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Two paradoxes of "falsification":

(1) When you reject an idea, theory, or proposition because it can't be falsified, you've in effect said that it's false because it can't be falsified.

(2) The statement, "Theories cannot be verified, but they can be falsified," doesn't survive the challenge, "Can you verify that the theory has been falsified?"

I'm making a bunch of what I consider good assumptions but ones that most people who use the word "falsification" don't make, the most crucial being that, no matter a theory's merits and problems, it's not under challenge until there's a competitor and that it's not wrong (or false or untrue or superseded or worthless or vacuous or whatever) until it's been replaced. Also that, when used as a reason for rejecting a theory, there's no important difference between "wrong" and the terms that I followed it with in parentheses, including "false."*

Fwiw, I've never actually read more than two paragraphs in a row by Karl Popper, the person whom the term "falsification" is most often associated with. So you shouldn't assume this post applies to Popper, though maybe it accidentally does.

[EDIT: What I wrote was a little ambiguous (see my second comment below), so I'll re-word a bit (adding the phrase "shown to be") to say: "...the most crucial being that, no matter a theory's merits and problems, it's not under challenge until there's a competitor and that it's not shown to be wrong (or false or untrue or superseded or worthless or vacuous or whatever) until it's been replaced."]
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Been meaning to post these notes I made in regard to a Daniel Davies post and comments that Mark linked when we were discussing "What do philosophers talk about these days?" Was holding off until I got a chance to read the Crispin Wright piece that Davies' cited, but decided to go ahead anyway, Wright unread, so that Mark can see this before going on holiday:

This interchange among Davies and crew does indeed point at a lot of what philosophers are or are not discussing. Also, I'll note rather irrelevantly that either Davies mistyped or he thinks the Tractatus was published forty years later than it actually was. In any event, here are three other points, possibly related:

(1) Following blog and comment-thread etiquette,* neither Davies nor any of his commenters states any of the ideas they are discussing; rather, they just refer to the ideas, by naming a broad field of endeavor or by naming a person who holds the idea. There are only a few exceptions, which are:

(a) several sentences about Clive Granger.** ("These people are fully aware of Granger. They take it as a principle that making inferences from data to claims about causal relationships can't be done on the basis of purely statistical assumptions; one needs non-statistical premises about the possible structure of causal dependencies. The analysis of causality that Granger offered can be seen as acknowledging that point, but only to a limited extent: the non-statistical assumption on which Granger causality depends in [is?] just the (true) assumption that effects can't temporally precede their causes. That's fine as a structural constraint on causal inference, but it's a very weak one, and one can only get so far without additional causal premises.")

(b) the example given by Davies from a paper by Crispin Wright ("t1 Sue: 'Bill could be in Boston' Ted: 'Actually, I just saw him board a flight to Houston' t2 Sue: 'Oh. Then I was wrong.' Apparently it is very difficult to fit this sort of thing into a consistent logical framework"); but Davies doesn't then detail Wright's idea, though he does provide a download link.

(c) Davies' main complaint, which is that, while this formal highly abstract work has the most prestige and gets the most attention in high-end [Anglo-American?] philosophy departments, it doesn't address any substantive issue. Davies draws an analogy to the situation in modern economics, where, he believes, the highly abstract work doesn't address the problems it says it addresses. Not quite sure if he's also saying exactly that about Wright's paper and its ilk, though that may well be what he intends. But there's a difference between saying on the one hand that Wright is working on an unimportant problem and, on the other, that Wright isn't addressing the issue he thinks he's addressing - the latter can result in the former; still, it's a different argument.

My problem here is that Davies doesn't say, "This is Wright's idea X, it doesn't seem to apply to situation Y or anything like it, so just what's the point of working on X?" And then in the comments, although Brian from Rutgers does say, wait, Wright's work can potentially be applied, Brian doesn't go on to say, "Wright's idea X can potentially be applied to situations X1, X2, and X3, and here's how." So even if I do get around to reading Wright's piece, I won't know how Davies and Brian interpret it, much less why or where they think it can or can't be applied. Fortunately, I also don't know that Davies and Brian won't follow through, whereas the vagueness that afflicts my 'hood exists so that people can avoid following through.

The frequent dependence of exemplars on disciplinary matrices )

*Yes, I am being sarcastic. It's not etiquette but cluelessness, and not necessarily on Davies and crew's part, since they all seem to assume that they and the people they're addressing know the ideas and don't need them re-explained, and unlike in my neighborhood of the 'Net, their assumption may be correct.

