File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1999/bhaskar.9911, message 8

Date: Sun, 7 Nov 1999 21:07:36 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: Transcendental argument

Dear Colin,

Right. I got you wrong then. What threw me, I think, was 

It's not that we make
>expeiments themselves understandable, but the need to conduct them. 

But we do make experiments understandable (as well as the need to
conduct them!) Ultimately the same thing?


Colin Wight <> writes
>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 ---

Mervyn Hartwig

     --- from list ---


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