is science "socially neutral"?

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andy g
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May 22 2012 13:46
is science "socially neutral"?

this question came up elsewhere and it was suggested (take a bow LBird)warranted a thread of its own......

where to start? I suppose we can all agree that the positivist model of science as a "value free" endeavour completely divorced fromt he social context in which it is pursued is cack. Science is a social practice after all and subject to material determinations like any other. I think sociologists of science have called this its "extrinsic" logic or dimension. I guess I'm thinking of the way social imperatives guide and shape research, not least throught he disbursement of funds. how far can (or should) we push this though? is science (and instrumental rationality) just a means to domination, the assertion of truth merely an aspect of the "will-to-power"? post-modernists love this stuff and it's extremely politically disabling - if everything is just an interest laden point of view we can't even interpret the world in a meaningful way, never mind change it.

Those calling themselves marxists (or should that be marxians?!) have tied themselves into all sorts of knots over this one. Hilferding spoiled a brilliant book on Finance Capital by saying in the preface that his was a scientific study and therefore value-free and politically neutral. In the period of high Stalinism Lysenko took the opposite approach stating there was a class line in science and mendelian genetics was anti-proletarian. Gramsci and Lukacs reacted to Second International fatalism by posing a rupture between marxism and science - Lukacs seems to me to have identified analytical and numeric methods with reification and commosdity fetishism.

what do comrades think? (apart from that I should probably get out more, obviously....)

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jura
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May 22 2012 14:06

I'm largely oldschool pro-Enlightenment on this. Science, as any human enterprise, is socio-historically conditioned (this is sometimes called "externalism" in philosophy of science), of course. But if it's done in a proper and honest way, its results are – in their objectivity, rationality, correctibility, accessibility, self-critical attitude, and openness to progress – infinitely superior to superstition, religion, ideology or 1970s French literary criticism. As such, science (both natural and social) has a genuine emancipatory potential which communists should embrace.

Of course, class or social relations more generally can influence particular scientific endeavors or even whole disciplines (political economy), but I don't think it's very useful to distinguish "bourgeois" and "proletarian" science. (And it can be dangerous as well.) There is good science and bad science. The adjective "proletarian", like when used by operaists, can be a nice piece of rhetoric used to emphasize the perspective, but "proletarian science" can as well be done by scientists with "bourgeois" backgrounds.

Of course, the "proper way" of doing science is in itself a huge issue.

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Entdinglichung
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May 22 2012 14:10

Gesellschaftsform und Erkenntnisform. Zum Zusammenhang von wissenschaftlicher Erfahrung und gesellschaftlicher Entwicklung by Bodo von Greiff, a pupil of Sohn-Rethel is a good book on the topic and like most good books not translated into English: strictly speaking, an experiment only shows that things are working are under the circumstances of the experiment which is in itself a human intervention and invention

andy g
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May 22 2012 14:31

jura

agreed - I am old school in this respect too in terms of defending philospjhical realism and the possibility of objective truth etc.

there is a tradition within Marxism that has been called historicism that sees historical materialism not as a science but as the self-knowledge of the working class or sometimes even of "the historical process". there is certainly also an antipathy to natural science amongst some marxists. both could probably claim some textual justification in marx and engels. equally the Kautskys and Hilferdings could claim some continuity with the later Engels and probably Marx.

how do we resolve those contradictory tendencies?

Entdinglichung:

I completely accept that experiment involves human manipulation of nature to create artificial "closed" conditions so that the structure/mechanism under investigation can be considered in "pure" state.

I suppose my question(s) were more to do with the interests and forces guiding that intervention and their implication for how we view the findings of science

LBird
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May 22 2012 14:39
andy g wrote:
is science "socially neutral"?

The simple answer to this is 'no'.

andy g wrote:
Science is a social practice...
jura wrote:
Science, as any human enterprise, is socio-historically conditioned...
Entdinglichung wrote:
...the experiment which is in itself a human intervention and invention

I think we all agree that science is a social activity.

From this, surely it follows, if we live in a class society, that science is, to some extent, a 'class activity'.

jura wrote:
...I don't think it's very useful to distinguish "bourgeois" and "proletarian" science.

This seems to me to be the nub of the issue.

Can there be said to be a 'proletarian' form of science?

I think that we should try to determine what those differences would be, between 'bourgeois' and 'proletarian' science.

