RE: MD Intersubjective agreement

From: Paul Turner (paulj.turner@ntlworld.com)
Date: Tue Aug 19 2003 - 10:40:21 BST

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    Hi Matt:

    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."

    Matt:
    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.

    Paul:
    Exactly, they have no concept of Poincare's and Pirsig's sense of
    "intellectual quality". So, according to pragmatists, if you put enough
    nice people together in a lab they will eventually arrive at the quantum
    theory?

    Matt:
    The difference between all three are the object of their respective
    inquiries and the specific ways in which they go about their inquiries.

    Paul:
    "... and the specific ways in which they go about their inquiries."

    Exactly, and for their research/results/recommendations to become part
    of the "common sense" the methods need to be socially approved. All I'm
    saying is that, in the west, broadly speaking, the "scientific method"
    that pragmatists don't believe in, is socially approved. For modesty, if
    you wish, I can limit that to the UK and my own experience of education
    in both the physical and social sciences.

    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?

    Matt:
    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.

    Paul:
    Where did I say there is a fixed criterion?

    Matt:
    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.

    Paul:
    Yes, exactly. What I didn't realise was that Rorty incorporated
    "undefined betterness" or Dynamic Quality into his pragmatism until you
    just said it there! Wow, he'll be talking about arÍte next!

    Matt:
    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.

    Paul:
    Perfect :-)

    Cheers

    Paul

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