JiscMail Logo
Email discussion lists for the UK Education and Research communities

Help for FRIENDSOFWISDOM Archives


FRIENDSOFWISDOM Archives

FRIENDSOFWISDOM Archives


FRIENDSOFWISDOM@JISCMAIL.AC.UK


View:

Message:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Topic:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

By Author:

[

First

|

Previous

|

Next

|

Last

]

Font:

Proportional Font

LISTSERV Archives

LISTSERV Archives

FRIENDSOFWISDOM Home

FRIENDSOFWISDOM Home

FRIENDSOFWISDOM  May 2006

FRIENDSOFWISDOM May 2006

Options

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Subscribe or Unsubscribe

Log In

Log In

Get Password

Get Password

Subject:

Re: Science and Wisdom-Inquiry

From:

ian glendinning <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Group concerned that academia should seek and promote wisdom <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 25 May 2006 08:45:06 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (717 lines)

Hi Alan, persistence pays off,

I overlooked your mails of 19th and 21st, amongst so many mailing lists :-)

Positive sounding though it is, the label "inclusional" doesn't jump
off the page as the alternative to (hyper)-rational that we're looking
for, but your emphasis on the dynamic / living aspect of the fluid vs
fixed underlying view of reality is undoubtedly a key aspect of what
distinguishes wisdom from mere knowledge.

I also think you're right about the "illusion" of solidity of real
world objects at the human scale (even though science is well aware of
the ephemeral nature of things at the quantum scale). Your
"uncertainty at any scale" qualifier is important (without getting
into any quack quantum coherence debates). That illusion of objective
solidity vs ephemeral reality extends of course to causality itself,
and whilst looking for practical (teaching) advice concerning wisdom,
it seems impossible not to get drawn back to metaphysical questions.

At the practical human scale, I often feel it is better simply to
remind ourselves (as you do) of this living "fluidity" (and recursive
complexity) rather than expect any analysis to bottom out the
philosophical enquiry and provide us with convenient "fixed"
foundations on which to build. (also part of what I call our Catch-22
- the best world models appear to be constructed on the flimsiest of
foundations, get used to it folks, at any scale.)