For example, I would expect proletarian science to be a collective democratic activity, rather than one held in thrall by 'experts'.

jura wrote:
Of course, the "proper way" of doing science is in itself a huge issue.

Yeah, and who determines 'proper'?

A minority of 'experts' or an accountable body?

andy g
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May 22 2012 15:02

LBird:

Is this not a question about the institutional organisation of science rather than its epistemological status? I think we can all agree the world would be a better place if science was democratised and technology employed for the public good. However, does the fact that it isn't mean it is no longer capable of revealing truths about nature or society that are more than articulations of class interest?

LBird
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May 22 2012 15:14
andy g wrote:
LBird:

Is this not a question about the institutional organisation of science rather than its epistemological status? I think we can all agree the world would be a better place if science was democratised and technology employed for the public good. However, does the fact that it isn't mean it is no longer capable of revealing truths about nature or society that are more than articulations of class interest?

Are 'epistemology' and 'truths' outside of society?

If not, is this 'society' outside of 'class interest'?

Black Badger
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May 22 2012 15:24

I will never understand why the promoters of the neutrality of Science cannot separate the methodology of Science from its practice, its inseparable historical organization as part of class domination (as if the Enlightenment Project itself were not a mechanism for streamlining class domination!), and its use as an intellectual bludgeon to curtail the public discussion of anything any individual Scientist might find troubling.

In a world based on class domination, nothing is neutral.

See Feyerabend to be sure, but my personal favorite is: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520259607
I also highly recommend these by the same author:
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/anthosci2.pdf
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/07%20Nature.pdf
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/Joys.pdf
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/Voltaire.pdf

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May 22 2012 15:31

I am not saying science is neutral. I'm saying I'll take Newton's "bourgeois" mechanics streamlining class domination over a mythological view of nature any day.

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May 22 2012 15:52

btw.: Chris Knight made the remark two years ago in a talk at the anarchist book fair that "science is, what works"

LBird
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May 22 2012 15:58
Black Badger wrote:
In a world based on class domination, nothing is neutral.

See Feyerabend to be sure, but my personal favorite is: http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520259607
I also highly recommend these by the same author:
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/anthosci2.pdf
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/07%20Nature.pdf
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/Joys.pdf
http://personal.uncc.edu/jmarks/pubs/Voltaire.pdf

Printed the pdfs, ordered the book.

Thanks, BB.

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May 22 2012 16:05
jura wrote:
I'm largely oldschool pro-Enlightenment on this. Science, as any human enterprise, is socio-historically conditioned (this is sometimes called "externalism" in philosophy of science), of course. But if it's done in a proper and honest way, its results are – in their objectivity, rationality, correctibility, accessibility, self-critical attitude, and openness to progress – infinitely superior to superstition, religion, ideology or 1970s French literary criticism. As such, science (both natural and social) has a genuine emancipatory potential which communists should embrace.

I think we accept "externalism" as a common agreement. I.e. that science is a paid-for activity and the interests of those who pay for it, strongly influences what research is done, what science gets practiced, etc. So research funding for particle physics is still far greater than that for condensed matter physics, not because of inherent possibilities for making useful advances (quite the opposite, by all accounts), but because politicians and the Military-Industrial Complex are still wowed by the Manhatten Project, the promise of military and industrial power held out by "big bang" physics and the dangling carrot of always-30-years-away fusion power.

But we could say that establishing whether neutrinos actually do travel faster than the speed of light (they didn't) would appear to be a question less open to internal bias within the investigative procedures.

But I think that space of scientific autonomy decreases as you climb the emergent levels towards the human scale. By the time you get to the life sciences and evolutionary genetics, you are already getting transparently ideological debates between the advocates of scientific racism (sociobiology, evolutionary psych, etc) and more left-wing geneticists (the likes of Gould, Lewontin, etc). The debate between Dawkins and Gould over whether "group selection" exists or a kind of genetic "methodological individualism" is at work, clearly parallel Thatcherite/neoliberal ideological arguments. Generally the distinction between "objectivity, rationality, correctibility, accessibility, self-critical attitude, and [...] ideology" disappears the closer you get to human level and an obvious impact of the "science" on questions of public policy. Steven Pinker is much more of an ideologue than a scientist, for e.g.

OTOH, I still think it makes sense to distinguish between "social science" and "hard science".

LBird
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May 22 2012 17:07
ocelot wrote:
Generally the distinction between "objectivity, rationality, correctibility, accessibility, self-critical attitude, and [...] ideology" disappears the closer you get to human level...

