File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1999/bhaskar.9911, message 2


Date: Fri, 5 Nov 1999 08:43:41 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: BHA: Transcendental argument


Hi John,

I doubt that mine is a popular view amongst those who like Bhaskar's work
(and I include myself in this category), but I think that you are right.

As far as I can see, the response/defense on this point has two parts.  
The first has to do with what transcendental deductions (and deductions in
general) do and don't do.  Transcendental deductions are kind of boot-strap
arguments -- if they "prove" anything, it is that such-and-such must be the
case if x is the case.  Whether or not x is, in fact, the case, is not part
of the equation per se.  

If you think about it, though, regular, every day syllogisms (in contrast to
the transcendental variety) don't prove their premises either.  The only
difference is that a transcendental deduction moves backwards, *behind* the
first premise, as it were, while a regular syllogism moves forward: viz., if
x, and if y, then z.  It's just that the "if" part, the conditional nature
of the premise, is more visible in the regular syllogism.

Now, it is true that the force of a transcendental deduction comes from how
necessary the first premise is, or seems to be.  If you start with something
that seems like it *must* be so -- paradigmatically, the fact of experience
-- then you have a pretty strong argument for the conditions of possibility
for what must be so (assuming you've got it right that those *are* the
conditions of possibility).

In terms of the transcendental deduction in question: patently, scientific
experimentation must be so, because it is so.  There is little room for sane
skepticism here.  But you are right, whether or not it is "intelligible,"
and what that means, is not as self-evident; the intelligibility part of the
premise seems to require it's own, independent argument.  

The only way it doesn't require it's own argument -- and this is part 2 of
the defense/response -- is if the whole line of reasoning is an immanent
critique, directed at interlocutors whose *own* position assumes the
intelligibility of science.  And this is indeed the gensis of critical
realism.  *A Realist Theory of Science* was directed at Humean and
Neo-Kantian philosophers of science.  To put it differently, it matters
whether you are arguing with, I don't know, Hempel and Carnap or with, say,
Horkheimer and Adorno.  In the first case, the self-understanding of
scientists (or, at least, philosophers of science) is not at issue.

Anyway, I think that you are right, that the presumption of
"intelligibility" is tricky.  (Not that it can't be defended, just that,
depending on the interlocutor, it needs to be.)  Sometimes RB uses
"possible" or "possibility" as the starting point, and it is also tricky,
though in a slightly different way.  
I don't think that these points constitute a refutation of RB though.  [The
more challenging difficulty, as we all know I think, is whether RB's got
Kant right.]

Thems my 2 cents.
R.          



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