File spoon-archives/habermas.archive/habermas_2001/habermas.0102, message 37

Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2001 14:19:02 -0800 (PST)
Subject: HAB: Addendum, re: defeasibility vs fallibilism

I think I may have fostered misunderstanding at one point in my
spontaneous posting a short while ago. I didn't want to imply that I
believe that science is aprioristic, when I stated that: 

>...never is skepticism in science fallibilistic, except at the level
of discourse in the foundations of science (if at all....

Of COURSE science is (SHOULD be) always open to fundamental
questioning about its presuppositions, both as a matter of its
coherences of theories and its logic of inquiry. But standardly,
scientific *inquiry* is not needing to work at that level; doing
science isn't as such always doing philosophy of science. Science is
*always* defeasible, but not always insecure metatheoretically or
philosophically; science can have good reason to be confident about
itself, while still working open-mindedly. Metatheoretical or
philosophical challenges--within which fallibilism is a stance--is a
special discourse in "science" (a complex community of levels of
focus), even to the extent that fundamental presumptions of
reality-definition and inquiry are always already implied in any
specific research project. One might indeed be open to the
appropriateness of foundational inquiry at any time (as, for example,
recent *experimental* research in physics on the muon throws into
question the entire "standard model" of *theoetical* physics
(NYTimes, Science, week of Feb 5). But this is different from taking
a *principled* stance of *skepticism* toward the viability of one's
discipline. So, it seems to me that science is premised on
defeasibility, but not fallibilism. 

IN foundational discourse, one might take a fallibilistic stance
(Feyerabend? Foucault?), but that's a special matter of one's
ontological dispositions (ontological insecurities--which one may
have for good reason!), which is merely *part* of the history of
science. Also, fallibilism hints of nihilism, it seems to me, rather
than reflective openness in inquiry.  

I wish I had thought to say this kind of thing earlier. 

Regards to all,


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