Isn't the study of physics an activity on the human level?

ocelot wrote:
OTOH, I still think it makes sense to distinguish between "social science" and "hard science".

'Hard'? Is 'hard' a synonym for 'non-human'?

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May 22 2012 18:11

I agree with you, ocelot, and by no means do I want to convey the impression that I think that how capitalism runs science is great. And yes, the debates in human/social science are almost by definition more ideological. (I like what Marx wrote in the Preface to Capital: "In the domain of Political Economy, free scientific inquiry meets not merely the same enemies as in all other domains. The peculiar nature of the materials it deals with, summons as foes into the field of battle the most violent, mean and malignant passions of the human breast, the Furies of private interest.")

On the other hand the progress made, e.g., in psychology (with impacts on a lot of other fields) over the last 60 years, from the dreadful behaviorism (which could obviously be analyzed as the expression of some pretty "bourgeois" presuppositions about Man) to more "left-wing", as you say, approaches which take into account human sociability, activity etc., convinces me that science (done properly, honestly and in pursuit of truth) is a progressive and emancipatory force.

Perhaps that is one of the reasons why some of the most important people in both natural and social science in the last 100 years were at least vaguely on our side, including some of the people who worked on the Manhattan Project.

andy g
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May 22 2012 20:39

LBird:

can't tell if you are just winding me up or wantonly misinterpreting my posts. i don't see how you can suggest i see science as "outside society" given I started off by asserting the opposite. i do think, however, that scientific theories have a validity independent of the historical context in which they emerge. The drive towards the quantification of nature in the sixteenth/seventeenth century could well have had something to do with the process of transition to a society dominated by abstract labour. does this make newton any less right about gravity or mechanics? capitalism may have shaped modern medicine in myriad ways but if my son gets ill i still take him to the doctor and some of the therapies prescribed work.

I did wonder if Feyerabend would pop up - kinda inevitable on a libertarian site - but it is worth pointing out that his work has been subject to some pretty searching criticism IMO

RedHughs
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May 22 2012 22:42

OK, A big, big topic.

LBird wrote:
andy g wrote:
is science "socially neutral"?

The simple answer to this is 'no'.

Sure and such simple answers don't serve the purpose of understanding terribly well.

There's science-the-systematic-enterprise and there's science the social institution. Obviously you can and often do have people who label themselves as scientists but are merely authorities or simple frauds or whatever.

Now modern physics in particular has provided really strong evidence that there is something like a material reality.

"Socially neutral" (or not) can have a number of meanings. Whether a given line of inquiry is pursued for neutral reasons, whether the information it provides is used for neutral reasons and whether it can be used for neutral reasons are all somewhat different questions. All of science has been pursued primarily for the purposes of building bourgeois society so its not neutral in some senses but some portion of bourgeois science can certainly be used for "general purpose" understanding and so is not utterly part-and-parcel of bourgeois society. Some part of bourgeois society themselves (like plumbing or vaccines) would probably be desirable under communism. Anyway, the situation requires complex "teasing out" unless all one wants to do is toss off simplistic slogans (and hey, sometimes simplistic slogan have their worth in moment, just not if you're aiming for deeper understanding).

The general scientific methodology of formulating hypotheses, creating experiments and expecting others to be able to repeat those experiments are an excellent way to sift out the self-deception that often affects our understanding of the world. That said, this scientific methodology has always also relied on making mathematical models of the world and these mathematical models themselves rely on modeling uniform space. Living things possess a nonuniformity which inhibits something like the nearly complete understanding human beings have of planetary motion or subatomic particles. And the study of humans themselves has presented the greatest challenge for human science, on the one hand, the closer one comes to human society, the greater the human scientist's temptation to shift to using the statements and formulations to serve one or another agendas and on the other hand, human beings themselves are perhaps the most adaptable and changeable animal and thus humans more or less never sit still to allow any experiment to be repeated.

I would also claim that there is a great amount of still-useful information that is neither "entirely objective" nor "entirely subjective". The simplest example is "directions" - when you give a person directions concerning how to arrive at a given location, you are utilizing a whole variety of socially shared assumptions. A statement as simple as "You'll reach that house if you keep going straight till Broadway and then turn right" depends on a wide circle of assumptions shared between the communicators.

We should also note that the enterprise label "science" was viewed somewhat differently in the 19th century versus today. It seems like 19th century science attempted "larger" statements than 20th/21st century science. This had the danger of running into purely subjective pronouncements but the benefit of seeing larger systems.