**Whom I'd never heard of, but that's not his fault.

footnote 3 )
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Ha! In my head I'd been composing a post in response to meserach's claiming, "any position toward the philosophy of science which fails to give a good accounting of how science achieves 'better' practical results than other ways of thinking about the universe is ultimately bankrupt," where I say that the hard sciences so far have a very limited scope that leaves out vast hunks of the the universe. Turns out, according to Dave, that sitcom The Big Bang Theory beat me to the punch (click link to find out how).

So anyway, my reply to [livejournal.com profile] meserach is that t.A.T.u. and the Veronicas are in the universe, and as of yet physics, chemistry, biology, paleontology etc. have had nothing interesting to say about them or anything like them.* So it would seem that the hard sciences' ways of thinking about that part of the universe (the t.A.T.u.-Veronica's part) have no practical results whatsoever, in fact don't exist. It could be legitimate for [livejournal.com profile] meserach to claim that, e.g., physics does a better job of talking about electrons than music critics do of talking about t.A.T.u. and the Veronicas, but I don't know what to do with that information: I don't know if there would be any benefit if we could talk about t.A.T.u. and the Veronicas with the precision etc. that physicists talk about electrons, and even if there would be a benefit, I have no clue how to achieve that precision, or even what it would be.

This isn't a criticism of the sciences at all, but it accentuates the question I've been bringing up in my last couple of posts: just what is philosophy of science (or philosophy overall) for? What's it supposed to achieve?

*Well, I'm sure that the physical acoustics people could have something to say, but it probably couldn't be extended to most of the questions or ideas I'd have about t.A.T.u. or the Veronicas. And biological research into the brain may well have something to say about the appeal of music, at some point, but again I don't see where that would have an impact on anything I'd have to say about them, though of course I won't know until it happens.
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B. Michael's response to yesterday's question includes this statement:

Professional philosophy is pretty balkanized. It's like any other professional academics: There are fifteen people on the planet who can talk intelligently about any given thing. Everyone else argues about the validity of that thing and questions whether that thing is a thing. None of it has anything to do with day-to-day life.

In the meantime, yesterday's thread continues to roll, or unroll, as the case may be.
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I asked this of B. Michael over on Tumblr, so I thought I ought to ask it of you all as well:

What do philosophers talk about these days, post-Wittgenstein and post-Kuhn? I've not kept up. (Not that I ever kept up.) Kuhn's notion of "paradigms" gets rid of the need for super-deep universal foundations for the scientific enterprise, and Wittgenstein's "family resemblances" does the same for pretty much everything. So what's left for philosophy? Not that I think philosophy departments should disband, but if I were in one I'd transform it into the Department Of Roving Troubleshooters Who Have More Fun Than Sociologists Seem To Have, or something.

EDIT: Er, perhaps I should elaborate slightly, though that could end up in a tangle, since my elaborations will need elaborations. But, e.g., if you're saying as I do that people's musical tastes tend to cluster by their social class, you then (if you're me) have to explore what you mean by social class (and keep exploring). Now, one could ask a philosopher instead, "Dear philosopher, What do I mean, or what should I mean, by 'social class'?" But it seems to me that what the philosopher says is of no more import than what anyone else says, that if s/he has something to say it isn't because s/he's a philosopher but because s/he's just another person trying to figure out in certain instances what we mean or should mean by "social class" in those and related instances. And as with "social class," so with "meaning" and "language" and so forth.
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Int: In Philosophy And The Mirror of Nature, you attacked Putnam's early philosophy. What do you think of his more recent work?

Rorty: I think our views are practically indistinguishable, but he doesn't. He thinks I'm a relativist and he isn't. And I think: if I'm a relativist, then he's one too.

Int: Why do you think Putnam sees you as a relativist?

Rorty: Beats me. I wrote an article about it, but that was as far as I got.

. . .

Int: Do you disagree with any of Davidson's views?

Rorty: I can't think of anything we really disagree about that doesn't seem to me a verbal issue, but Davidson may have a different view of the matter. Well, one thing is that he keeps saying truth is an absolutely central concept, and I can't see what makes it central or basic. I take Davidson to be saying that truth, belief, meaning, intention, rationality, cognitivity - all these notions are parts of a seamless web, and that seems to me a useful point to make, that you can't have any of these notions without all the others. It's just that he then wants to say, "And truth is in the middle." I can't see why you have to have a middle.

