is science "socially neutral"?

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andy g
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May 31 2012 11:41

justify your anti-science position then

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fabian
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May 31 2012 13:06

Anti- modern official science.

You mentioned performative contraditions. (Epistemological) relativism is an example of it. Modern official science thus is based on a performative contraditions, being that the also mentioned Popper "solved" the problem of induction not by introducing idealism or rationalism, but by calling all claims of knowledge provisional, rejecting empiricism for anti-justificationalism, whish is the same as (epistemilogical) relativism; which means that the way of moder official science "solved" the problem of induction is in fact a performative contradition.

Also, another performative contradition that modern official science commits is the rejection of Three laws of thought, being that the First law of though (as a foundation of language) is a apriori of discourse, and that the Second and Third of laws of thought are not in essence separate laws but correlates of the First one, and thus also apriori of discourse; which would say that theory of quantum superposition is a performative contradition.

andy g
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May 31 2012 13:14

Popper wasn't an "epistemological relativist" IMO. he argued that scientific hypotheses were provisional in the sense of incomplete, not context-relative. his proposed logic of scientific change is about constructing a rational means by which to judge between competing theories about real objects on the basis of how closely they "correspond" to it. can't see your point - other than perhaps that you have misunderstood Popper.

As for the so called justification of your opposition to "official science" - eh?????????? once again in comprehensible from please...

andy g
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May 31 2012 13:18

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper

you might want to look at this....

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May 31 2012 13:44
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. can't see your point - other than perhaps that you have misunderstood Popper.

Actually, I'd say you did.

I like to use this encyclopedia: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/popper/#GroHumKno

quote from that page "rather, all knowledge is provisional, conjectural, hypothetical—we can never finally prove our scientific theories, we can merely (provisionally) confirm or (conclusively) refute them"

So, he did not say that because of epistemological relativism all theories are ok, he said that theories can be refuted, and thus there is a possibility to judge between competing theories. But he is still a relativist in saying that the ones that are not refuted cannot be known to be truth, but can be confirmed only provisionally.

This is now an internal contradition, because relativism implies no truths (eg. existence of self, laws of thought, logic, reason, mathematics, trustability of senses, or their existence) by which we could conclusively even refute a claim, which was expanded on by Fayerabend, who resolved that contradition not by of rejecting relativism, but by embracing it fully.

andy g
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May 31 2012 14:07

hmmm... looking at the link you gave seems to imply either that you haven't read it or one of us is bonkers.

for instance, when it says

Quote:
Popper was initially uneasy with the concept of truth, and in his earliest writings he avoided asserting that a theory which is corroborated is true—for clearly if every theory is an open-ended hypothesis, as he maintains, then ipso facto it has to be at least potentially false. For this reason Popper restricted himself to the contention that a theory which is falsified is false and is known to be such, and that a theory which replaces a falsified theory (because it has a higher empirical content than the latter, and explains what has falsified it) is a ‘better theory’ than its predecessor. However, he came to accept Tarski's reformulation of the correspondence theory of truth, and in Conjectures and Refutations (1963) he integrated the concepts of truth and content to frame the metalogical concept of ‘truthlikeness’ or ‘verisimilitude’. A ‘good’ scientific theory, Popper thus argued, has a higher level of verisimilitude than its rivals, and he explicated this concept by reference to the logical consequences of theories.

don't see that as an endorsement of what you're claiming. We may not be able to say a given theory is "absolutley" true but this is not the same as saying no theory possesses any truth value and that we have no means of telling the more from the less true

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May 31 2012 14:53

So, he's a relativist that uses some fancy new words, and that means somehow magically it's no longer relativism? Yeah right.

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May 31 2012 14:53
fabian wrote:
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if we can't provide rational grounds for believing one account of reality over another

We can, we take first principles as foundations.
[...]
Also, another performative contradition that modern official science commits is the rejection of Three laws of thought, being that the First law of though (as a foundation of language) is a apriori of discourse, and that the Second and Third of laws of thought are not in essence separate laws but correlates of the First one, and thus also apriori of discourse; which would say that theory of quantum superposition is a performative contradition.