Economic Analyses in general certainly can't claim the kind of exact, repeatable quality of, say, nuclear physics but it certainly uses mathematical structures to give a stronger "intuition" to its analyses than just verbal arguments have. In many ways, I'd say this puts it somewhat between the relative objectivity of physics and the subjectivity of, say, esthetic judgments.

That's just for starters...

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888
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May 23 2012 01:52
Entdinglichung wrote:
Gesellschaftsform und Erkenntnisform. Zum Zusammenhang von wissenschaftlicher Erfahrung und gesellschaftlicher Entwicklung by Bodo von Greiff, a pupil of Sohn-Rethel is a good book on the topic and like most good books not translated into English: strictly speaking, an experiment only shows that things are working are under the circumstances of the experiment which is in itself a human intervention and invention

But so what? We can extrapolate from those results that the things will almost certainly also work under different circumstances. It seems like a trivial observation.

LBird
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May 23 2012 05:27
andy g wrote:
LBird:

can't tell if you are just winding me up or wantonly misinterpreting my posts.

There's always the third option, mate: That I'm neither 'winding you up' nor 'misinterpreting your posts', but merely trying to explore some inconsistency in what you say.

For example, taken from your 'indignant' post:

andy g wrote:
i don't see how you can suggest i see science as "outside society" given I started off by asserting the opposite.

No, I agree with you, here - you 'asserted the opposite': 'science is part of society', and I agree with that, too.

However, you continue:

andy g wrote:
i do think, however, that scientific theories have a validity independent of the historical context in which they emerge.

This, to me, seems to argue the opposite of 'science is social'. 'Independent validity'? Outside of 'historical context' sounds very like outside of 'social context'.

Perhaps we are misunderstanding each other, and so need to discuss it further. But 'winding up' or 'wanton misinterpretation'? No.

RedHughs wrote:
Sure and such simple answers don't serve the purpose of understanding terribly well.

Well, considering your wider post seems to agree with me that the answer is 'no', I'm not sure why we can't sum up in a clear way. Of course, explanation of 'simple answers' is crucial, but this is an internet forum. As such, I'm all for 'simple answers', to help orientate our comrades.

888 wrote:
But so what? We can extrapolate from those results that the things will almost certainly also work under different circumstances. It seems like a trivial observation.

It's not 'trivial' because it puts humans at the heart of scientific activity. And where there's humans, there's society, and where there's society, there's class...

...and so back to our central issue, I think.

Can a 'proletarian science' be identified? If so, what would be its characteristics?

andy g
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May 23 2012 08:12

LBird:

"indignant"? moi?

I don't see a contradiction in saying that science takes place in determinate social contexts and that it produces knowledge that isn't reducible or wholly relative to that context. if we believe that nature is composed of particulars/structures/relations/mechanisms that are existentially independent of us then it doesn't seem hugely problematic to state knowledge gained of theses will apply "trans-historically". nuclear physics won't be abolished by a victorious proletariat, will it?

That being said it is evident that science is subject to social pressures bith in the areas studied and in the analogical models employed in constructing explaination (mind as clockwork mechanism/filing cabinet/super-computer etc). This is the real tension i was hinting at and, yes, one i struggle to resolve.

I think "proletarian science" a nonsense and still maintain it does not clearly identify what you are talking about. Do you mean the institutions through which science would be pursued and the way in which research priorities would be set? Or, do you mean that the methodology of science would be transformed by revolution? if so, why do you think so? "Proletarian science" is so irredeemably tainted by Stalinism as to make the term about as attractive as syphillis - Mendel as agent of bourgeois imperialism anyone?

Agreed that there is some difference here between social and natural sciences given the differences in the object of study. seem to remember Trotsky making the point in Literature and Revolution but don't dare pursue that one on here!

LBird
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May 23 2012 08:41
andy g wrote:
I don't see a contradiction in saying that science takes place in determinate social contexts and that it produces knowledge that isn't reducible or wholly relative to that context.

Not 'reducible'? OK. Not 'wholly relative'? I'll go with that.

What about 'partially relative', though?

If this is an acceptable third option, what 'parts' are 'relative to social context'?

andy g wrote:
if we believe that nature is composed of particulars/structures/relations/mechanisms that are existentially independent of us then it doesn't seem hugely problematic to state knowledge gained of theses will apply "trans-historically".

Ahhh... this is much more problematic.

