My responses following the *** to the social worker's comments:
I don't know if I'm responding a la Rorty, but it was Rorty who more or less convinced me that yes, the way reality functions is that the true and the good does amount to our ability to convince another.
*** But a caveat here. I hold my Chomskyan radical critique of US foreign policy for the last thirty years even though it is a minority view.
We can believe our position has some independent status, but there's nowhere to find it. You can do a study, for example a recent one that showed that more competitive societies with higher income disparities are less dynamic, show less creativity, and have lower scores of overall well being, and I can marshal that as evidence, but a committed free marketer will tear apart the study and so it goes. 1984 is what happens when the forces of justice and right (my side) don't fight hard enough against fascism, McCarthyism or whateverism. You can appeal to tradition, but traditons change. As we discussed, there's no standard meter anywhere to point to (and even a standard meter is an agreement). We're not so much inviting a person to sign onto a truth that transcends them, but one that they can agree with.
I guess I also have trouble with you using "only" in front of "individual" or "socially/cultural." Why do those standards have to be demeaned or demoted. I want to live and work in a place that shows toleration, that's free of sexism and homophobia. To me those are truly durable principles to live by, that are worth fighting for (but not fighting with violence, yet force may have to be used, like the force of law, federal marshals etc.). My reason tells me that. I don't value any social or cultural practices that go against those principles and I do think those principles transcend cultures who don't embrace such, yet I'm aware that my principles are a culture, too. Yet, no one could convince me that these principles are only true in certain cultures. So I could say, yes I value your culture in where ever, but I think practices or laws that don't allow everyone to be fully enfranchised are wrong. I love the principle of the rule of law, but I hate unjust laws.
*** And your culture transcending value of anti-sexism could be not acted upon because of another value of national sovereignty and the wrongness of military intervention in another country's affairs. So yes the Taliban's sexism is wrong, but no we shouldn't justify our invasion and occupation by using it because it violates another value: national self-determination.
I do think it's worth giving our reasons, because I do think there's something worthwhile in being reasonable, but I'd have a hard time convincing a romantic of that who values passion over thought. I wouldn't devote my time giving my reasons for my ice cream preference (though I might wax poetical about them) nor would I try to convince or even discuss with someone I felt just loved to argue (unless I was in the mood) or didn't really listen to my point of view.
I know that this position can devolve into might makes right, but that's a principle I don't agree with (unless of course when the MA Supreme Court say the state has to recognize gay marriage-- that's a might I like). But then again, I agree to abide by the country's choice in a president, even if I fight against his/her policies.
*** It may be that in the last instance might makes right. Max Weber said that the state is that entity that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. A certain regime of truth is in place because secular forces overthrew religious and monarchical forces and now we all know that liberal pluralist tolerant democracy is the best system even though for most of its history "democracy" had a negative connotation.