I'm a pomoid, she's a pomoid, he's a...

Wed, 15 Dec 1993 14:55:00 PST

Seeker1 (???) sets forth several "propositions" which presumably
more-or-less encapture the PM position and asserts they all deserve serious
debate. Let me make a few brief replies from the perspective of "doing

<1. That new technologies of representation will make it increasingly more
<difficult to separate truth from fiction...

True; e.g., a good simulation is a fiction (i.e., a construction) that
closely resembles reality.

<2. That people cannot ignore their own subjectivity in observations of
<the objective world...

This is the reason why double blind tests are a necessity in medical
research, for example.

< 3. That it's worthwhile to consider the meaning as well as the function or
<efficient cause of behavior

Definitely. The brain is an information processing device which constructs a
representation of external reality through which "meaning" is given to
sensory inputs and through those "meanings" directs behaviors that will

<4. That maybe it's worth considering culture as a text for heuristic

Or maybe its worth considering culture as chaos and seeing if we can gain
insight by looking at chaos theory; or maybe its worth considering culture as
analogous to genetic transmission of information and seeing if we can gain
insight using darwinian models.... Argument by analogy is just that; what is
lacking is demonstration of isomorphism between the nature of culture on the
one side and the posited way in which culture should be viewed on the other
side. First demonstrate that culture IS text.

<5. That there are certain infrastructural changes which are behind certain
<phenomena in the ideological world which we call "postmodern thinking"

I'll pass on this one--I don't understand what is being asserted.

<6. That 'totalizing narratives' in the social and human sciences may be
<excluding important things that shouldn't be left out

Trivially true. Ask any archaeologist who has tried to use ethnographies as
a data base and you will find enthusiastic support for the assertion that
important things have been left out.

7. That science, as well as anything else, should be seen as a SCR (social
construction of reality)...

Tricky without clear specification as to what is meant by SCR. If it only
means that science is done in a social context and that social context has an
impact on, e.g., why some questions are considered and why others are
ignored, then there is no dispute. If it is meant that the products of
science are no better or worse than any other SCR in regards to a fit between
the construction and the objective world, then the statement is trivially
false. Consider mathematics. Is it a SCR?

<8. That there is a certain crucial interrelation between knowledge and

Was this ever in dispute?

<9. That the social sciences should be deployed for the purposes of cultural
<critique (esp. self-critique) as well as analysis...

All sciences engage in self-critique based in part on their own
methodologies. To include methodolofies from the social sciences in this
process of self-critique is certainly laudable.

<10. That what appears to be 'self-indulgence' may in fact be a new
<appreciating for the ludic elements of culture (ludic meaning, relating to
<games, jokes, pastimes, and puns...)

I'll plead ignorance and pass on this one. I don't understand the import of
this assertion.

<11. That perhaps, as Feyerabend suggests, paradigms are incommensurable,
<e.g. from Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, the basis of any system can never
<come from propositions of that system itself but require a metasystem or
<metalevel of statements

(That's not quite what Godel's work demonstrated--but that's not critical.)
To put it into the constext of mathematics, the axioms of mathematics are
taken as givens and not derived, only the theorems that are the conseqeunce
of those axioms are derived. All science uses this framework, else one ends
up in an infinite regress.

<12. That perhaps ambiguity, irony, and complexity are as inherent in human
<life as clarity, reason, and definition...

Mathematical text is based upon clarity ("It is clear that ...."), reason
(proofs of theorems) and definition ("an even number is a number divisible by
2"). If clarity, reason and definition were central to human thought and
human life, then students would take to mathematics like ducks take to water.
Or, consider the failure of work in AI based on propositional logic to
achieve even simple tasks that humans find trivial. No problem with assuming
humans work well with ambiguity, irony and complexity. The challenge is to
understand how the brain works so well with unclear statements, poorly
reseasoned assertions, and incomplete definitions....

<13. That people may not like having their behavior predicted,
<and may even go out of their way to behave contrary to the way people
<describe them..

True enough. Models of behavior have to include the context within which
that behavior unfolds, and descriptions of behavior may be part of that

<14. That people do not interact with material reality so much
<as they interact with their perceptions of that reality and what they think
<is real

If, while walking, I bump into a wall, then I interact with material reality
directly; if I stop moving before I bump into the wall then I am interacting
with my perceptino of reality and what I think is real. So the assertion is
hardly radical. I take it that more is actually involved here; i.e., the way
in which, through culture, we have a constructed reality that we take as if
it is real. No problem with that--it's a good axiom from which to build a

<15. That maybe there's something of value in premodern thought
<which can be added to modern thought to create something better than

"premodern" means non-western? modern means "western?". If the intent here
is to attack yet again an implicit, unilineal evolution model which has long
been discredited, then go for it.

<16. That the subject of anthropological endeavor ('humanity') is
<facing some definite boundary shifts in the near future...

Without defining terms its hard to know if this is last propostion
is trivially true or what.

D. Read