File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 312


Subject: Re: BHA: Voloshinov etc - response to Jamie/Marshall
Date: Sat, 20 Dec 2003 13:16:59 -0500


Hi Steve--

You wrote:

> What worries me in  turn about 'realist' attitudes towards science is
> the tendency to believe that entities and scientific sub-disciplines and
> discourses like 'eugenics' might in any sense at all, not be human
> inventions but discoveries, as if a physics is not possible without the
> notion of gravity.

If you think that this is what CR holds, then you haven't understood what I
and others have consistently maintained: that ideas about the world are
social products.  You're battling a scarecrow and calling it critical
realism, when in fact it's something else -- something that sounds like
positivism.  This is a typical conventionalist position: that all viewpoints
that assert the existence and knowability of the world outside the mind are
tantamount to positivism.

> Isn't it the case that the reason you believe in  socio-historical
> products because you have to be able to address these cases prior to
> history smoothing out the actual events?

I have no clue what this means.  Which are "these cases" and what
distinguishes them from other cases?  What is prior to history?  History
(not people) smoothes things?  What does that "smoothing" consist of?  Is
smoothing really inevitable, as you imply -- do people never disrupt prior
understandings of the past?

> Whilst I have reservations of  writing notes about everyday objects - I
> am inclined to push for the extreme case in relation to Mt Fuji - this
> being that in all its senses it is a construction, an invention because
> the Real remains untouchable. (Besides it's not a mountain its a rubbish
> tip covered with the detritious of  human beings...)

Your reluctance to consider everyday objects is interesting -- it suggests a
severe epistemological problem in theorizing practice.  Anyway, who cares if
the "Real" is "untouchable"?  You still have to live with it.  Likewise,
you'll never be able to truly know the thoughts of the people you love.  Boo
hoo.  Now get over it, and treat those people as well as you can.

(Marsh is dead on when he points out your Cartesian anxiety about
uncertainty.)

>             Obviously he was and is a realist - just one
> who believed that for example therre was nothing inevitable about the
> vistory of Max Planck over  Ernst Mach...

Indeed there wasn't.  So who are you trying to convince?

> I have to insist on the difference between a 'scientific entity' and the
> everyday object of  my having 'TB'  - certainly I  can catch TB but only
> since the moment of it's invention, prior to that it would probably been
> some miasma or other.

Yes, but you're begging the question.  Whether we understand the disease as
TB or a miasma, there's still an "it" (the disease) there, making you sick.
Both theories are efforts to understand something that is independent of the
mind itself, and "'inertia plancks" would be too.  Moreover, which ever
theory you choose, you're equally sick and coughing up blood.  But there are
reasons why one theory drives out another, and they're not a matter of free
choice.  Science being a social activity, sociological reasons may be among
them, and that's particularly true when the object of study is itself
social.  But there are also reasons of evidence -- the ability be specific,
to explain more things, to show the nuts and bolts of how something occurs,
and so forth.

>             Ultimately you are suggesting that CR
> as you are collectively representing it is more socially acceptable and
> understandable than suggesting to a student (or indeed to a person in a
> bar to keep it even more everyday) that things are not discovered but
> invented etc...

Well, yes.  What's so great about arcane and elitist, aside from the feeling
of superiority?  Or so awful about a viewpoint that validates people's
ability to act in the world?  Of course, the notion that everything is
invented is a fun fantasy, akin to "The Matrix," for pretty much the same
reasons.

Anyway I think it's curious -- dare I say, symptomatic? -- that you've never
answered my key questions, like (again) whether there is any possibility for
error, and if so, how that can be.  What's the problem?

I'm sorry if I sound abrasive, but I don't feel you've really been reading
what people have written

Regards,

T.

---
Tobin Nellhaus
nellhaus-AT-mail.com
"Faith requires us to be materialists without flinching": C.S. Peirce




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