File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1997/bhaskar.9708, message 60

Date: Tue, 19 Aug 1997 09:48:37 -0500 (CDT)
To: bhaskar-AT-jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
cc: bhaskar-AT-jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: Re: BHA: Science, theology and witchcraft

Here are a few scattered observations concerning, more or less, the current 

1.) Colin analogizes RB's assessment of Heidegger and his own assessment
of Manchester United, as examples of objective evaluation as opposed to
loyalty.  If I read his post correctly, Michael seems to have
misunderstood Colin here in that he suggests that Colin makes the
evaluation of the achievements of philosophers indistinguishable from
sports loyalties.  Rather, Colin was suggesting that just as one may
assess a team to be great without a feeling of loyalty for or any
endorsement of them, so too one may assess a philosopher as being great
(having achieved something meriting the term great) without necessarily
"liking"  them.  Both Kant and Hegel, for example, made great achievements
in aesthetics.  As an objective assessment, this does not entail loyalty
to either's aesthetic program (or in Kant's case more the aesthetic
program made out of his work).  Of course, Michael's questions concerning
the relationship between Heidegger and RB would still remain open. 

2.) There is an interesting argument currently underway in the pages of
"The Nation" (U.S.) concerning supposedly radical Left critiques of
science, especially biology.  I didn't read the original article
carefully, and will have to go back to it, but one interesting element for
this list came up in the letters exchange that followed.  The author of
one letter differentiated between 1.) Postmodern constructivist critics of
science and 2.) Creationists, on the basis of (not his term, as I recall)
depth explanation.  Group 1.) rejects depth explanation and are
anti-science; Group 2.) rejects Darwinian accounts and attempt to offer an
alternative account that accepts the scientific framework.  While the
creationists are doing "bad science", the pomos are anti-science.  No
great revelation there, but it was a nice concrete working out of the
problem.  Incidentally, the pomo crowd were up to their usual tricks,
claiming that they were NOT denying the role of biology in human being,
but rather counteracting the overemphasis on this in mainstream
accounts--thus justifying their actual denial of biology by appeal to the
rhetorical situation at the same time that they claim to accept it, but in
an entirely abstract way.  I don't know if anyone has analyzed this in
detail or not, but it seems utterly characteristic of the current phase of
pomo thought (or maybe discourse) to acknowledge, when pressed, in a
purely abstract manner, say, economic or natural determinants, but in
practice to ignore and even deny these.  Quite likely, it seems to me,
this has to do with the greater drama, rhetorical appeal, and elegance of
radically one-sided accounts. 

3.) How is this for a bad science account of a natural phenomenon
(observed while on vacation recently):  While looking down into the
impressive Black Canyon of the Gunnison (in southwestern Colorado) a child
asked his father how it was made.  "Do you remember the 'forty days and
forty nights'? It happened then." 

4.) Can't we distinguish between two kinds of reduction, one of which is 
what we mean by reductionism: exhaustive reduction, in which all elements 
of something are supposedly explained by appeal to a prior causal level, 
without the intervention of higher or later levels; and explanatory 
reduction, in which an attempt is made to distinguish those elements of 
something that may be explained in terms of a prior level or levels and 
those distinctive to it.  Explanatory reduction would seem to be required 
by the very concept of emergence (emergence only makes sense if there is 
also present that which does not emerge).  Gregor MacLennan 
wrote a spirited defense of reductionism in these sense for NLR a few 
issues ago.  


Tim Dayton

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