayn Rand, that in my opinion cause people to lose sight of the real world, with disastrous consequences.

So there will have to be more specific sub-projects, one of which, is to try to map the landscape of America's (especially, and sometimes the world's) wars of ideas.

The resources will be extremely incomplete for some time to come, but I hope there will some useful things from the beginning.

Where to begin? I am going to take a look at "Watcher" organizations that try to map out the vast landscape of organizations characterized as "Right" and "Left".  Those who lean more or less "left" have organizations that try to compile a picture of funding sources in the network of organizations on the "right".  And vice versa.

E.g., the "Media Matters Action Network" has a section called "Conservative Transparency"  ( collects information on "conservative" or "right" leaning organizations of all sorts.

I am developing my own understanding of it at this link.

Other groups that watch and analyze other groups include:
  • Source Watch at ("left").
  • Capital Research Center at ("right").
OK, that's a wrap - a not insignificant start I hope.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Hayne-Webster Debate, an Experiment in Hypertext Style

Debate is at in case you want to skip the following:

For once, I'd like to step back from arguing with bits and pieces of misinformation (or what appears so to me), and look at the question of truth per se, or what steps we might take to reconstruct the world so we have a better chance of getting at the truth, and so acting better in our individual and collective self interest.  No idea of a "master plan" of  "reconstructing" the world should be tried.  It would be like repeating the mistakes of Lenin and his successors.  Rather, perhaps we could all become familiar with practices that nudge the world just a tiny bit in the right direction.  Practices like not putting up with as much imprecise, vague, and just plain emotion driven language as we have to every day.

10 or 15 years ago, I tried to make a little demonstration of one small approach.

For many years, I maintained and expanded a large web site to collect all sorts of thoughts, analysis, and original source material related to the U.S. in the early 19th century.

One of the most successful things I did was to try to put a "zoom lens" on one formidable historical document, the record of the Hayne-Webster debate. At least I've heard from quite a few professors who assigned it for class reading.

In an introductory essay, I tried to explain my vision of "A New Connection Between Original and Secondary Texts"

 I also claim, and hope to demonstrate, that when authors learn the art of using online media, it will change the way history is experienced by the reader. When reading secondary sources, those who wish will immediately glance at the source material which the author has cited, thus benefit from a specialist's reflections on the material, without spending hours trapped in the author's head. One can go out; walk around in the original text, and breath, and think, freely. One can say "I see what he/she means, but I would read it a little differently." Reading can become an active, creative, thought process.

If you want to know more, just go to the page at