To accept, as I think we all do, that 'nature is independent', doesn't mean that we should think that our 'knowledge' of that 'real material world' is 'trans-historic'. That is a term which to my ears sounds very like 'objective truth' and echoes positivist notions of science.

andy g wrote:
That being said it is evident that science is subject to social pressures... This is the real tension i was hinting at and, yes, one i struggle to resolve.

Well, thats what we're attempting to do here, aren't we?

andy g wrote:
I think "proletarian science" a nonsense and still maintain it does not clearly identify what you are talking about.

You're right, I'm not at all clear myself, which is why I'm keen to discuss it with comrades like you.

But, I'm inclined to think that there will be differences between the activity and view of science under Communism as compared with the travesty we suffer under now. Whether 'proletarian science' as a title for the newer science is apt remains to be seen.

andy g wrote:
"Proletarian science" is so irredeemably tainted by Stalinism as to make the term about as attractive as syphillis...

This is, I think, the real reason why my using of the term 'proletarian science' is causing so much of a problem!

Still, I think it is necessary to draw a divide between 'science' now and 'science' under Communism.

Let's keep discussing it.

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May 23 2012 09:14
andy g wrote:
nuclear physics won't be abolished by a victorious proletariat, will it?

Wrong comrade! The Standard Model is a capitalist chimera. Bosons are bourgeois! Our atheistic Proletarian Field Theory will banish the spectre of the God particle forever!

(sorry, couldn't resist... embarrassed )

yourmum
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May 23 2012 09:35

lolcelot grin proletarian thermodynamics, cant wait for it. fool's topic, expected LBird to get involved.

andy g
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May 23 2012 09:36

I do believe in the possibility of objective knowledge of nature and hold to a realist theory of truth (in as far as I understand it). This has little to do with positivism though...

My problem with your formulations is that you don't seem to acknowledge the "objectivity" od scientific knowledge at all, in however qualified a form. You seem to agree with BlackBadger that science is just an expression of class domination and this seems to me indefensible.

You haven't really responded to my point about the "divide" you refer to between science now ("travesty" or not) and science under communism. Are you talking about the way "science" is organised, how access to it could be democratised etc? Or are you saying that contemporary science is an expression of capitalist class power and will be rejected. Are you suggesting that the methodology and procedures of science will change - no to bourgeois experiments! - and if so why? I'm inclined to believe it's the nature of the object of study that determines the methods relevant to understanding it (at least to some degree) - there's no point trying to study sub-atomic particles with a pair of 3D specs - and if we accept the existence of objective reality then the victory of communism won't impact on these

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May 23 2012 10:00

Mattick wrote some stuff on Quantum mechanics & etc.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/mattick-paul/1960/new-physics.htm

Quote:
Still, it is difficult to see how dialectical materialism in physics could determine the political decisions of people one way or another or could be regarded an instrument of class struggle.
LBird
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May 23 2012 10:31
andy g wrote:
I do believe in the possibility of objective knowledge of nature and hold to a realist theory of truth...

But isn't 'a realist theory of truth' fundamentally a 'social' theory? The 'truth' produced by realism has to be tested against 'reality' through practice. That's a long way from 'objective knowledge of nature'.

andy g wrote:
My problem with your formulations is that you don't seem to acknowledge the "objectivity" od scientific knowledge at all, in however qualified a form.

Well, we haven't got to that issue, yet. I'm still trying to pin you down on what you mean when you say you agree that 'science is social', and by implication not 'neutral'. But apparently it can produce 'neutral' knowledge, outside of human input.

But, to continue with your point about 'objectivity', I think 'objectivity' is relative, and that knowledge produced by the proletariat is more 'objective' than that produced by the bourgeoisie. Knowledge is always social knowledge, the product of human society, and is always selective knowledge, the product of 'social selection parameters'.

andy g wrote:
You seem to agree with BlackBadger that science is just an expression of class domination and this seems to me indefensible.

I don't know anyone who holds to the strawman 'just an expression'. If BB is saying this, I don't agree. Science is social, and is linked to the classes which produce it, and this linkage needs examination, but that's a long way from 'just'. It's clearly more than 'just', and posing the question as 'all or nothing' gets us nowhere. There is something to be discussed.

andy g wrote:
You haven't really responded to my point about the "divide" you refer to between science now ("travesty" or not) and science under communism.