Platonist.

Getting back to the real discussion...

For the sake of argument, let's take a bit of George Lakoff's embodied consciousness and throw in a bit of D&G's distinction between science and philosophy - that science produces functions whereas philosophy produces concepts. Add this scrap from WP (Interpretations of QM) :

Quote:
What interpretations are interpretations of is a formalism — a set of equations and formulae for generating results and predictions — and a phenomenology, a set of observations, including both those obtained by empirical research, and more informal subjective ones (the fact that humans invariably observe an unequivocal world is important in the interpretation of quantum mechanics) . These are the more-or-less fixed ingredients of an interpretation.

I prefer the term "conceptualisation" to interpretation. So we have a 3-way relation between formalism, phenomenology and conceptualisation. The properly scientific process then, really works at the level of the feedback between the formalism - little machines that you put the numbers into, turn the crank, and get the results out - and the phenomenology - the experimental verification that those numbers match the ones found in real life.

Why conceptualise at all? What are concepts for? Concepts are cognitive tools. Just as mechanical tools are made to be grasped and manipulated by our four-fingered plus opposable-thumb hands - and we can imagine the physical tools made by some putative alien race that used tentacles or pincers, would be different from ours - concepts are constructed to fit our internal cognitive manipulators. These are no less products of our evolution than our hands. The same goes for the cognitive primitive components from which we fashion concepts. Why bother? Because it allows us to use more of our wider cognitive toolkit on the object of enquiry, from pattern recognition, trajectory projection, "what-if" counterfactuals produced through imagination, etc, etc. Which in turn allows us to hypothesise interesting edge cases that we can investigate through the formalism - phenomenology process.

The problem of QM is that the domain of investigation is so far removed from that within which evolution produced us, that the various attempts at producing a conceptualisation of the formalisms results in something so alien and counter-intuitive that it doesn't really help us "understand" anyway. Hence why a good proportion of people follow the "shut up and calculate" approach of just turning the crank on the formulae without worrying what they might "mean" on some bigger picture level.

Of course, as well as the limitations of the conceptual primitives that evolution has given us, we need to add in the ideological effects of social preconceptions, particularly the closer our domain of investigation gets to the social. Conceptualisation is a necessarily error-prone and somewhat contingent process. Doesn't mean it isn't useful or necessary, though.

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May 31 2012 15:09
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Platonist.

You say it like it's a bad thing.

Quote:
Getting back to the real discussion...

I understand, you don't want to deny my position, because you'd be commiting a performative contradiction.

andy g
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May 31 2012 15:15

nope, means that you shouldn't cite sources to support your position that, well, don't actually support your position. It's all very well going all "don't use fancy words" but you are the one who introduced the passage into argument in the first place!!!! wall

i can see the performative contradiction thing has stuck in your teeth....oh dear......

RedHughs
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May 31 2012 22:31

Hey,

Plato laid the philosophical foundations for Christianity, so I'd say ... he really could be all bad...

More seriously, I think Fabian's done a good job at least of showing that air-tight idealism never has to say it's wrong. Fabian knows what time, space, and relativisim are and no one will lead him/her out of this paradise. Certainly, all opinions besides his/hers are dogmatic...

To wander a bit from the "yes you did, no I didn't" side of the argument, one thing I realized recently is how the Western philosophical tradition is like English Common Law in the sense of being iterative. Since the strength of any given position is just its rhetorical force, no single position is going to overthrow the whole tradition when working within the tradition. Contemporary philosophers are still referencing medieval monks, at least implicitly. Even the many philosophers who reference Nietzsche, reference him, rewrite him essentially, as making a statement within this philosophical tradition as opposed to, say, actually taking-up the stirring anti-philosophical statement at the start of Human, All Too Human.