Regards
Ian


On 5/25/06, A.D.M.Rayner <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>
> Dear Nick, Karl and all,
>
> I feel in close correspondence with what Karl is, I think, saying here about
> how its coupling with technology sustains orthodox science as a form of
> supernaturalism, alienated from natural process, in a manner that is alluded
> to in science fiction stories like 'Dr Who and the Cybermen'.
>
> I also feel close kinship with the view that the role of philosophy is to
> reveal and explore the implications of underlying assumptions, and, where
> these assumptions are found to be wanting in terms of their representation
> of natural process, to explore ways in which more representative premises
> could be developed. This is what I have been attempting in my teaching and
> research.
>
> Notwithstanding the deafening silence that has followed my recent
> communications with this forum, I continue to feel that there is a mutually
> beneficial connection to be made with my/our explorations of
> 'inclusionality'. So, perhaps against my better judgement, I am responding
> to what has been said in this thread.
>
> Yesterday, I thought of two very simple statements of the distinction
> between rationalistic and inclusional enquiry:
>
> 1. The logical premise of inclusional enquiry is that natural form is
> primarily fluid dynamic (space-including) and hence non-linear, continually
> transforming (simultaneously and reciprocally receptive and responsive), and
> not completely definable at any scale.
>
> 2. The logical premise of rationalistic enquiry is that natural form is
> primarily fixed (space-excluding) and hence linear and completely definable
> at any scale, so that change (action and reaction in sequential time) is
> dependent on the imposition
> of external force.
>
> So the question is: which logical premise and mode of enquiry makes sense
> of our full human experience and is actually supported by contemporary
> scientific
> evidence? And which ultimately makes nonsense and is supported only by
> belief in a
> visual illusion, self-sustained by technological development? And which
> includes space for emotional response in a dynamic (living) context?
>
>
> Sorry to be so persistent.
>
>
> Best
>
> Alan
>
>
>
>
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Karl Rogers
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: 24 May 2006 22:04
> Subject: Re: Science and Wisdom-Inquiry
>
> Dear Nick,
>
> Thank you for your response. Much appreciated.
>
> In my view, you are right to sidestep what has now become something of a
> 'chicken-or-egg' debate about "whether technology emerges from science, or
> develops independently, or actually contributes to science". Indeed, as you
> said in your email, "as far as modern science is concerned, science and
> technology developed in tandem with each other, each contributing to the
> development of the other". Outside the cloisters of the traditional
> philosophy of science, this is actually an uncontentious statement. A large
> body of historical research supports it and most working scientists would
> agree with it.
>
> However, this should be unsurprising. If we closely examine the object of
> scientific experimentation then we see that it is not actually a natural
> phenomenon, but, instead, is a set of machine performance placed under
> theoretical description. Modern science is actually notoriously bad at
> describing natural phenomena in the world, such as thunder and lightning
> storms, for example, but is highly successful in predicting how specific
> kinds of machines perform, such as electromagnets and circuits.
>
> The predictive success of modern physics is very much limited to predicting
> how machines perform (even the predictive power of observational astronomy
> is very limited and astrophysics is atrocious).
>
> Of course, the set of explanatory representations that are abstracted from
> this process of explaining how and why these machines work is used to
> explain how and why an associated natural phenomena happen, but its
> predictive success is limited to the technological sphere rather than the
> natural world. Scientists may well be able to explain away this failure by
> invoking 'complexity', but we may reasonably question whether they actually
> understand the natural phenomena at all because it has not be sufficiently
> demonstrated whether this set of fundamental representations actually
> corresponds to the natural phenomenon in question.
>
> As I argued in On The Metaphysics of Experimental Physics, it requires a set
> of metaphysical precepts in order to place these sets of fundamental
> representations of machine performances in correspondence to natural
> phenomena. Given that the 'empirical test' of this act of correspondence is
> the practical success of the so-called natural sciences in providing new
> machines and techniques we can see how the test is actually based upon a
> correspondence to the technological rather than the natural. To adopt a
> phenomenological posture about science, we may reasonably be sceptical about
> whether modern science provides us with knowledge about Nature at all, even
> if it provides us with increasingly powerful machine prototypes.
>
> To take your example of the steam engine and thermodynamics, while the
> former was developed through trial and error and the latter was an
> explanation of the former, a close examination of the field of
> thermodynamics shows that its fundamental representations  such as the
> Carnot Cycle  are abstractions of machine performances which are
> subsequently projected over natural phenomena in order to explain them in
> technological terms, while the ongoing research was directed to creating
> machine prototypes. Given that Nature has been understood in technological
> terms from onset and all tests of scientific representations are
> demonstrated by implementing them in further technological innovation, then
