Re: This is not a post on Schisms

Sat, 8 Apr 1995 00:21:00 PDT

Lesick writes:

" If theory *informs* how we choose to organise data - the choices about
what we rank as important or otherwise - the type of mental
connections we make which lead to the formulation of hypotheses -
then how can verification _not_ be a consequence of theoretical

Theoretical orientation will affect what I consider to be interesting
hypotheses, etc., but whether I succeed in verifying whatever I claim depends
not upon my theorectical orientation but the linkage I make between data and
hypothesis. If I argue: according to cultural materialism, culture is
largely an epiphenomena of adaptation, then verification (or falsification)
of this claim does not depend upon my theoretical orientation (though that
orientation may make the claim a priori more or less reasonable in my

Lesick continues:

"I realise that the primary check on verification is in
method, but this comes out of methodological orientation, which in
turn is derived from theoretical perspectives."

Again, the implication seems to be that what constitues "verification" is
determined by one's theoretical orientation; e.g. a cultural materialist
would use one kind of verification, a structuralist a different kind of
verification, etc. Now what a cultural materialist might consider as
adequate verification might not be adequate verification to, say, a
structuralist and vice-versa. However, I take a more sceptical notion of
verification: is the supposed verification adequate to convince a sceptic?
I suggest that in this latter sense the question of "theoretical perspective"
is not particularly relevant as to what constitutes verification.

Lesick continues:

" If empirical validation is to be the only validation,...."

What is NON-EMPIRICAL validation?

".. then YES, this would be extremely limiting as far as the questions we may
ask. It would also be *extremely* boring."

A strange comment. It is boring to develop theory which can be empirically
verified! So the work of theoretical physicists on the structure at the
subatomic level is boring; the work of astronomers on the evolution of the
universe is boring; the work of Chomsky on structural linguistics is boring;
the work of anthropological theorists, to the extent that their work is
empirically verifiable, is boring.

Lesick continues:

"But who say that empirics may offer the only form of validation? We
must keep looking for other possibilities. "

Well, do you have any possibilities in mind?

D. Read