This is why I'd say something like Popperism is idiotic. A philosophical justification of science really makes as much sense as trying to come-up with a justification of the modern theory of planetary motion using the terminology and methodology of Tarot. Modern scientists, perhaps especially modern physicists, have grappled considerably with the question of how approximate data can be used to create verify relative exact and "absolute" laws (and laws that probabilistic at the same time they are predictive, moreover). There are still plenty of good, complex debates and hard problems here. It is simply that the physicist haven't retranslated these results and debates into the terms of philosophy - after all, the terms of philosophy are vaguer, cruder, more mystical, and less exact than what the "hard" sciences work with. Why should the physicist bother with any such translation?

Just consider the "Sokal Affair"

None of this is any kind of argument that all that we need are the concepts of the hard sciences, merely that philosophical objections to hard sciences as embedded in other parts of the modern complex of bourgeois specialists just seem like a retreat, from a specialty that might mix something like truth with mixed with ideology to a specialty that only spouts ideology.

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Jun 1 2012 10:19

Your dichotomy between hard science and philosophy does not really stand up in practice. In 1905 a Swiss Patent clerk produced four articles in Annalen der Physik which revolutionised physics. The amount of experimental work carried out by this clerk for those papers was precisely nil. They were the product of a non-specialist awareness of the contemporary puzzles of physics at the time (based on a few famous experiments done by others), a hability with the language of mathematics, and an extraordinary ability for original conceptualisation. I don't see how Einstein's achievement really fits the somewhat stereotyped dichotomy you propose, such as:

Quote:
There are still plenty of good, complex debates and hard problems here. It is simply that the physicist haven't retranslated these results and debates into the terms of philosophy - after all, the terms of philosophy are vaguer, cruder, more mystical, and less exact than what the "hard" sciences work with. Why should the physicist bother with any such translation?

The fact is that scientists deal with two languages. One of them, mathematical, which can enter into dialogue directly with measurements from experimental results (which remains the privilege locus of falsifiability). The other, is natural language, of trains, lights, clocks, passengers and observers on the platform - upon which the cognitive tools of analogy, simile and metaphor can be brought to bear. Such activity of conceptualisation is indistinguishable from the practice of philosophy. Of course there is a distinction between the conceptualisation of a particular scientific theory, and a meta-conceptualisaton of a "philosophy of science". In the case of Popper, his work was really much more to do with attacking Fascism and Communism (Stalinism) than anything to do with science. The Mont Pelerin Society had bugger all to do with science, after all. Kuhn's work was more to do with looking at how the dialectic between conservatism and change works within the practice of science itself, and Lakatos is somewhere between the two (although, in his applicability to political projects, less overtly reactionary than his mentor).

Re the Sokal affair, I would recommend Sokal and Bricmont's "Intellectual Impostures". Both because it is funny, but also because in it Sokal makes clear that his point was about the misuse of scientific or mathematical concepts by non-scientists to say things about science that were bullshit. He does, however, make clear that he passes no judgement on the philosophical validity of the use of concepts purloined from maths or science for the construction of philosophical apparatus. In other words, Sokal is no deconstruction of the philosophical toolbox of D&G for e.g. A nuance that sometimes seems to escape enthusiastic referees to the Sokal hoax. It doesn't say what you think it says guys, sorry.

andy g
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Jun 1 2012 11:48

hey ocelot - insightful and frighteningly well read as usual, you can go off someone you know!!!!

didn't mean my posts to be taken as a wholesale endorsement of Popper or his politics (obviously, I hope). slightly unfair though to reduce his work to "theoretical anti-totalitarianism", whatever its role in motivating it. this debate has prompted me to dig out old copies of Popper and others, a "fact" (socially constructed, of course) I suppose I should thank fabian and LBird for!

never got on with Delueuze and Guattari and am sufficiently out of touch to not know much about Lakoff.

Must try harder.....

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jura
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Jun 1 2012 13:04

BTW, Karl Popper thanks at the beginning of The Logic of Scientific Discovery to a certain Karl Hilferding, the son of Rudolf Hilferding.

