Errol Morris has for the last few years been writing the occasional brilliant series of articles in the NY Times; his latest, just completed, is about his deep disagreement (which I share) with Thomas Kuhn‘s cockamamie idea of the “incommensurability” of different “paradigms,” a theory he was never able to explain to the satisfaction of anyone who could think clearly. I recommend it highly, but the bit that made me want to post about it comes at the very end, in the last few sentences:
There are endless obstacles and impediments to finding the truth – You might never find it; it’s an illusive goal. But there’s something to remember, there’s a world out there that we can apprehend, and it’s our job to go out there and apprehend it. It’s one of the deepest lessons that I’ve taken away from my experiences here.
But his “illusive” implies exactly the worldview he’s fighting against (the Kuhnian view that you can never find the truth); the word he wanted was “elusive.” What are the odds against a verbal error so perfectly encapsulating a philosophical one?
Incidentally, in case anyone reads the series and wonders about the original Spanish of the Cervantes/Menard quote he repeatedly cites (“truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future’s counselor”), it’s “la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, émula del tiempo, depósito de las acciones, testigo de lo pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo por venir.” And on Borges, see this post from last year.