You can't have a "world view" without metaphor - they are the same,
That is not to say that all representations are equal.
Scientists can get sniffy when they see what they understand things to be
and, more importantly, the means by which they apprehend them, relativised.
But they should be less concerned. Good scientists recognise that what they
know, and their means to knowing, are not necessarily true or the best
possible. They are also epistemological relativists. It is only nervous (and
possibly poor) scientists (and their defenders) who need to be concerned
about relativism weakening their position. These are the people who rely on
knowledge as dogma to assert their power.
I am a relativist and exercise caution about all knowledge, scientific or
otherwise. But I am more cautious about some knowledge systems than others.
Science reaches parts other knowledge systems can't.
On 27/03/2011 10:29, "Danny Butt" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Isn't physics (or any natural science) both a craft and a discipline? The only
> way a non-physicist understands physics is through the metaphors established
> through the rhetorical writing practices (as Simon notes, full of metaphor)
> that hold the constative knowledge of the discipline. Physics is not
> understood by us through being skilled on the bench, which would be a much
> more real way of understanding what physics is. I find Curt's disavowal of the
> literary nature of any cross-disciplinary exchange in favour of a "direct"
> "enactment" ironic for that reason. The idea of physics presents itself to the
> non-physicist precisely through analogy. Those in the sciences usually know
> this, usually implicitly. As Thrift dryly notes,
> "In many of the books on complexity written by practising scientists there
> seems to be an obligatory final chapter which suggests the ways in which the
> metaphors of complexity will refigure science and will then go on to provide
> an explanation of the whole world by providing a new worldview. Then, it's off
> into every domain of current intellectual effort imaginable with every kind of
> false or tawdry analogy possible, as if to prove that these inheritors of
> systems theory can forget all about equifinality."
> One cannot locate rhetoricity only outside scientificity. If a true exchange
> is to occur across disciplines then the distinctive forms of technique and
> rhetoric in each must be posed equally as objects of investigation and
> transformation. While Curt again raises the spectre of Derrida's attention to
> language as some example of a "trap" that somehow displaces the possibility of
> art-science collaboration, my completely contrary experience is that it is
> only those practitioners, in the arts or the sciences, who, like Derrida,
> fully engage the implications of technical knowledge in their fields who are
> able to develop effective relationships with others. From my point of view,
> anyone in the arts who disavows the power of metaphor disavows a long-held
> pillar of our disciplinary contribution.
> Apologies for the long drift off topic this recent thread brings, but on the
> other hand it does seem another way of broaching a related question to
> +64 21 456 379
> On 27/03/2011, at 6:59 AM, Simon Biggs wrote:
>> I thought the Law of the Excluded Middle was something the Con-Dem
>> government had invented just for us in the UK ;)
>> But more seriously - or perhaps less so.
>> Physics can be a great metaphor in art. It can be a great metaphor in all
>> sorts of things. That's what physics is. So, when I propose that everything
>> is digital and that each digital unit is quantum, simultaneously zero and
>> one, I am proposing a metaphor.
>> In this respect physics is art. Sometimes it is great art!
>> On 26/03/2011 17:49, "Curt Cloninger" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>> Hi Jon,
>>> This Whitehead maxim seems applicable:
>>> "The true philosophical question is, how can concrete fact exhibit
>>> entities abstract from itself and yet participated in by its own
>>> If insights from physics are to be applied to art, some abstraction
>>> will necessarily have to occur (otherwise you're simply left talking
>>> about physics, or reducing art to physics -- an analytic philosophy
>>> trap). But how to fruitfully cross-apply these abstractions to art
>>> a) slipping into grammatological wordplay (Derrida interminably
>>> riffing on Adami, a post-structuralist trap),
>>> b) cross-applying these new abstractions using old school dialectical
>>> metaphysics (metaphysics which presume the existence of an
>>> analog/digital divide in the first place).
>>> And (beyond the philosophical), how to make art that engages with
>>> these analogDigital conundrums (Leibniz's monadism wrestling with
>>> Bergson's concrete duration) in ways that enact and foreground said
>>> conundrums rather than merely re-presenting them via analogy.
>>> Jon wrote:
>>>> I think this is precisely the problem: that the metaphysics many of
>>>> us take for granted is inherited from outdated science textbooks.
>>>> Physicists have known since the beginning of the last century that
>>>> nature's building blocks are assembled in messy states of
>>>> superposition rather than lined up in neat compartments. ("Is the
>>>> spin up or down? It's both!") Yet so many humanists I read,
>>>> especially among the poststructuralists, yammer on about binaries
>>>> and dichotomies as though the Law of the Excluded Middle were an
>>>> incontestable truth. Or, almost as bad, as though they are the first
>>>> to realize it isn't.
>>>> Nor are all scientists immune from this outmoded determinism. Most
>>>> biologists I speak to have heard of quantum mechanics, but
>>>> implicitly assume that atoms are minuscule billiard balls careening
>>>> predictably around, instead of some perverse foam that oozes
>>>> contradictory states of matter when you're not looking.
>>>> Even Newton didn't understand the metaphysical implications of his
>>>> theory. Though a heretic by contemporaneous standards, Newton was
>>>> still a devout Christian, and during his life wrote more about
>>>> religion than science. He is remembered among metaphysics scholars
>>>> for positing an absolute frame of reference for space and time, in
>>>> contrast to Einstein's later relativistic one. Except that Newton's
>>>> equations *are* relativistic for the scales he was considering--a
>>>> fact he obscured by giving lip service to an absolute frame in order
>>>> to reconcile his formulas with the dogma of his time.
>>>> The design of digital computers to date has only reinforced the lay
>>>> perception that everything around us can be boiled down to 1s and
>>>> 0s. The advent of quantum computers to which Simon alluded could
>>>> challenge that perception--and maybe even give nonphysicists their
>>>> first glimpse of nature with her hair down.
>> Simon Biggs
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