Re: MD Intersubjective agreement

Date: Tue Aug 19 2003 - 01:18:07 BST

  • Next message: MATTHEW PAUL KUNDERT: "Re: MD Rorty"


    Paul said:
    I would argue that scientists do have methods particular to their study, and I think it's a little asinine ... to say that "The only thing that distinguishes the scientist from other professions is subject material: physicists study particles, literary critics study books."

    Sure, scientists have methods particular to their study, just as literary critics have their own methods particular to theirs. But this doesn't say anything about this thing called "scientific method." The scientific method is supposed to be this great, singular method that can be applied to just about anything, thus getting to be called "scientific". Its supposed to be the thing Galileo and Newton and Einstein and Heisenberg and Darwin and Bohr and Maxwell all have in common. Pragmatists have no idea what they have in common outside of the moral virtues Rorty listed. And those virtues, while being very common in scientists, cut across all diciplines. So, maybe it seems a little odd to say that the only thing that distinguishes physicists from literary critics is subject material, but implicit in that is the way in which they study their respective subject material. What the natural sciences and the social sciences have in common isn't a method, but a set of moral vir
    tues, virtues they have in common with the humanities. The difference between all three are the object of their respective inquiries and the specific ways in which they go about their inquiries.

    Paul said:
    It seems to me that this definition of "intersubjective agreement", on its own, is not enough because it fails to account for what provides the basis for the agreement, the "factor" which brings people to agree and approve of anything. If intersubjective agreement is seen as the approval process itself, it must be asked, what directs the process? What do they intersubjectively see in a theory that they agree on?

    The exact point of moving from objectivity to solidarity (or intersubjective agreement) is to not give any criteria for approval. To give criteria is to think that you've found that Correct Method in which to separate true propositions from false ones. Pragmatists note that no one has ever agreed on what these criteria should be and suggest that we never will all agree on a universal criteria, we never will outflank our local criteria of determining good theories from bad ones to provide a method that will separate true-for-all-time theories from false-for-all-time theories. Our local criteria change as history marches on, as geniuses appear and suggest entire new ways of thinking about things.

    I think what you think the movement to solidarity does is abandon all the hard won patterns of approval that we've established since the Enlightenment. This is not so. We've inheirted these patterns and will continue to use them until someone suggests better ones. The only answer I think we should give to the question, "What do they intersubjectively see in a theory that they agree on?" is the one that I think Pirsig would agree to: they all think it is better. Betterness cannot be defined. That's Pirsig's point by leaving Dynamic Quality undefined. If we defined betterness we'd be providing a universal criteria upon which we could split all propositions into two sets. Pirsig's point is that we will never be able to do this because we will never know where Dynamic Quality will take us.

    So, when you say, "Quality, not objectivity," I can only agree insofar as when people get together and agree on the truth of a proposition, they are all agreeing in its betterness.


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