File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 325

Date: Sun, 21 Dec 2003 22:57:30 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: Voloshinov etc - response to Jamie/Marshall


I think 'naughty elves' would probably fail an empirical adeqacy test. 

Yes I've read the Hacking book -and am familiar with his argument  
bizarrely over the decades since he wrote it and I first read it, as a 
result of reading a text of his in the late lamented Ideology and 
Consciousness (I&C) the domain of knowledge known  as philosophy of 
science has redefined him as a non-realist - now how did that happen ? I 
assumed on reading this in a recent text of his that it was part of the 
ideological shift that took place during the neo-liberal 
counter-reformation in which conservative understandings, of which 
scientific realism is one,  became triumphalist and redefined the ground 
on which he stood.


Marshall Feldman wrote:

>I understand your position but think it wrong. Ian Hacking's book,
>_Representing and Intervening_, makes the case I'm going to make in more
>detail. He gives the example from nuclear physics of spraying a metal with a
>stream of sub-nuclear particles. Hacking says, "If you can spay it, it is
>real." With respect to Mt. Fuji, let's start with your hypothesis:
>Mt. Fuji as a 'real' mountain or not is irrelevant - as far as I can see
>'Mt. Fuji'  is a human invention - with a name, a label assigned to it,
>which for most of us defines it as an object.
>I do not think its reality is irrelevant. Let's start by agreeing it's a
>human invention. BUT it's an invention that makes claims about the world
>outside human discourse. This is a big BUT. As such, we might agree to
>explore the validity of this "invention" by walking in the area we designate
>as Mt. Fuji. As we go upwards according to what our invention designates as
>upwards, if the world conforms to our story we should grow tired. Sure
>enough, we do. Now we could also be growing tired because gravity does not
>exist, or what we call gravity is actually a force that always conforms to
>human expectations. Or there might be naughty elves who somehow make us
>tired. So, our story about there being a Mt. Fuji is not the only plausible

> HUMAN knowledge is
>always socially constructed, but that doesn't mean that all human knowledge
>is equally good.
>Whenever I've encountered arguments such as yours, it's seemed to me that in
>the last instance the argument depends on a combination of radical
>skepticism and what Richard Bernstein calls, the Cartesian anxiety --
>anxiety about imperfect and uncertain knowledge. I will grant you that yours
>is a logically coherent position. I just do not find it very useful. And, as
>others on this list have already indicated, one hardly ever finds someone
>who takes this position to do so consistently.

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