Yee Philosophy of Science

Fri, 17 Dec 1993 09:57:38 CST

D. Yee thinks he disagrees with me when he says he "would hardly say
Tarski *solved* the problem of the nature of truth!" What I wrote was
that Tarski solved--"substantially," I should have added--the problem
"for anyone who wanted a solution." Since Yee does not say in what
respect(s) he thinks Tarski failed, I suspect he prefers to keep the
truth concept mysterious. If so, he at least would seem to have a lot
of company. Yee also faults people for thinking the practice of science
"elevates them to a mystical high ground." Well, I plead guilty to
thinking science, as an ongoing interaction of evidence and reason,
transcends any particular culture and does occupy a sort of "high
ground" in terms of hominid accomplishment; but *mystical* is
precisely what this high ground is not. I agree with him, certainly,
that there are "other ways of spending one's life," but *not* that there
are "other ways of knowing." Evidence and reason are our only access (or
"approach," as McCreery and perhaps Read would prefer) to knowledge.
Epistemology, after all, has to do with the nature of knowledge; and the
unique ability of evidence and reason to produce especially credible
accounts is exactly what I am insisting on, over and over and over again
until even I begin to tire of it. The fact that we are capable of using
evidence and reason to produce "privileged," ever-improving accounts of
reality reflects the very nature of intelligence as an evolutionary
product, as D. Read just pointed out.
I am not as innocent of the philosophy of science as D. Yee seems
to think. In particular, I was irritated and saddened by Thomas
Kuhn's misuse of his keen intellect to write a book seemingly contrived
to be widely misread--as it has been--as an attack on science, rather
than an analysis on the human aspect of the scientific process. Kuhn
himself to some extent later acknowledged the problems that result
from deemphasizing the extent to which the *product* of the scientific
process is a deeper and more "articulated" understanding of nature.
(Documentation on request.) My heroes in the philosophy of science,
of course, differ from Yee's; the authors he recommended are no more
attractive to me than will be my recommendations to him: N. Campbell,
A. Ayer, E. Nagel, and above all, C. G. Hempel.
Finally, Yee asks whether lumping all anti-science as "postmodernism"
isn't a bit like some animists lumping non-animists ("materialists," as
Tylor himself called us) as "secular humanists"? Yes, definitely. It
is a lot like it. So now I must confess to a grudging admiration for
the perspicacity of those fundamentalists who can smell us a mile away.
We are eminently "lumpable" because we all share the crucial feature
of rejecting their revelation in favor of evidence and reason; just so,
the secular anti-science crowd is eminently lumpable because it rejects
our insistence on evidence and reason in favor of relativity,
subjectivism, and, ultimately, nihilism. Actually, there is a strand
of animists I respect much more than postmodernists. When they get
sick, they demonstrate their disbelief in science as a privileged
interpretation by relying (sometimes tragically) on faith rather
than physicians. The depth of the hypocrisy of postmodernists is
that they do not. --Bob Graber