Sunday, November 21, 2010

Feyerabend, cont.

""Looking now at the second element of the refutation-anthropological field work- we see that what is anathema here (and for very good reasons) is still a fundamental principle for the contemporary representatives of the philosophy of the Vienna Circle. According to Carnap, Feigl, Nagel, and others the terms of a theory receive their interpretation, in an indirect fashion, by being related to a different conceptual system which is either an older theory, or an observation language. Older theories, or observation languages are adopted not because of their theoretical excellence (they cannot possibly be: the older theories are usually refuted). They are adopted because they are `used by a certain language community as a means of communication'. ""
""According to this method, the phrase `having much larger relativistic mass than. . . ' is partially interpreted by first connecting it with some pre-relativistic terms (classical terms; common-sense terms) which are `commonly understood' (presumably as the result of previous teaching in connection with crude weighing methods). This is even worse than the once quite popular demand to clarify doubtful points by translating them into Latin. For while Latin was chosen because of its precision and clarity and also because it was conceptually richer than the slowly evolving vulgar idioms, the choice of an observation language or of an older theory as a basis for interpretation is due to the fact that they are `antecedently understood'; it is due to their popularity. Besides, if pre-relativistic terms which are pretty far removed from reality-- especially in view of the fact that they come from an incorrect theory--can be taught ostensively, for example, with the help of crude weighing methods (and we must assume that they can be so taught, or the whole scheme collapses) then why should we not introduce the relativistic terms directly, and without assistance from the terms of some other idiom? Finally, it is but plain commonsense that the teaching, or the learning, of new and unknown languages must not be contaminated by external material. Linguists remind us that a perfect translation is never possible, even if we use complex contextual definitions. This is one of the reasons for the importance of fieldwork where new languages are learned from scratch and for the rejection, as inadequate, of any account that relies on (complete, or partial) translation. Yet just what is anathema in linguistics is now taken for granted by logical empiricists, a mythical `observation language' replacing the English of the translators. Let us commence field work in this domain also and let us study the language of new theories not in the definition factories of the double language model, but in the company of those metaphysicians, experimenters, theoreticians, playwrights, courtesans, who have constructed new worldviews! This finishes our discussion of the guiding principle of the first objection against realism and the possibility of incommensurable theories.""

The definition factories...heh. At any rate, PF's correct insofar that a Brecht's worth a boxcar of techie reductionists carrying their laptops or i-pads with the downloads of Heinlein, Star dreck and wit and wisdom of Izschtack Assimov.

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