non-discursive and Critical Realism (fwd)

Spoon Collective spoons at jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Sat Jul 15 16:33:28 MDT 1995



---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 15 Jul 1995 12:55:47 -0700
From: mjackson.DOMAIN1 <mjackson.DOMAIN1.oramail at zeus.cc.pcc.edu>
To: owner-marxism at jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: Re: re: non-discursive and Critical Realism

In-Reply-To: ORUNIX:owner-marxism at jefferson.village.virginia.edu's message of 07-15-95 12:41

Hans D. notes two critical realist arguments against "radical
relativism".  I don't consider myself a "radical relativist", but I
find them rather weak.
1.  *Science is successful*.  Many people seem to take it for granted
that the success of science supports the realist view.  This is
incoherent.  The utility of a belief has no necessary connection
to its ontological validity.  By the criteria of utility, the two-sphere
model of the heavens used in navigation must be accurate--after all,
look how successfully it works for ship navigation!  Moreover, there
are many scientific truths with no direct practical utility--e.g.,
Einstein's concept of curved spacetime for the earthbound, slow moving
human being.  Since (a) many useful ideas are simply not true by
scientific standards and (b) many concepts that are true by scientific
standards have little or no utility, the argument that the utility of
science demonstrates the ontological validity of science is dubious.
2.  *Feyerabend*.  Hans notes that critical realists dismiss
Feyerabend because he says nothing significant about scientific method.
This claim is astounding to me.  I find in Feyerabend a quite detailed
account of how scientists actually go about doing their work, as opposed
to, say, Popper, who constructed a little falsificationist fairy tale
about how he thinks science should work.  (And by the way, if Galileo
had been a rigorous Popperian falsificationist, he would never have
doggedly held onto his hypotheses in the face of the empirical evidence
that weighed against him in his *own* time--see Feyerabend, _against
method_).  Maybe I'm missing the point, but I think Feyerabend has a
lot of interesting things to say about the methods of science.  I should
also note that he did not consider himself to be a radical relativist--
rather, he was trying to point out some of the inconsistencies and dubious
logic of rational-realist reconstructions of science.  (To critique
something doesn't necessary mean you're dead set against it!)

In short: I find little in these critical realist arguments that would
convince a thoughtful person to reject even "radical relativism".  C'mon,
there must be better reasons than this to be a critical realist!  (Or
is it primarily a question of faith, as I suggested in another post?)

Miles Jackson
cqmv at odin.cc.pdx.edu
mjackson at pcc.edu



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