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Jun 1 2012 13:56

Well Popper was originally an Austro-Marxist, so knowing the Hilferdings would have been fairly natural, I would have thought. (Speaking of obscure books, and a tenous Vienna connection, "Wittgenstein's Poker" about the famous confrontation between W and Popper at Cambridge, is a gem, pure gas - total deviation, soz).

RedHughs
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Jun 1 2012 21:18

Rearranging Ocelot's passages to clarify some arguments...

Quote:
The fact is that scientists deal with two languages. One of them, mathematical, which can enter into dialogue directly with measurements from experimental results (which remains the privilege locus of falsifiability). The other, is natural language, of trains, lights, clocks, passengers and observers on the platform - upon which the cognitive tools of analogy, simile and metaphor can be brought to bear. Such activity of conceptualisation is indistinguishable from the practice of philosophy.

Can you support this later claim? Of course, you might be talking about just what you'd consider "philosophy in general" but I hope I made it clear that what I was talking about philosophy as the specific, socially recognized traditions of philosophy today (Sure, that is ipso facto capitalist philosophy).

If you can show that some significant proportion of currently recognized philosophers derive their position primarily through the simple use of "the cognitive tools of analogy, simile and metaphor" rather than being extensions of the various schools, traditions and arguments of their recognized predecessors, well I'll eat crow.

Also, I don't believe you can speak of "natural language" or "analogy, simile and metaphor" as "tools" in the abstract, ie, outside of one or another historical context.

...........

Now going back to Einstein:

ocelot wrote:
They were the product of a non-specialist awareness of the contemporary puzzles of physics at the time (based on a few famous experiments done by others), a hability with the language of mathematics, and an extraordinary ability for original conceptualisation.

While this passage involves an impressive use of adjectives, the way you use "non-specialist" seems foggy at best, false at worst. Einstein had a teaching degree in physics and math before he started working at the patent office, studied well known mathematicians and philosophers (even) during his time at the patent office and was awarded his Phd after his first famous paper and before he formulated Special Relativity. Essentially, one would say today that "Einstein's career had stalled" but that he made one further effort got back in the game, "big time".

Basically, Einstein was not a laymen who just formulated a grand theory one day even if he wasn't a fully recognized physicist. While Einstein indeed performed no experiments himself, his result was important for giving an explanation for the results of the well-known-as-you-say Michaelson-Morley experiment and so Einstein was certainly operating within the "cycle" of experiment-theory-experiment which characterizes science.

I'll gladly admit that it is ambiguous in your silver-tongued passage above whether you are really claiming that Einstein was a genius layman who formulated his theory primarily using the elemental "cognitive tools of analogy, simile and metaphor" but it seems like such a claim is necessary for the rest of your paean to philosophy.

ocelot wrote:
Your dichotomy between hard science ...

I don't think you can read the passage of mine you quote as meaning anything but a (relative) dichotomy in the present day. I'd certainly concede the philosophy of 1900 was influencing the physics of 1900, though I'd suggest much less the opposite and that's where the problem I'm complain about might be said to begin.

Contrary to your characterization of my previous argument, my point wasn't that there was an absolute conceptual barrier between the sciences and philosophy but that the practice of philosophy at present has had to conform to its traditions and hasn't had an incentive to take into account the revolutionizing of the world which has accompanied capitalism's revolutionizing of the means of production. Science, for whatever other problems it might have, has on the contrary been part of the revolutionizing of the world and has had to have some base accuracy. Like anything one talks about in the modern world, this is a tendency, not an "absolute dichotomy".

bzfgt
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Jun 6 2012 01:05

That's a half-baked, non-specific and, by any reasonable standard, false account of "philosophy"...on the other hand, is there a "tendency" in that direction? Of course...but it seems like you're running a bait and switch (not intentionally, of course, so sorry if that sounds harsh) between "a tendency" and "the defining tendency."

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Jun 6 2012 10:06
RedHughs wrote:
Rearranging Ocelot's passages to clarify some arguments...
Quote:
The fact is that scientists deal with two languages. One of them, mathematical, which can enter into dialogue directly with measurements from experimental results (which remains the privilege locus of falsifiability). The other, is natural language, of trains, lights, clocks, passengers and observers on the platform - upon which the cognitive tools of analogy, simile and metaphor can be brought to bear. Such activity of conceptualisation is indistinguishable from the practice of philosophy.