> it is not so much the case that science and technology each contributes to
> the development of the other, but it the case that scientific progress and
> technological progress are one and the same. The only distinction between
> scientific activity and technical activity is that the former explains the
> latter, which, in turn, shapes the trajectory and practices of the former.
>
> As you stated in your book The Comprehensibility of the Universe, physics is
> unintelligible, as a human pursuit, unless we examine the metaphysical
> assumptions that are required for evidence and theories to be
> comprehensible. Physics is only possible because of speculative metaphysical
> assumptions regarding the ultimate nature of the Universe; hence you argued
> that the role of philosophy of science is that of revealing these
> assumptions. Physicists need to make judgements about the ultimate nature of
> objective reality from a position of complete ignorance in order to begin
> the inquiry into the ultimate nature of objective reality. As you put it:
>
> "Metaphysics determines methodology. This makes it of paramount importance
> that a good basic metaphysical conjecture is adopted, one that corresponds
> to how the universe actually is. A bad metaphysical conjecture, hopelessly
> at odds with the actual nature of the Universe, will lead to the adoption of
> an entirely inappropriate set of methods, and the result will be failure,
> possibly, of a peculiarly persistent kind."
>
> In my view, the ten level hierarchy of metaphysical assumptions that you
> proposed in this book, concerning the comprehensibility of the Universe
> assumed by modern physics, was extremely insightful and important for the
> purpose of explicating and simplifying the assumptions implicit in current
> scientific methodology. However, my point of disagreement with you, in that
> book, is that you presumed that once we have arrived at indubitable
> assumptions (that can not be doubted without impeding the growth of
> knowledge) then we have a good reason to believe that we are nearing the
> truth. Please correct me if I have misunderstood you, but my point of
> contention with you is that you presumed that experimental physics is
> self-evidently successful at collecting the facts about natural phenomena.
> Hence, you started with "evidence" as the first level of your ten levels
> system.
>
> However, your system (as proposed in that book  I do not know whether you
> have revised it since it was published in 1998) does not provide us with an
> account of how "evidence" is selected and produced qua evidence in the first
> place. You did not provide us with any account of the operational
> metaphysics that underlies experimentation and the use of instruments and
> apparatus as a means of producing evidence about the Universe outside of the
> laboratory. While you offered us an intelligible and insightful system to
> evaluate principles of simplicity and comprehensibility, which nicely
> explicate the speculative metaphysical assumptions used to interpret
> "evidence", in my terms, your system presupposes mechanical realism as its
> underlying operational metaphysics. This is presupposition is necessary for
> the disclosure of a level one of "evidence" on the basis of experiments
> using machines to explore the natural world. It is an implicit "level zero"
> that allows experiments upon machines to be presented as disclosures of
> natural mechanisms, which are then used to explain the "evidence" that has
> been collected by using technologies.
>
> Therefore, it is not simply the case that "as we improve our knowledge, we
> improve our methods for improving knowledge, that is, we improve knowledge
> about how to improve knowledge", because the whole scientific revolution
> transformed what constituted knowledge in the first place. Since the
> sixteenth century, knowledge about Nature and knowledge about technology
> have become one and the same kind of knowledge. It has become a closed
> circle where only technical knowledge can be considered to be rational
> because only that which can be tested in technological terms can be
> considered to be scientific. Rationality has become reduced to the form of a
> bounded technical rationality and represented as scientific rationality.
>
> Hence, my position regarding science is much more critical than you
> realised. I do not accept the scientific realist interpretation of the
> experimental sciences. Nor do I affirm the societal gamble in favour of an
> artificial world as an improvement over the natural world. In Modern Science
> and the Capriciousness of Nature, I am very critical it and place the
> rationality of the whole technoscientific project into question by
> questioning the understanding of rationality presupposed by the project. For
> reasons you have stated, the impending threat of global warming (and still
> looming threat of nuclear and biological warfare), as well as the
> destructive nature of cultural and economic globalisation, makes me very
> much aware of the contradictions in this whole project, and, in my book, I
> analyse the sources of those contradictions in depth, as well as criticise
> its fundamental totalitarianism.
>
> While I wholeheartedly agree with your point, as expressed in From Knowledge
> to Wisdom, that if scientific knowledge is to be intelligible we must not
> forget what kind of being  namely human beings  for which it is knowledge
> for, and, hence, knowledge must be related to our understanding of goodness
> (i.e. what is good for us), I think that we need to pay close to how human
> being and our understanding of goodness has been transformed since the
> scientific revolution.
>
> Human being has become increasingly represented in terms of technological
> being (where even human physiology, evolution, and social development are
> understood in technological terms) and the modern of goodness is very much
