File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1996/96-05-20.182, message 148

Date: Mon, 22 Apr 1996 10:19:44 +0100
Subject: Re: reading group: RTS preface


If you can find the time to get back on:

> i have some 
>problems with Colin's running disagreement with his d superviser (that 
>also must wait).

I'd be grateful.

>Also i hope someone finds the time to offer Mike Sullivan some critiques 
>of Bhaskar.  But i have noticed that the literture is becoming more 
>favorable toward Bhaskar's pre-dialectic works; but dialectical critical 
>realism has received great resistence (even on this list). 

Can anyone supply critiques of DCR?

On to the reading (?)

>Or think of Collier's (CR 1994:28-9) "Law of Disappearing Household 
>Objects"; this is a type of non-scientific knowledge.  And we accept that 
>things turn up in their right place, not because we can explian "the 
>strange mechanism" behind finding things in their right place, but 
>because if we did not accept it; the world would be a very strange place.

This example seems slightly skewed to me, because it postulates a "puzzle"
that requires resolving, whereas other forms of non-scientific knowledge may
not. What I mean is that, yes, there are many times that objects disappear
only to reappear without a satifactory explanation. Still, i would actually
like one (I'd certainly like to know where my Ray Bans went). The examples I
was concerned with, perhaps the making of a cup of coffee or playing
monopoly, aren't in themselves problematic. The inquisitive person might ask
how Kettles work, how coffee is manufactured, why blue is blue etc., but
these question don't necessarily emerge out of the situation. Whereas the
loss of an object almost invariably does result in the question; 'Where the
hell has it gone?'.


> there has not been a "definition of science" 

It might be a little early in the reading to raise this question, since the
answer will/should emerge through the reading. But I do think that the
question poses some problems.

I have already suggested that for me 'science', as a specific form of
knowledge, is explanatory knowledge (I think Dave also seemed to suggest
this). However, I think we need to be careful to avoid confusing the nature
of 'science' with its mode of acquisition, that is the scientific method.
Because, given this distinction and given that for TR (transcendental
realism) it is the object of inquiry that determines the possible content of
knowledge, then we can see that there will not be a 'definition of science'
many many definition of the sciences', that is many ways of gaining
scientific (explaantory) knowledge. So I will push my point and claim that
"science is a mode of knowledge production which issues in knowledge that is
explanatory'. I know this is very slight, but it may be what science is as
opposed to what the scientific method is. Thus, I can now disagree with Hans
when he puits the stress on the word 'intervening'.

    science (a social product) is that human activity that *intervenes* 
    with nature (and society) and attempts to discover the (often hidden)
    transfactual causal mechanisms which produce the phenomenon that
    we experience [i think this might be refined and changed as we read 
    further in RTS; and with the Diaelctic, especially in terms of the human 

Because what is being discussed here is not 'science' but perhaps one
account of its 'method'. But, even if this account accurately describes the
method, not all science intervenes with nature. Consider, what Bhaskar says
about the difference between 'pure' and 'applied' science. Some scientific
knowledge makes no attempt to intervene but is simply contemplative. It's
also very difficult to see how, given Hans definition, the human sciences
can be considered to be sciences. If only beacuse the intervention part in
these sciences only occurs, in general, after the production of 'knowledge'.
So I think I will stick my neck out and stick to defining science as
'explanatory knowledge' with many, not one, methods of acquisition. We can
now see, I think, my point of difference with Hans more clearly when he argues:

>What i think David is trying to point out is that Bhaskar does not 
>necessarily think in terms of demarcation of knowledge, i.e. as being 
>scientific or non-scientific.  Or still stronger there is no necessary 
>(Popperian) demarcaton *criteria* that can distingish between scientific 
>and non-scientific types of knowledge (which does not deny a difference).

Because, I think Bhaskar clearly does distinguish between 'scientific or
non-scientific' (I can find citations if required), but denies that they can
be distinguished by some form of Popperian criteria, in advance of the form
of knowledge produced. That is, that it is not the method of knowledge
acquisition that 'marks' scientific knowledge but its content. 

My apologies BTW if I am hogging the discussion.



Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
SY23 3DA




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