File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1999/bhaskar.9911, message 3

Date: Fri, 05 Nov 1999 14:41:48 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: Transcendental argument

Hi John,

A quick foray into this then back to lurking. I had thought I had already
replied to this btw, but since I haven't got my own reply I must be
dreaming (or should I say was?).

>If we go back to RB he summarises the argument as "the 
>intelligibility of experimental activity presupposes then the intransitiv 
>and structured character of the objects of scientific knowledge, at 
>least in so far as these are causal laws. " RTS ch2 ss3.

By this part of RTS I think a lot of the work has already been done, but by
intelligible here I have always taken him to mean something like
"understand why it is necessary to engage in". It's not that we make
expeiments themselves understandable, but the need to conduct them. And the
need to conduct them, seems to confirm Marx's claim about essence and
appearance not coinciding. And it is from the necessity of experiments AND
the success of the knowledge produced in them that one can deduce the
existence of a non-empirical reality of a certain form.

>Eg, we could similarly argue that religious activity is only intelligible 
>if there is a god, but we presumably wouldn't want to. 

Now your example about religion is a good one not because it provides the
counter argument, but because it actually confirms RBs. Eg. if there was no
belief in God then presumably their would be no religion, but there is
religion, hence we can deduce the reality of the belief in God. Religion is
only intelligible if there is a belief in God. But note, the existence of
God is not a necessary condition, only the belief in God. 

Now, in terms of CR, this is a strong point but has not yet made the case
for the deduction that there must be a non-empirical reality; for that you
need to add the transfactual nature of the objects discovered. All we are
entitled to deduce so far is that scientists believe there is a
non-empirical reality that they are attempting to make sense of in their
activities. It is a strong point, however, because we can at least say that
the implicit philosophy adopted by practicing scientists is depth realist.

>So, does the argument really rest on the _success_ of scientific 
>activity? Ie it is not just that it becomes intelligible, but the actual 
>success of experiments demonstrates an intransitive domain.

No, it is not the success of the experiments, but that the successes gained
through experiments can be applied and utilised beyond the experimental
setting. I.e. that tehse things discovered seem not only to exist in the

>This seems to me to open up a whole raft of problems and 
>essentially put us back into traditional philosophy of science 

Well yes, comfortable terrain for me. I'm not sure what is wrong with being
back here, I've never considered RB has solved all of the problems (despite
his claims). For me, he simply provides the best account available. This
doesn't mean I'm happy.

>What is it that warrents the success of otherwise of experiments? 
>What if an experiment fails? 

Many do, and we can ask why. Does the thing exist? Was the experiment set
up properly (how would Kant explain a failure btw Ruth?)

>Does it not bring back induction thru' the back door - ie the 
>"success" of many particular experiments leads to the general 
>proposition that science as a whole is successful?

See above, it is not the success of the experiments as such but that the
knowledge gained through them is effective beyond them. Hence the logic of
the arguement is twofold: First, why do scientists do experiments (you
could even put this simpler and say "attempt to go beyond the
appearances")?; second, the things that they say they discover seem to
exist beyond the context of discovery.

As for Ruth and Kant. Well since Kant basically accepted Hume's ontology
for his phenomenal world and put Reason and morality in that other never to
be accessed world, then when we are dealing with Hume we are dealing with
Kant. It is for this reason that Hegel considered Kant's solution to be an
act of cowardice.

Also, crucial in understanding RB's transcendental arguments is what he
says in PON:

"Now misunderstandings about the intentions of transcendental arguments
often stem from the failure to appreciate the contexts in which they are
developed - against already existing philosophical theories."

And as he says 

"the transcendental consideration is not deployed in a philosophical
vacuum: it is designed to situate, or replace, and existing theory; and may
of course come, in time to suffer a similar fate." (PON 7)

Back to lurking.



Dr. Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales
telephone: +44 (0)1970-621769
fax      : +44 (0)1970-622709

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