More on Churchland.3

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Wed, 20 Sep 1995 12:08:57 +0900

Ray Scupin writes,

"> Facts, it appears, are made not found. Which is why, I
> suppose, scientists are obsessive about their methods
> and casual observation does not count as science

I want to contest this notion by stating that *not all facts
are made or
constructed* by reference to the work by Berlin and Kay on
colors, and
the neo-Kantian perspective reflected in Maurice Bloch's
work (that was
discussed in a back channel a while back by John, myself,
and others).
Bloch refers to Kant's perspective that much of our
phenomenal reality is
indeed constructed by conceptual frameworks that are
given to us through
the socialization process, and many facts about the world
are socially
constructed. However, Kant also suggests that certain
concepts of time
and space are "pure intuitions," and are universally
understood by all
humans everywhere. Through ethnoscientists such as
Berlin and Kay, and
others such as Cecil Brown on plant classification
supplemented by the
work of Scott Atran and Lawrence Hirschfeld, it appears
that we classify
much of our natural phenomena in similar ways
throughout the world. Yes,
of course, we use different terms, but the manner in which
we classify
these natural phenomena is not completely arbitrary, based
on random
cultural circumstances. Thus, it appears that not all of our
"facts" are
constructed. If they were all socially constructed, then we
might, as
different cultural beings, live in radically different cultural
I want to suggest that we do not do so...."

I reply belatedly (with apologies to Ray for not responding

I think that, basically, we are on the same side of the fence
here. You are concerned to assert that cultural worlds are
not radically different because all are grounded in shared
human biology. I would certainly agree. I observe that we
are coming at this discussion on two different levels, with
two different sets of concerns. I would happily rephrase my
own assertion as follows: "Facts, it appears, are made, not
found. Some are made by processes inherent in human
neurophysiology, others are shaped by cultural learning.
The latter must, while not determined, be constrained by
the former. All human beings thus inhabit human worlds--
a fact of some importance, since it allows us to transcend
cultural boundaries and occasionally understand each

We should also note, however, that what Berlin and Kay
demonstrated was not the existence of pan-human
categories. They did find that basic color categories vary
within strict limits (two to seven terms, only in certain
combinations) and that this can be explained by what we
would now call a prototype effect. Whether two, three, four,
five, six, or seven, and whatever their culturally variable
boundaries, color categories centered on modal frequencies-
-the "prototypes" in relation to which other shades are
judged as closer to one than another. All this is perfectly
consistent with what Churchland has to say.

John McCreery
Wednesday, September 20, 1995