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Re: <nettime> Why I won't support the March for Science
Magnus Boman on Mon, 24 Apr 2017 21:38:19 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Why I won't support the March for Science

On Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 4:37 AM David Garcia <d.garcia {AT} new-tactical-research.co.uk> wrote:

   3) Just as opposition against Trump creates false solidarity with
   neoliberals, opposition against climate change-denying, creationist etc.
   politics can create false solidarity with a Popperian understanding of
   research and knowledge. (Coincidentally, Popper's philosophy provided
   the point of departure for both, scientific neo-positivism and
   political-economic neo-liberalism.)

 Hi Florian, I think it is too simple to reduce Karl Popper's philosphy
 of science based on the principal of "falsifiability" with which he
 challenged the narrow verificationism of the logical positivists, as
 neo-positivist or as foundational to neo-liberalism. A charge much truer
 of the  logical positivists.
 In some ways I see him, as a neo Kantian with a strong sense of the
 necessary limits of human knowledge and that this led to a position that
 science though better than superstition worship could only ever tell us
 more and more about what we do not know.
 I take this to be an approach to knowledge founded on perpetual doubt
 and the humility to, whenever possible, be willing test one's beliefs,
 and if required admit it when we get things wrong..
 Far from neo-liberalism that seeks to create structures (including
 aspects of the EU) that limit the reach and traction of democracy
 (particularly in economic policy) Popper was staunch in his belief that
 only democracy provided the framework of opposition and the means to
 peacefully remove goverments and was thus the closest politics could
 come to the scientific (in the ideal case) willingness to submit ones
 ideas to scrutiny and review by those with opposing views.
Thanks David,

Sadly, "Popperian" has come to signify opinions resting on the
shoulders of Carnap, Reichenbach, Hempel... As you know, Quine neatly
sorted out the Kant connection in his Two Dogmas of Empiricism (Phil.
Rev. 1951).

Carnap set about formalizing radical reductionism in his �r Logische
Aufbau der Welt�1928), two years after he joined the Vienna circle.
He there tried to reduce all scientific concepts to the
sensory qualities given in immediate experience. He gave up his
attempts in 1936 (hello, Kurt!). Quine has a lot of respect for

� was the first empiricist who, not content with asserting the
reducibility of science to terms of immediate experience, took serious
steps toward carrying out the reduction. If Carnap�starting point is
satisfactory, still his constructions were, as he himself stressed,
only a fragment of the full program�.. �ductionism in its radical
form has long since ceased to figure in Carnap�philosophy. But the
dogma of reductionism has, in a subtler and more tenuous form,
continued to influence the thought of empiricists. The notion lingers
that to each statement, or each synthetic statement, there is
associated a unique range of possible sensory events such that the
occurrence of any of them would add to the likelihood of truth of the
statement, and that there is associated also another unique range of
possible sensory events whose occurrence would detract from that
likelihood. This notion is of course implicit in the verification
theory of meaning�
Quine takes a holist stance:

�. our statements about the external world face the tribunal of sense
experience not individually but only as a corporate body�.. �e idea
of defining a symbol in use was ... an advance over the impossible
term-by-term empiricism of Locke and Hume. The statement, rather than
the term, came with Bentham to be recognized as the unit accountable to
an empiricist critique. But what I am now urging is that even in taking
the statement as unit we have drawn our grid too finely. The unit of
empirical significance is the whole of science�He then famously proceeds to show that one may equate the reductionist
dogma with the dogma of analytic/synthetic separation (Kant):
�. total science is like a field of force whose boundary conditions
are experience. ... Having reevaluated one statement we must reevaluate
some others, which may be statements logically connected with the first
or may be the statements of logical connections themselves. But the
total field is so underdetermined by its boundary conditions,
experience, that there is much latitude of choice as to what statements
to reevaluate in the light of any single contrary experience. No
particular experiences are linked with any particular statements in the
interior of the field, except indirectly through considerations of
equilibrium affecting the field as a whole�
Quine thus holds that science in its totality is underdetermined by
experience. Later he called the theoretical structure of science a �b
of belief�This has transmogrified to being anti-Popperian in some
quarters, but is as you say anti-logical positivist, rather.

Best wishes,


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