> bound up with technological power and control. The human relation with the
> world (including each other) has become increasingly defined in terms of
> cognitive and manipulative intervention and control. Thus social science
> models itself on experimental natural science, while legitimating that model
> upon a positivistic interpretation of technique as being value-neutral.
>
> Of course, the positivistic interpretation of scientific progress, in terms
> of increased technical specialisation, is irrational, but I think that more
> reflective modern scientists already adopt a form of "aim-orientated
> empiricism", but they radically disagree with you about what the aims of
> science should be.
>
> While I admit that I have not read your book, Is Science Neurotic?, from
> what I have read about it I am sure that I would find many important points
> of agreement and learn much from it.
>
> I already completely agree with your call for a thorough critical
> investigation into the assumptions of science.
>
> However, I think that it is crucial to closely examine that, except for the
> unthinking positivist, science is already deeply implicated in the project
> of constructing a "brave new world" and the unthinking positivist is simply
> a technician in that project. Hence, we need to direct our criticism to the
> assumptions that underlie the aims and ideals of this whole techoscientific
> project because these aims and ideals already exist and are operational in
> the technocratic development of public policy.
>
> It is important to realise that there is a fundamental disagreement at play
> about what is of value, hence, due to the fundamental inequalities of the
> political economy, the values and goods of a social elite who fund
> technoscience are placed over an above the values and goods of the rest of
> us. The representations of rationality and goodness have an underlying
> political, economic class-structure. It is for this reason that, in both
> Modern Science and the Capriciousness of Nature and my current work, I
> advocate that the task of critical philosophy is to raise fundamental
> questions regarding whether our current society is truly egalitarian,
> pluralistic, and democratic, and how we can make society more egalitarian,
> pluralistic, and democratic.
>
> While we need to focus on the articulation of our shared values and ideals,
> we also need to be aware of the structures and institutions that exist to
> suppress them. In my view, these structures and institutions are operational
> in current academia and education, as part of silencing all resistance and
> opposition, as well as providing the means to produce a skilled workforce
> and managers in accordance with the dictates of the social elite. Academia
> is a servant of political economy.
>
> As far as I am concerned, I wholeheartedly agree with your call for
> aim-orientated rationality. It seems to me that critical attention to aims
> is an essential part of rationality to the extent that without an ongoing
> critical reflection upon our aims and how they relate to our actions, we
> cannot be considered to be rational at all.
>
> But, it is fundamentally important, once if we accept that we are friends of
> wisdom (philosophers) rather than possessors of it (sages), that we remain
> pluralistic about aims, as well as means.
>
> Thank you for your patience in reading this far and thank you for setting up
> this forum.
>
> All the best,Karl
>
> Nicholas Maxwell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear Karl,
>
>                I agree with what you say about technological innovation and
> the development of new scientific instruments.  That technological
> developments can make major contributions to scientific progress is
> something that I have stressed too, in my writings.  It is integral to the
> basic idea of aim-oriented empiricism, namely that, as we improve our
> knowledge, we improve our methods for improving knowledge, that is, we
> improve knowledge about how to improve knowledge.  New technology may lead
> the way.  As I say in my paper "Can Humanity Learn to Become Civilized"
> (http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00001709/) "There
> is a long-standing debate as to whether technology emerges from science, or
> develops independently, or actually contributes to science (as in the case
> of the steam engine leading to the development of thermodynamics).  I
> sidestep this debate, here, and assume, merely that, as far as modern
> science is concerned, science and technology developed in tandem with each
> other, each contributing to the development of the other."
>
>                Concerning your more general point, that modern science "is
> implicitly based upon visions of the ideal society, an artificial world
> within which human being are free from the capriciousness of Nature", this
> is a danger, although I would have thought that the impending threat of
> global warming has made all of us aware, including those inclined to think
> along the lines you indicate, that it is not so easy to create a safe
> artificial world free of the capriciousness of Nature.  In my "From
> Knowledge to Wisdom", incidentally, one of my criticisms of social science
> was its tendency to carry over from the natural sciences the idea that new
> knowledge enables one to manipulate what one has knowledge of.  Manipulating
> inanimate matter, to create dams, aeroplanes, power stations, etc., may have
> its initially unforeseen undesirable consequences.  Manipulating people via
> the application of social science, in advertising and spin for example, is a
> quite different matter.  (Within wisdom-inquiry, social inquiry is, not
> science primarily, but rather social methodology, concerned to promote
> increasingly cooperative tackling of problems of living by means of
> aim-oriented rationality.)
>
>                 In "Is Science Neurotic?" I argue that science is indeed
