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Speculating about the real

Author: joe

Sunday, 08 February, 2009 - 14:29

The anti-scientistic bent which may have been over-emphasised in my narratives lecture series sits oddly with the humanist and rationalist streak that I know is also a fundamental aspect of my thinking.

It is a bit odd that I can call for Dawkins to be made a mullah even while I defend the Foucauldian or Nietzschean critique of knowledge practices and the will to power. Often, I know, I'm just arguing against the prevailing winds of any particular discussion: so maybe newcomers to academic discourse will often use the word 'scientific' as though it simply refers to a collection of precise knowledge we have which is metaphysically true, and so I'll take the critical line in order to problematise such understandings of what science might be. On the other hand, I'll find myself in a discussion with sociologists and phenomenologists and find it impossible to resist arguing that, in at least an important pragmatic (folk-knowledge?) sense if not in a metaphysical sense, we might often find scientists describing a universe in a way which would be true even if there were no humans around to construct (or be interpellated, structurated, socialised, or diagnosed by) such 'truths'.

So that's a dialect between undermining the uncritical acceptance of the feasibility of universal, scientific 'truth-finding' on the one hand, and on the other fighting the same 'absolutism' in Continental philosophy's 'linguistic turn' which denies the knowability of the world. In addition there is the historiographically fascinating journey of scientific knowledge, which brings discourses of progress and democratisation, as well as discourses of imperialism and technocratisation. All on a collision course with my considerable taste for evidence-based thinking, and my utter impatience with woolly credulism and religiosity.

I love the idea of 'science' as 'knowing', but hate it as 'reduction'; I admire it as a pure method, but mistrust it as a diagnosis of humanity; I like it as a myth-buster, but loathe it as mystifying jargon; I'm blown away by its sheer unafraid ambition for discovery, but can't bear its arrogant sense of infallibility and intolerance for critique.

Anyway, for all these reasons, I'm interested in science's own relationship with its history - the schizophrenic attitude it has to the pseudo-Lacanian submission to the laws of the father - rejecting dogma, but building on accepted bodies of knowledge; I'm very intrigued by the current debates being played out by the speculative realists who want to reconnect (what I see as) the phenomenological currents in philosophy with old-fashioned metaphysics; and, of course, I want to figure out this confliction in my own thinking because, frankly, my PhD is doing my nut.

For all these reasons, I thought, as part of my new campaign to write more on this blog, I'd start going through all the material I've circled and bookmarked, or shouted at and whooped over as I've read the lovely crinkly-wrapped New Scientist which arrives every week. I'm not sure exactly what will pop out, whether a specific method of critique will emerge (textual and discourse analysis, deductive reasoning, phenomenological responses, etc) or whether there'll be any trends as to criticism or advocation of what I find. Maybe I'll at least work out some of my conflicted angst about scientific practices. Maybe not. Either way, this post has been by way of introduction. My first go will appear on this blog some time very soon.

Categories: science, positivism, reductionism, phenomenology, philosophy, linguistic-turn, knowledge, dialectic,
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