Saturday, August 15, 2015


Kuhn, quibbling over the meaning of words
At the start a new candidate for paradigm may have few supporters, and on occasions the supporters’ motives may be suspect. Nevertheless, if they are competent, they will improve it, explore its possibilities, and show what it would be like to belong to the community guided by it. And as that goes on, if the paradigm is one destined to win its fight, the number and strength of the persuasive arguments in its favor will increase. More scientists will then be converted, and the exploration of the new paradigm will go on. Gradually the number of experiments, instruments, articles, and books based upon the paradigm will multiply. Still more men, convinced of the new view’s fruitfulness, will adopt the new mode of practicing normal science, until at last only a few elderly hold-outs remain. And even they, we cannot say, are wrong. Though the historian can always find men -Priestley, for instance- who were unreasonable to resist for as long as they did, he will not find a point at which resistance becomes illogical or unscientific. At most he may wish to say that the man who continues to resist after his whole profession has been converted has ipso facto ceased to be a scientist.
"No one in my tradition believes that the words are very important."
Go here.
The unfailingly earnest "discover" the universal fact of politics, and the absurdity of life.

I was raised in a bubble, familiar with the criminality of the 20th century, but insulated from the mediocrity.

Rorty, Falafel and the Mirror of Hummus
Though the historian can always find men -Priestley, for instance- who were unreasonable to resist for as long as they did, he will not find a point at which resistance becomes illogical or unscientific. 
But can we then find a way of saying that the considerations advanced against the Copernican theory by Cardinal Bellarmine -the scriptural descriptions of the fabric of the heavens- were "illogical or unscientific?" This, perhaps, is the point at which the battle lines between Kuhn and his critics can be drawn most sharply.

Kuhn does not give an explicit answer to the question, but his writings provide an arsenal of argument in favor of a negatIve answer. In any case, a negative answer is implied by the argument of the present book. The crucial consideration is whether we know how to draw a line between science and theology such that getting the heavens right is a "scientific" value, and preserving the church, and the general cultural structure of Europe, is an "unscientific" value.[footnote]
Rorty is a creep. The defense of "the general cultural structure of Europe" is the subtext of -or pretext for- the theological argument; the discussion itself is a discussion of text. If the unscientific argument is proffered for Machiavellian ends, as subterfuge, then its use becomes scientific. On its own, it is not. "Beyond a reasonable doubt" is enough. The philosophical pedantry is mind-numbing. He's finding ways to avoid the technical because the technical is merely mechanical, and he wants life to be more than mechanical.  He's like a man who thinks he has to be weak and ineffectual in order to fit the role of feminist. His reference to heritability of intelligence below implies that he believes it as science.
[Footnote] Another example of the same sort is the question raised about "objectivity" by Marxist critics of the traditional distinctions between areas of culture. See, for example, Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (Boston, 1964), chaps. 6-7· More concretely, we can ask whether there is a clear way of separating out the "scientific" value of getting the heritability of intelligence right from the "political" value of discouraging racism. I think that Marcuse is right in saying that most of the ("bourgeois") intellectual apparatus of the Enlightenment is required to make this distinction. Unlike Marcuse, however, I would hope that we might retain the distinction even after discarding one piece of the apparatus-epistemologically centered "foundational" philosophy.
Like Marcuse and the rest, he can't separate the capacity for computation from a telos. But he wants to find a way. He can't recognize that the triumph of Reason as he defines it, and how his opponents define it as well, is triumph of hard determinism.  None of them can separate science as a tool from those who use it.

In the social reality, despite all change, the domination of man by man is still the historical continuum that links pre-technological and technological Reason. However, the society which projects and undertakes the technological transformation of nature alters the base of domination by gradually replacing personal dependence (of the slave on the master, the serf on the lord of the manor, the lord on the donor of the fief, etc.) with dependence on the “objective order of things” (on economic laws, the market etc.). To be sure, the “objective order of things” is itself the result of domination, but it is nevertheless true that domination now generates a higher rationality -- that of a society which sustains its hierarchic structure while exploiting ever more efficiently the natural and mental resources, and distributing the benefits of this exploitation on an ever-larger scale. The limits of this rationality, and its sinister force, appear in the progressive enslavement of man by a productive apparatus which perpetuates the struggle for existence and extends it to a total international struggle which ruins the lives of those who build and use this apparatus. 
...Outside this rationality, one lives in a world of values, and values separated out from the objective reality become subjective. The only war to rescue same abstract and harmless validity for them seems to be a metaphysical sanction (divine and natural law). But such sanction is not verifiable and thus not really objective. Values may have a higher dignity (morally and spiritually), but they are not real and thus count less in the real business of life -- the less so the higher they are elevated above reality.
Outside this rationality, one lives in a world of choice: to go to the movies or go to the beach. Is that a problem?

The difference between  pre-technological and technological Reason, is not the “objective order of things”.  The difference was that what had been seen as under the command of God, now  -seemingly- was under the command of man.

Modern philosophers are unwilling to accept the fact of an un-universal view (both subjective and fragmentary) of an objectively existing world. Their options are to see the universal view as absolute and true; to see it as true and somehow morally wrong, with the need to make room for eros, or humanity, or art; or to see the world itself as nothing but subjective.

A practicing scientist can accept without conflict the propositions that there is no universal view, and that the world itself is not entirely subjective; that we can say rocks exist without saying that we can see rocks from every angle simultaneously or that my experience of rocks is the same as yours.  To discount the experience of rocks is to see rocks not as absolute but as generalization.  The Reason feared by Marcuse and Adorno is bureaucratic not Platonic. And the political decision to discount the experience of rocks ends only in discounting the experience of rocks for the majority, since the rule of reason is the rule of an elite minority, and the elite will indulge the experience of rocks, and champagne, and caviar, as elites do. To value the experience of rocks is not to say that rocks are nothing but subjective, but to value the multiplicity of subjective experience of universally available things.

Philosophers as rationalists and pedants are concern trolls.  Actual scientists as practicing empiricists can appreciate both generalizations and specifics. Science geeks are scientists after the model of philosophers, giving us John von Neumann and Strangelove.

Philosophy as a discipline thus sees itself as the attempt to underwrite or debunk claims to knowledge made by science, morality, art, or religion.
Philosophy claims to be able to correct the mistakes of science and therefore everything else.  The claim is absurd on its face. The next question is whether it can be placed above art; that question reduces whether it can be placed above other forms of art. The answer's no.

The "epistemological" as opposed to "hermeneutic" reading of the Canadian constitution is forbidden in Canadian legal argument.

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