Creating and Destroying Mutual Understanding

Daniel O’Connor has a brilliant post over at Catalaxis called The Political Economics of Stephen Colbert.

In simplest terms, when we communicate we tend to at least implicitly, if not explicitly, raise a set of three distinct validity claims regarding what is true, what is right, and what is sincere. When either one of us has a problem accepting any of the validity claims raised by the other, we may through dialogue challenge the claim and make an effort to come to a mutual understanding of what really is true, right, and sincere for each of us. In our ideal efforts to validate or invalidate one another’s claims, we will refer to objective facts to determine what is true, intersubjective values to judge what is right, and subjective intentions to appreciate what is sincere. All three types of claims made by both of us would have to be validated before we could declare a shared understanding–and even then, we would not necessarily have a mutual agreement on all three claims.

He looks into Colbert’s truthiness, and wikiality, then invents syncerity to summarize our political discourse today.

Just listen carefully to any political debate, whether it’s between presidential candidates or media pundits who make a living expressing their opinions about politicians. There is so little personal sincerity and so very much deception and acrimony that it is a wonder we put up with it. Moreover, the fact that we do put up with it, that we are so easily deceived, or that we claim dishonestly to have been so frequently deceived, is evidence of our own dysfunctional syncerity, disowning the power we really do have to withdraw legitimacy from those who are systematically syncere, whether their syncerity is conscious and calculated or subconscious and incompetent.

Read the whole thing.