Can you support this later claim? Of course, you might be talking about just what you'd consider "philosophy in general" but I hope I made it clear that what I was talking about philosophy as the specific, socially recognized traditions of philosophy today (Sure, that is ipso facto capitalist philosophy).

Well of course I am talking about philosophy "in general" (i.e. as the word is generally used). It's hard to have any kind of conversation if the rest of us are restricted to using your personal special re-definitions of words. Either you accept that founding your statements on idiosyncratic definitions results in purely circular statements - with no information or truth value at all - or you engage in dialogue with the rest of the world about the relationship between science and philosophy. Your choice.

RedHughs wrote:
If you can show that some significant proportion of currently recognized philosophers derive their position primarily through the simple use of "the cognitive tools of analogy, simile and metaphor" rather than being extensions of the various schools, traditions and arguments of their recognized predecessors, well I'll eat crow.

Currently recognised by whom? If you want examples then I'd say the work of Geoffry Bateson (e.g. Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Christopher Alexander (see Patterns), Marcel Mauss (The Gift), Douglad Hofstadter (Godel, Escher, Bach) etc, etc). The point is that many people from many different fields, including scientific ones, find the conceptualisation efforts required in their work, often tend to lead them into philosophy. From backgrounds as diverse as physics, mathematics, computer science, biology, anthropology, psychology, etc, etc. That, in my view, is because the attempt to draw a definitive line and say that on one side is the conceptualisation proper to a particular field, and on the other lies "pure philosophy", is unachievable.

RedHughs wrote:
Now going back to Einstein:
[...]
I'll gladly admit that it is ambiguous in your silver-tongued passage above whether you are really claiming that Einstein was a genius layman who formulated his theory primarily using the elemental "cognitive tools of analogy, simile and metaphor" but it seems like such a claim is necessary for the rest of your paean to philosophy.

3 Things. 1) The discussion group that Einstein formed in Bern, discussed both philosophy and science. 2) None of what you say contradicts the basic premise that the breakthroughs in the 1905 papers were achieved through "thought experiments" - i.e. conceptualisation (backed by maths). 3) When Einstein rejected Bohr's "Copenhagen Interpretation" of QM, he did so on the basis that "God does not play dice with the universe" - which, at least imho, clearly lies nearer the philosophical than the scientific end of the spectrum, as far as positions go. (Popper also reacted in the same way - based on equally "non-falsifiable" prejudices, it must be said). Further on that topic, Einstein also said "I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with the fates and actions of human beings.".

RedHughs wrote:
ocelot wrote:
Your dichotomy between hard science ...

I don't think you can read the passage of mine you quote as meaning anything but a (relative) dichotomy in the present day. I'd certainly concede the philosophy of 1900 was influencing the physics of 1900, though I'd suggest much less the opposite and that's where the problem I'm complain about might be said to begin.

Contrary to your characterization of my previous argument, my point wasn't that there was an absolute conceptual barrier between the sciences and philosophy but that the practice of philosophy at present has had to conform to its traditions and hasn't had an incentive to take into account the revolutionizing of the world which has accompanied capitalism's revolutionizing of the means of production. Science, for whatever other problems it might have, has on the contrary been part of the revolutionizing of the world and has had to have some base accuracy. Like anything one talks about in the modern world, this is a tendency, not an "absolute dichotomy".

OK, so you accept that posing a dichotomy between science and philosophy is wrong. Fine with me.

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Jun 6 2012 13:01

I think the following from Marshall Mcluhan's 'Understanding Media: the extensions of man' ought to be of pertinent interest:

"Nothing could be more subversive to the Marxian dialectic than the idea that linguistic media shape social development, as much as do the means of production"

Marshall argues that the artist finds themselves in more a position of cultural control/influence than the scientist ever could be.