> neurotic.  It suffers, that is, from what I call "rationalistic neurosis", a
> methodological condition that involves suppressing, or failing to
> acknowledge, real, problematic aims, and instead acknowledging an apparently
> unproblematic "false" aim.  Rationalistic neurosis inevitably has bad
> consequences.  The more rationally the false aim is pursued, the worse off
> one is from the standpoint of achieving one's real aim.  Reason seems to
> become counterproductive.  Furthermore, as a result of suppressing the real
> aims, the problems associated with these aims cannot be tackled and solved.
> In my book I show how science - and we - suffer from all these adverse
> consequences of the rationalistic neurosis of science.  The real aims of
> science make problematic assumptions concerning metaphysics, values and
> politics.  What you have identified in your book - the aim of creating a
> safe artificial world for us to live in - is just the sort of problematic
> aim that can lurk within the scientific enterprise unacknowledged and
> unexamined, because of the current neurosis of science.  Hence the urgent
> need to transform science so that it explicitly acknowledges its real,
> problematic aims and begins to tackle the problems associated with its aims.
>  Aim-oriented empiricism - the philosophy of science I argue for - is
> designed precisely to encourage and facilitate such sustained imaginative
> and critical scrutiny of problematic aims.  And its generalization -
> aim-oriented rationality - is designed to facilitate such sustained and
> critical scrutiny of problematic aims in all other contexts where worthwhile
> aims are problematic - in politics, industry, education, the law, the media,
> international relations, one's own individual life.  Aim-oriented
> rationality is designed to help us, in increasingly cooperative ways,
> realize what is of value to us - what is genuinely of value often being
> problematic.
>
>                                           Best wishes,
>
>
> Nick
>
> ps I think I agree, too, with what you said about the need for pluralism in
> an earlier email.  I would only add that we need aim-oriented rationality as
> well.  As a result of requiring us to represent our problematic aims
> (ideals, values) in a hierarchy, the aims becoming less specific and less
> problematic as one goes up the hierarchy, we can disentangle what we agree
> about from what we disagree about.  We create a framework of relatively
> unproblematic, agreed aims within which diverse more specific, problematic
> aims and methods can be tried out, explored and assessed.  Aim-oriented
> rationalism is specifically designed to help us improve aims-and-methods
> (policies, philosophies, political programmes, even religious views) as we
> live; and it is designed to help us resolve conflicts in increasingly
> cooperative ways.  In a recent article, "Do Philosophers Love Wisdom?"
> (http://www.philosophersnet.com/magazine/article.php?id=670)
> I remarked, quoting from "From Knowledge to Wisdom", that aim-oriented
> rationality:-
>
> "provides a framework within which diverse philosophies of value  diverse
> religions, political and moral views  may be cooperatively assessed and
> tested against the experience of personal and social life.  There is the
> possibility of cooperatively and progressively improving such philosophies
> of life (views about what is of value in life and how it is to be achieved)
> much as theories are cooperatively and progressively improved in science.
> In science diverse universal theories are critically assessed with respect
> to each other, and with respect to experience (observational and
> experimental results).  In a somewhat analogous way, diverse philosophies of
> life may be critically assessed with respect to each other, and with respect
> to experience  what we do, achieve, fail to achieve, enjoy and suffer  the
> aim being so to improve philosophies of life (and more specific philosophies
> of more specific enterprises within life such as government, education or
> art) that they offer greater help with the realization of value in life"
> (From Knowledge to Wisdom, p. 254).
>
>  This presupposes, of course, that science puts aim-oriented empiricism into
> practice, something it does not, at present, do (or only very imperfectly,
> and not in an explicit, conscious fashion).
>
> www.nick-maxwell.demon.co.uk
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Karl Rogers
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Tuesday, May 23, 2006 7:56 PM
> Subject: Re: Science and Wisdom-Inquiry
>
> Dear Nick,
>
> Even though it epistemologically grounds itself in experimental results, the
> empricist philosophy of science is flawed because it presupposes explanatory
> accounts of how experimental apparatus and instruments work in order to
> obtain the results in the first place. At basic levels, empiricism
> presupposes scientific realist interpretations of the experiment in terms of
> causal accounts of how the experiment works.
>
> Scientific realist and positivistic philosophies of science have both
> presupposed the same operational metaphysics: that natural phenomena and
> machine performances are consequences of the same natural principles, laws,
> and mechanisms.
>
> This metaphysics allows the ongoing technological activities of
> experimentation to disclose natural phenomena in terms of mechanistic models
> that are tested by their implementation in future technological innovation.
>
> Hence, both empiricists and realists appeal to the practical value of
> science in terms of its technological successes when arguing for the
> epistemological validity of the so-called natural sciences, such as physics,
> chemistry, and genetics.
>
> However, the tradition within the philosophy of science is to completely
> neglect the role of technology in the development of theories and
> observations within experimental sciences. The traditional view of the use