I'm still trying to deal with:

andy g wrote:
...if we accept the existence of objective reality then the victory of communism won't impact on these

But we're not talking about 'objective reality', unless we're positivists, are we?

We're talking about human understanding of 'reality', which is a social understanding. And if we are, surely Communism will impact on our understanding of reality (natural and social).

We need to get this straight before we advance any further, I'm afraid.

Ocelot, look at the associate you've unfortunately attracted. You're right be be shame-faced.

LBird
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May 23 2012 10:34

dp

andy g
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May 23 2012 11:17

LBird

We obviously have a different understanding of realism. not sure what a "social" theory is in this context. by realism i meant he belief in a nature independent of our attmepts to understand it. and by a realist theroy of knowledge I mean the truth of a proposition being determined by its correspondence to said objective reality not by the class position of the knowing subject.

This has naff all to do with positivism. And I don't much hold with pragmatist theories of knowledge. Will we only have reasonable grounds to accept the scientific value of historical materialism after it has "proved itself" in practice through world revolution? If so, we may as well not bother studying until then...

scientist operate in definite social contexts. I doubt it is fruitful to consider scientific theories as "class based" in general. I would be interested to see an example of class based physics or chemistry. I think the links between science and the society in which it is practised are much more subtle than that. To propose something much involved as an alternative explanation of this will take a lot more reading.

your "more objective than objective" proletarian class consciousness point seems hopelessly muddled to me. relativity isn't relativism and to say a given corpus of scientific knowledge is produced in definite historical contexts isn't to say it's validity is restricted to that context. "truth arises in the consciousness of the proletariat as it is a universal class" stuff really doesn't appeal - Lukacs and Gramsci (at least his philosophical stuff) have never really done it for me

LBird
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May 23 2012 12:09
andy g wrote:
...truth of a proposition...

But a proposition is 'proposed' by humans. Using selection parameters.

Bourgeois 'propositions' will be confirmed as 'true' as readily as proletarian 'propositions', by that part of reality that they select for examination in confirmation.

'Science' costantly produces 'truths' that turn out to be nothing of the sort, whether physical or social.

andy g wrote:
I would be interested to see an example of class based physics or chemistry.

'Physics or chemistry' doesn't exhaust 'science' - why can't an example be drawn from biology or sociology?

But on physics, don't you think there are links between Newton's 'science' and the bourgeoisie?

Perhaps have a look at Hessen's The Social and Economic Roots of Newton's Principia.

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May 23 2012 12:12
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But on physics, don't you think there are links between Newton's 'science' and the bourgeoisie?

Does that make Newton's optics inferior to the everyday knowledge of a proletarian child who sees a spoon in a glass of water and thinks it's bent?

LBird
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May 23 2012 12:22
jura wrote:
Does that make Newton's optics inferior to the everyday knowledge of a proletarian child who sees a spoon in a glass of water and thinks it's bent?

I'm not sure what point you're trying to make, jura.

Are the proletariat 'childlike' in comparison to 'great bourgeois thinkers'?

andy g wrote:
...by a realist theroy of knowledge...

A further thought, andy: since for realists, as you say you are, as am I, 'reality is stratified', how can it be scientific to focus on only one level, for example, the physical or chemical? Surely a proper scientific consideration will try to address 'reality' on all levels simultaneously, if it is to produce 'objective' knowledge?

I'd say that realism holds this to be impossible.

andy g
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May 23 2012 12:43

LBird

I think I mentioned earlier that it was possible to argue for a connection between the "scientific revolution" and the growth of capitalism. this doesn't make Newton a spokesman for the capitalist class or make his theories true only under capitalism or only for the capitalist class. I'll look up the reference you provided though.

this stuff about "selection criteria" is decidedly dubious too. a committed communist of proletarian origin and a rabid Tory of aristocratic pedigree both study the same subject - ballistics, say - now does their class position affect there "selection criteria"?

I chose physics and chemistry deliberately as they are the most difficult to maintain a "class line in science" on. As I and others have said the closer the object of study comes to the mechanisms of power in society the less "neutral" "science" becomes. But you haven't framed your points in those terms.

as for your last point, accepting "ontological depth" doesn't mean you can't explain anything without explaining everything. emergent powers aren't reducible to other more "basic" ones and demand their own explanation.

give up on this "I'm so proletarian" stuff with Jura too - it is a childish substitute for an argument. I'm a worker and haven't been to university - so what?!?!? doesn't give me privileged access to truth - although I'm not quite sure you'd accept that.....