File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0111, message 36

Date: Sat, 1 Dec 2001 00:15:18 +0100
Subject: Re: BHA: Philosophy and the idea of freedom

Hi John,

i'd always had a soft spot for PIF, and i quess mainly because it contains
such a sharp interrogation of and attack on Rorty (section one of the book
is bluntly titled "Anti-Rorty"). In fact the book is -for the larger part- a
very critical (realist) inquiry of the ontological and epistmological claims
of postmodernism, of which Rorty is taken as its prime epigone.

Roughly sketched, Bhaskar is arguing/critiqueing the following:

- Rorty's account of science is basically a positivist-instrumentalist one;

- rationality (truth), according to Rorty, is just a paradigma (a language
  game, a story), thus one out of many possible justifiable paradigmata;

- Rorty's relativism leads to ontological scepticism and epistemological
  stoicism, and as such proclaims and defends the *status quo* in social
  reality (thus emancipation is impossible, or -at least- of relative value);

- Rorty's deontologized super-idealist epistemology rejects that the
  world has an intrinsic nature;

- Rorty's (re)description of human being, as 'a network of beliefs, desires
  and emotions with noting behind it', lacks any concept of an essential
  moral and political human subjectivity;

- for Rorty, freedom is grounded in ignorance.

All in all, Rorty is accused of (i) lacking a substantial ontology (i.e. no
ID) and (ii) a relativist and antropomorphic epistemology (no JR), and
(iii) is thusly unmasked as the ideologue of the 'leisured elite -
yuppies - neither racked by pain nor immersed in toil', one explicitely
defending the status quo in social reality.


below a paragraph on the 'c ref' and 'p ref' stuff [cf. PIF: pp.112-113]:

  "I want to distinguish at the outset 'conversational reference' - c ref -
  and 'practical reference' - p ref. *Conversational referring* is a human,
  quasi-deictic act by which, with any means to hand, one person tries
  to draw the attention of another to a being, event, etc. c ref is governed
  by conventions, such as those that underpin the institution of 'naming'
  and is primarily oriented to communicative success, including communi-
  cative success in the transitive dimension of scientific life. But such an
  act may be to a being whether it is present or not; it may be more or less
  communicatively successful; and the verbal means may be semantically
  incorrect or attributively false. *Practical referring* is a human, quasi-
  deictic act by meansof which one or more person achieves a physical
  relationship or link with some being, event, etc., which may have been
  previously more or less hidden or undetected. p ref is what is achieved
  in the existential discoveries, displays and demonstrations in the
  intransitive dimension of scientific life. 'Epistemic access' involves
  practical reference, and practical reference may involve capturing or
  landing on or reveiling or photographing something, temporarily or
  permanently (indefinitely) securing access either (a) to the denotation
  or (b) to some effect(s) of the denotation of a term. (a) and (b) correspond
  respectively to our perceptual and causal criteria for attributing reality
  to things, etc. (cf. PON1, pp. 15-16; PON2, p. 12). p ref presupposes
  that the being, event, etc. has already been known and conversationally
  reffered to, e.g. as a hypothetical, postulated or imagined entity in
  theoretical science, under some indentifying description and before any
  baptism could occure. p ref, when secured, satisfies a modified form of
  the axiom of existence - what i will call the axiom of reality, AR:
  'whatever is p referred to must be real.' Thus something may be absent
  from its space-time region and so be non-existent in this sense, and yet
  this absence, precisely *qua* absence, may be real in virtue of its causal
  powers - the case of what i will call *radical negation* - and be p
  referred to. c ref (e.g. in the hypothetical or fictional modes) need not
  satisfy the axiom of reality."

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