> of scientific instruments, such as telescopes and microscopes, is that they
> are designed to increase our perceptual possibilities and see what is "out
> there". The use of detectors, such as X-ray scanners, electron microscopes,
> and the Geiger counter has supposedly allowed us to understand phenomena in
> the visible world in terms of otherwise invisible entities. The practical
> value of such instruments clearly "proves" that science has made
> considerable advances and progressed. The traditional view is that
> technology has no further relevance to the philosophy of science.
>
> However, as I argue in my book On The Metaphysics of Experimental Physics,
> technological innovation has not only made new observations and experiments
> possible, but it has also transformed our experience and conception of
> reality. Using a microscope or a Geiger counter does not merely involve
> seeing or detecting what is there. One must interpret the behaviour of the
> instrument in terms of an understanding of how it works. Making observations
> using novel instruments is bound up with making novel techniques of
> representing what one sees and how the instrument works. These techniques
> are ordered into procedures and operations within a technological framework
> that orders how we use and understand instruments. These instruments did not
> fall from the sky ready-made with an instruction book. They were innovated
> as a result of complex labour processes and protracted efforts against a
> historical background of expectations, challenges, demands, and the results
> of previous research and technological innovation.
>
> Technological innovation makes new research, observations, and
> representations possible; it also brings with it new challenges to achieve
> the anticipated possibilities of future innovation and investigation. New
> technologies create observational possibilities and conceptions of the
> criteria for the possibility of possessing knowledge of natural laws and
> mechanisms. They produce new phenomena, data, and change how we understand
> the world. The history of physics shows that technological innovation has
> changed conceptions of Nature and knowledge considerably in the experimental
> sciences. It is just as much a history of the innovation of new machines,
> instruments, and techniques, as it is a history of ideas, theories, and
> discoveries.
>
> By examining the ways that the world, and the interactions between beings in
> the world, have been understood and communicated by physicists in terms of a
> technological framework of innovative technological objects, it is evident
> that observations and experiences emerge from within a technological
> framework in which technological objects obtain agency through interaction
> with each other. The meaning of agency is closely connected to its context
> of emergence and cannot be divorced from the purposes it was intended to
> satisfy. Observation is an activity within a technological framework of
> interventions, interpretations, expectations, possibilities, and purposes.
>
> The artifice in designing, building, using, and interpreting novel
> technological instruments to make observations through interventions is a
> particularly important feature of the novel dimension of scientific
> discovery in experimental physics. It allows the technological objects
> within experiments to acquire an agency of their own and become autonomous
> as the means to innovate and disseminate new experiences, techniques, and
> instruments. It is this autonomy that allows techniques and instruments to
> be metaphysically understood and represented as the means to experience and
> explain the facts of the natural world. It is this autonomy that allows both
> empricist and realist interpretations of the experimental sciences to be
> possible.
>
> Hence, once we take the centrality of technological innovation into account,
> then we can see how the experimental sciences, from their onset in the
> sixteenth century, have been bound together with the civic, military, and
> commercial ambitions of those who fund the research. Once we examine how
> modern science has transformed our understanding and representations of
> Nature into something technological, in order to transform natural phenomena
> into technological object available for experimental investigation, and also
> transform theories into forms that translate into technological functions,
> then we can see how the totality of experimental science is completely
> directed to understand the world in technological terms. Modern science is
> implicated in the construction of a technological society which promises to
> improve upon our natural state by providing us with greater power,
> certainty, and control.
>
> In my book, Modern Science and the Capriciousness of Nature, I describe how
> this societal gamble is premised upon the presupposition of specific forms
> of the goodness and rationality of science. Modern science is implictly
> based upon visions of the ideal society, an artificial world within which
> human beings are free from the capriciousness of Nature (such as natural
> disasters, disease, premature death, birth defects, etc.), and it is
> implicitly placed in confrontation with Nature. Modern science is directed
> to the pacification of the natural world, transforming it into a "better"
> artificial world, and it finds its meaning and value in terms of its
> function within the societal project of constructing this technological
> society.
>
> Thus, in my opinion, it is more the case that we need to question the wisdom
> of this societal gamble and the vision of the ideal world upon it is
> premised. Would such a world be actually good for humanity? Or is it only
> good for a social elite? And where such a vision is lacking, then we need to
> question the rationality of the whole societal project of constructing the