"The serious artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future, because they are well-practiced in understanding the present"

He talks about how the role of the artist is to prepare the groundwork for the involuntary social transformations that occur when new forms of technology impose their own assumptions on the psyche on the unwary. That is, not the content of any given medium, but rather that the medium is the message. Amazing book; important book, even.

RedHughs
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Jun 6 2012 20:09

I could quibble more but I'll try to strip this down...

First, I'd pose the question to Buzzy. Would Bateson be considered a philosopher? And if so, why? Maybe I'm wrong but I don't think philosophy departments and "working philosophers" automatic recognizes just "general thinking", instead it has to thinking within the traditions and purviews that previous philosophers have used.

Now I'll add a quote from 'ole Fred.

Nietzsche wrote:
In almost all respects, philosophical problems today are again formulated as they were two thousand years ago: how can something arise from its opposite--for example, reason from unreason, sensation from the lifeless, logic from the illogical, disinterested contemplation from covetous desire, altruism from egoism, truth from error? Until now, metaphysical philosophy has overcome this difficulty by denying the origin of the one from the other, and by assuming for the more highly valued things some miraculous origin, directly from out of the heart and essence of the "thing in itself."2 Historical philosophy, on the other hand, the very youngest of all philosophical methods, which can no longer be even conceived of as separate from the natural sciences, has determined in isolated cases (and will probably conclude in all of them) that they are not opposites, only exaggerated to be so by the popular or metaphysical view, and that this opposition is based on an error of reason. As historical philosophy explains it, there exists, strictly considered, neither a selfless act nor a completely disinterested observation: both are merely sublimations. In them the basic element appears to be virtually dispersed and proves to be present only to the most careful observer.

The original generalization I aimed to make is that the explosion of fields such as quantum mechanics and relativity expanded the views of the world, the views of "truth" and so forth far more rapidly than the processes of ordinarily recognized philosophy was able and willing to accept. Indeed, Einstein, after doing work in the foundations of relativity and quantum mechanics, rejected quantum mechanics because its conclusions weren't in harmony with his philosophical (in your sense) approach. For all of his sharpness, Wittgenstein rejected Gödel's theorem similarly.

I would add that this is saying that "Historical philosophy" Nietzsche refers to died on vine in the 19th century and ordinary philosophy remained "metaphysical philosophy" in Fred's sense and it will be up to us, to those who refuse capitalist relations in some fashion or other, build something like a real historical philosophy if it so pleases us.

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Jun 7 2012 12:45
Kureigo-San wrote:
I think the following from Marshall Mcluhan's 'Understanding Media: the extensions of man' ought to be of pertinent interest:

"Nothing could be more subversive to the Marxian dialectic than the idea that linguistic media shape social development, as much as do the means of production"

Marshall argues that the artist finds themselves in more a position of cultural control/influence than the scientist ever could be.

"The serious artist is always engaged in writing a detailed history of the future, because they are well-practiced in understanding the present"

He talks about how the role of the artist is to prepare the groundwork for the involuntary social transformations that occur when new forms of technology impose their own assumptions on the psyche on the unwary. That is, not the content of any given medium, but rather that the medium is the message. Amazing book; important book, even.

That would be interesting for my artistic accountability thread.

RedHughs
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Jun 18 2012 09:12

Article on contemporary science and philosophy:

http://www.dcscience.net/?p=4799

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Jun 18 2012 09:48

Heh. I note in passing, that one of the Sokal/Bricmont inspired pomo haters quoted, one Raymond Tallis, has spent his recent years, before and since retirement as a medical specialist, writing books on... philosophy.

RedHughs
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Jun 18 2012 20:33

Sure but article itself, whatever its flaws, targets philosophy in general, especially philosophy of science and more or less mentions pomo as a mostly eclipse form that simply bear some mention.

Edit: The main problem I have with the article it's seeming blanket support for "evidence based medicine". I'm critical of this not from a "simplistic new age experiments prove otherwise" but a "even ordinary medicine has a long way to go before all of it is really evidence based" perspective. Recent articles on how hard it is reproduce even accept medical experiments should be taken into account.