Re: MD Rorty and Darwin

Date: Mon Aug 18 2003 - 20:14:38 BST

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    Hi Matt,

    Yes, I agree that Rorty wouldn't say the object of our inquiries is coping with
    our environment. But let me explore this a little more. I think physics is
    interesting. I am not a physicist and I probably don't have the intellectual
    aptitude to become one. I read "The Dancing Wu-Li Masters" many years ago and I
    was fascinated by the philosophical implications. I am not a philosopher either
    and I might lack the intellectual aptititude to be a philosopher alos, but
    anyway I find it interesting. Recently I read "Three Roads to Quantum Gravity."
     A fascinating book and the characters in the book are real modern physicists.
    Well, I think they are making very amazing discoveries--oops, developing very
    useful theories. I think they believe in the existence of sub-atomic particles.
     They even give these little buggers personalities. Well, according to
    Rorty--and I agree with him--, quantum physics and related fields is a useful
    theory, but we can't be sure of the existence of sub-atomic particles because
    they are only properties of our language. We created them to explain
    phenomenon. The fact that they explain phenomenon very well is not proof of
    their existence. We just worked out a very useful theory and it helps us cope
    and for the most part most physicists are convinced by it. Now, I agree with
    Rorty and I can live with the idea that the existence of these particles is not
    what is inportant. What is important is how these theories perform in
    explaining and predicting. But, for these physicists, how important is it to
    believe in the existence of these particles conforming to laws that must be
    discovered. Hueristically, I think it is probably very important. In
    mathematics I brought up Godel earlier. How can someone actually believe in the
    real existence of mathematical objects and laws which must be discovered. Godel
    did. This was the source of his inspiration and genious. I think it might not
    be so easy to give up these beliefs. And we might suffer more if we do.

    These two examples in the sciences and mathematics can just as easily be found
    in the humanities. Where will the great humanist, philosophers, theologins,
    poets and artists in the future find there inspiration if they don't believe-and
    I mean really believe-that there is a real way for humans to live and it is
    their responsibility to discover. I know Rorty says they will have to look to
    their fellow humans, intersubjective agreement, and so forth. I am just not
    convinced that this is inspirational enough.


    > Andy,
    > Andy said:
    > I haven't totally fallen under Rorty spell. I think there are good questions
    > concerning his philosophy. I just don't think yours are included in that
    > category. I agree with Rorty that Truth is not "out there" waiting to be
    > discovered. That it is a property of language. However, I can think of many
    > reasons why it might be useful to hold such beliefs. I refered to one reason in
    > an earlier post. But another example is modern physics. Would the same strides
    > be made without a belief in subatomic particles and laws describing the
    > relations between them. Having a goal or an aim to inquiry other than wanting
    > to cope in the environmnet could very well be useful. These are the good
    > questions and no pretending is required.
    > Matt:
    > Say it so, Andy!
    > Seriously, though, Rorty wouldn't say that he would have wished that Plato had
    > never existed. It very well may be that we would not have developed science or
    > politics the way we did without philosophy. However, Rorty's bet is that we
    > don't need them anymore, that we can become fully naturalistic, do without God
    > or his doubles.
    > And Rorty, I think, would say that the object of our inquiries isn't "coping
    > with our environment." The would be the same hypostatization as making Truth an
    > object of inquiry. Our objects of inquiry are local, particular things. The
    > goal of our inquiries is coping with our environement, which all other things
    > can safely and uncontroversially be reduced to. Predicting the weather and
    > particles and what people will say are all part of "coping with out environment"
    > broadly conceived. The point is to fuzzy things up so that we are just coping
    > with different parts of our environment.
    > Matt
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