> technological society and the vision of goodness (given in terms of power,
> certainty, and control over our material conditions) that it presupposes. It
> may well be the case that the positivistic interpretation of science is
> nothing more than an irrational, unthinking mode of conformity to the
> societal project of constructing a technological society.
>
> best regards,
> Karl
>
> Nicholas Maxwell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Dear Bob,
>
>                 A part of what's wrong with science, in my view, is that the
> scientific community takes for granted an untenable view about what the aims
> and methods of science ought to be, which I have called "standard
> empiricism".  According to standard empiricism, the basic intellectual aim
> of science is to improve knowledge of truth, the basic method being to
> assess claims to knowledge impartially with respect to evidence.  But this
> seriously misrepresents the aims of science.  Science both does, and ought
> to, seek explanatory truth (truth presupposed to be explanatory).  More
> generally, science seeks truth deemed to be important or of value, in one
> way or another.  There are, I have argued, problematic assumptions
> concerning metaphysics, values and politics inherent in the real aims of
> science which standard empiricism fails to acknowledge.  The result of this
> orthodox misrepresentation of the actual aims of science is that science
> fails to subject the problematic assumptions associated with these aims to
> sustained critical scrutiny, in an attempt to improve them.  And that in
> turn means that science fails to pursue aims in our best interests.  (One
> has to remember that something like a third of all public funds devoted to
> research and development is devoted to military research.  Is this really in
> our best interests?)  We need a new conception of science - which I have
> called "aim-oriented empiricism" - which acknowledges the real, problematic
> aims of science, and requires science to represent its aims in the form of a
> hierarchy, the aims becoming less and less specific as one goes up the
> hierarchy, and so less and less problematic, in this way a framework of more
> or less unproblematic aims and methods being created (high up in the
> hierarchy) within which much more specific and problematic aims and methods
> (low down in the hierarchy) and be critically assessed and improved.  For
> the detailed argument see my "Is Science Neurotic?" (2004); see also my "Can
> Humanity Learn to become Civilized?"
> (http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00001709/) and
> "The Need for a Revolution in the Philosophy of Science",
> (http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00002449/).
>
>                 This aim-oriented empiricist conception of the
> progress-achieving methods of science can be generalized to form an
> aim-oriented conception of rationality: whenever we are engaged in some
> worthwhile endeavour with problematic aims, we need to represent these aims
> in the form of such a hierarchy, so that we can improve specific,
> problematic aims and methods as we proceed.  This aim-oriented conception of
> rationality is especially relevant when it comes to the endeavour to make
> progress towards a good, civilized, wise world - an aim that is inherently
> profoundly problematic.
>
>                  But the above is only the first step of my argument.  It is
> not just science that needs to change, but even more important, the whole
> academic enterprise.  We need, I have argued, a new kind of academic inquiry
> that takes as its basic aim to help humanity to realize what is of value in
> life.  Academic inquiry needs itself to put aim-oriented rationality into
> practice, and needs to help humanity put it into practice in the rest of
> personal, institutional and social life.  The argument is spelled out in
> some detail in my "From Knowledge to Wisdom" (Blackwell, 1984), and in my
> more recent "Is Science Neurotic?".  For a summary see the article referred
> to above, "Can Humanity Learn to Become Civilized?"
> (http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/archive/00001709/ , first
> published in Journal of Applied Philosophy 17, 2000, 29-44).
>
>                                     Best wishes,
>
>                                                Nick
> www.nick-maxwell.demon.co.uk
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Isabel Adonis
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Sunday, May 21, 2006 10:37 AM
> Subject: Re: Wisdom and its definition
>
> Dear Nicholas,
> Are you saying that what's wrong with science is that it cannot deal with
> values? That is not a fault, merely a limitation, and one which is necessary
> to the (limited) success that it has. Take the field of medicine; there are
> overarching values which define and limit what is permissible in the pursuit
> of medical knowledge. Then there are the standards and values of good
> science which aim to produce reliable knowledge. And then there are the
> values of the doctor in the application of that knowledge to benefit
> patients. So a scientist evaluating a treatment needs to take steps to allow
> for and discount the placebo effect in order to arrive at  reliable
> knowledge, but the practicioner may find that this is is the most effective
> part of the treatment. The fact/ value split is the very foundation of
> science, but science is merely a tool - the tool of tools perhaps - it can
> never be a guide to life. It has its own internal values and has value to
> humanity, but it does not deal with values; yet it takes a place in the
> heirarchy of values as any medical ethics committee will attest.
> But this is an idealised account. Doctors, scientists, and perhaps even
> friends of wisdom are not motivated solely by love of humanity, but also,
> and oten more, by desire for money, status, power, respect and particularly
