File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1999/bhaskar.9911, message 7

Date: Sun, 07 Nov 1999 11:30:38 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: Transcendental argument

Hi Mervyn,

in reply to my:

"I have always taken him to mean something like
>>"understand why it is necessary to engage in". 

you say you think the opposite. Sorry but I don't see why? I don't see any
point of conflict, or disagreement!

Your 2 (that the world must be open, intransitive etc.) explains 1
(scientific experiments), or as you say, makes them intelligible. I.e. in
my terms "makes understandable why it is necessary to engage in them (your
1)". Hence where is the opposition? 


>I've always thought the opposite, and need persuading. Let me lay what I
>think out like this (to pick up on Ruth's post too):
>1). Premise: scientific experimental activity (production of artificial
>closure, etc.)
>2). Transcendental deduction establishing conditions of possibility of
>the premise: given 1, the world must be open, intrasitive, structured
>3). Interlocking explanation (reversing the order of the deduction): 2
>explains 1, or renders it intelligible. 
>And this I think is what Bhaskar always means by 'intelligible' in such
>Cf the interesting discussion in DPF 108 where he insists that
>transcendental arguments are 'merely *types of the retroductive-
>explanatory argument form familiar to science'* - both (and dialectical
>arguments too) 'when achieved, are *two-way interlocking arguments*, in
>which the order of epistemic discovery - in the new level of ontological
>structure... - is reversed in the order of explanation, matching the
>ontological order.'
>So for Bhaskar, if you like, not only the premises but the form of
>argument itself are 'internal' to science.
>Now Ruth seems to say that 'intelligibility' is included in the premise,
>and I think this is absolutely right: there is an assumption in the
>premise that it is *possible* to explain (scientifically) scientific
>experiments (not sociologically, but in terms of the way the non-human
>world is). If it is then asked why make this assumption, then I would
>point people back to the discussion several weeks ago re relativism etc
>- Bhaskar is here 'taking his stance with science', there are no
>ultimate extra-scientific justifications, one is appealing to history,
>'it works', Big Ditch etc.
>I've found it a very interesting, thought-provoking discussion. Thanks.
>Colin Wight <> writes
>>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
>>     --- from list ---
>Mervyn Hartwig
>     --- from list ---

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

     --- from list ---


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