> self-respect. I would like to say that I am not like this, but rationally I
> know that I am, though for much of the time I prefer to regard myself
> through rose tinted spectacles. Is this what you mean by undesirable
> desires? But I am not sure that the desire for self-respect is any 'higher'
> than any other desire - it just feels higher - and that is why I like it -
> in an older terminology it is one of the seven deadly sins - pride. In the
> end we, ourselves are the only problem confronting humanity; we are crippled
> by our desires and our fears and we have very little love. If we could learn
> to cooperate with each other, the practical problems of the world could be
> easily dealt with in a very short time, but we are all too greedy and
> fearful. Science cannot answer these problems, nor can psychology nor can
> even the non-scientific side of academia(I've heard that there are whole
> departments that deal in values, literature and art for example). I am
> fairly sure that the answer -call it wisdom or love or goodness or
> enlightenment - cannot be taught by any method, even by osmosis or example.
> Might it come by grace, when we learn to be honest to ourselves? I don't
> know, but I think that honesty is the first step.
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Nicholas Maxwell
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Sunday, May 21, 2006 12:34 AM
> Subject: Re: Wisdom and its definition
>
>
> Dear Tom,
>
>                 It was not at all the point of my email responding to the
> question "Can wisdom be learned and taught?" that defining wisdom is an
> important thing to do.  On the contrary, with slight reservations, I agree
> with Karl Popper: setting out to define terms really is the wrong thing to
> do (see his "Open Society and Its Enemies", ch. 11, section 2).  What I was
> really trying to point out was that, when judged from the standpoint of
> helping to promote human welfare or enhance the quality of human life,
> knowledge-inquiry - academic inquiry as, by and large, we have it at present
> - is harmfully irrational.  We need a revolution in the aims and methods of
> academic inquiry.  This point - really important if it is correct - can be
> made, and perhaps should be made, without appealing to the notion of
> "wisdom" at all.  (In fact, when I first spelled the argument out, in my
> first book "What's Wrong With Science?" (1976), I did not use the word
> "wisdom " once.  Instead I spoke of "delight and compassion".  "Wisdom", for
> me, was very much an afterthought, merely shorthand for what I think really
> does matter, our capacity to create a world in which there is less
> unnecessary suffering and death than at present, a world in which more
> people are able to realize what is genuinely of value in their lives.)
>
>                 What are the main problems of living confronting humanity,
> and what do we need to do to resolve them?  What kind of world should we be
> trying to create?  What changes need to be made to academic inquiry if it is
> serve the best interests of humanity in the best way?  How can academic
> inquiry best help humanity learn how to create a better world?  How do we
> set about convincing our academic colleagues of the need for change?  These
> are the kind of issues we ought, in my view, to be discussing, not the
> somewhat scholastic question of how one should define wisdom.  "Wisdom" can,
> without doubt, be defined in a variety of ways, and one might pick on this
> definition or that, for this or that purpose.  Any attempt to pin down the
> definition seems to me to be misguided.
>
>                       Best wishes,
>
>                                    Nick
> www.nick-maxwell.demon.co.uk
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Tom Milner-Gulland"
> Sent: Saturday, May 20, 2006 11:03 PM
> Subject: Wisdom and its definition
>
> > If we want to sort out the idea of wisdom by by definitions then I suggest
> > we have to take account of the fact (as I see it) that wisdom has two
> > fairly distinct definitions, one being the simple grammatical principle
> > that it is the nounal form of 'wise' (and therefore is subordinate to the
> > notion of being wise, which surely incorporates such concerns as the
> > intuition of the agent) and the other being the more tangible notion of a
> > body of ideas the astute appropriation of which constitutes being wise.
> >
> > Perhaps it would be wise for list members to consider that we basically
> > know what Nick Maxwell is trying to say, i.e. (IIUC) that knowledge should
> > point us in some kind of general direction as regards what is or should -
> > by some kind of intuition-based rationality, even if it is imperfect - be
> > our common human goals, and it is time to take steps in that direction.
> >
> > Cheers,
> > Tom
> >
> >
> ________________________________
> To help you stay safe and secure online, we've developed the all new Yahoo!
> Security Centre.
>
>
> Send instant messages to your online friends http://uk.messenger.yahoo.com

Top of Message | Previous Page | Permalink

JiscMail Tools


RSS Feeds and Sharing


Advanced Options


Archives

March 2020
January 2020
December 2019
November 2019
September 2019
August 2019
June 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
October 2018
August 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
February 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
July 2017
June 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
November 2013
October 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
May 2011
April 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005


JiscMail is a Jisc service.

View our service policies at https://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/policyandsecurity/ and Jisc's privacy policy at https://www.jisc.ac.uk/website/privacy-notice

Secured by F-Secure Anti-Virus CataList Email List Search Powered by the LISTSERV Email List Manager