Int: Putnam has also criticized you for deemphasizing truth.

Rorty: Putnam keeps saying that you have to have what he calls "substantive truth." I take Davidson to be saying: there's not much pointing in saying truth is substantive. I don't think Davidson has any better idea than I do what Putnam means by that. Nonetheless, he somehow attaches a weight to the notion that I can't seem to attach to it.

--Interview with Richard Rorty in January 1995 by Joshua Knobe

It rains when you're here and it rains when you're gone )
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What I posted on girlboymusic's tumblr thread after she'd claimed that "PUMPKIN IS NOT A VEGETABLE. IT'S A FRUIT. SCIENCE." Relevant to Kuhn's idea of incommensurability; the point I always make with the botany-cookery distinction is that one can easily hold both nomenclatures in mind simultaneously, despite their being incommensurable; so knowing one paradigm doesn't make a competing paradigm incomprehensible:

Well, there are different nomenclatures here for different purposes. E.g., in cuisine - and in grocery stores - tomatoes are vegetables not fruits, while in botany tomatoes are fruits, but "vegetable" is not a relevant botanical category (or "vegetable" is a synonym for "plant," but "fruit-vegetable" isn't the relevant division). And in cooking, mushrooms are vegetables, despite not even being a plant in biology; and peanuts are nuts, not peas; and nuts are nuts, not fruits or seeds.

Of course, pumpkins are weird in relation to cooking anyway, since they mainly sell as decoration, and I'd bet the vast majority of their ingestion is when they're sugared up and in pies. But as for pumpkin's basic taste, it's categorized as a squash (as is its plant in botany, Cucurbita pepo), and the part of the squash you eat is a fruit in botany, but it's a vegetable when you eat it. American Heritage Dictionary's def'n of squash: "1. Any of various plants of the genus Cucurbita, having fleshy edible fruit with a hard rind. 2. The fruit of such a plant, used as a vegetable."
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Me, responding over at Tom's tumblr in regard to contenderizer and Tim Finney on this ilX Pitchfork's Albums thread (search for "tough and complicated idea" and "partners"*)(I like ogmor's comments**). I'm repeating myself, of course (saying in less full form what I'd said here), but I think this needs to be repeatedly hammered in: "Personal taste" and "objectively true" not only aren't the only two choices, neither can be fallen back on when the issue is a value judgment. Here's what I wrote:

The problem with either analogy - taste in music is like taste in gender, taste in music is like taste in partners - is that "best album" is not an expression of taste. It's a value judgment, and in our society, at any rate, no one has successfully been able to pry it loose from "value judgment" and relegate it to the "taste" category. If anything, the reverse is true: apparent expressions of taste - "I love this," "this is my favorite," "this is boring," "this turns my stomach" - tend to play as value judgments anyway. So even if my judgments are just rationalizations of my taste, they function in the world as judgments. Now, there's plenty of recognition that judgments are connected to taste and to personality and to social role and the like, so we're not expected to all make the same judgment. But in my online world we are nonetheless encouraged and even expected to give reasons why we think something is good or bad, not just reasons for why something appeals to us. People's outrage or contempt at our taking Mariah and Taylor and Ashlee seriously (to take Dan's triumvirate of dislike) isn't outrage at our taste, at our personal preferences, but at our thinking that we're at least in some way right, and that those who dislike those artists are wrong, and at our thinking these women are worthy of time and space, the reader's or listener's time as well as our own - and those who won't give them time can fuck off with their opinions (except that such opinions are usually a sociological gold mine).

*I'm searching for both.

**Does anyone know who contenderizer and ogmor are (or their former ilX names, at any rate; I've lost track of who is who)?
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Now—judged by the usual criteria—the pupil has mastered the series of natural numbers. Next we teach him to write down other series of cardinal numbers and get him to the point of writing down series of the form

0, n, 2n, 3n, etc.

at an order of the form "+n"; so at the order "+1" he writes down the series of natural numbers. —Let us suppose we have done exercises and given him tests up to 1000.

Now we get the pupil to continue a series (say +2) beyond 1000—and he writes 1000, 1004, 1008, 1012.

We say to him: "Look what you've done!"—He doesn't understand. We say: "You were meant to add
two: look how you began the series!"—He answers: "Yes, isn't it right? I thought that was how I was meant to do it."——Or suppose he pointed to the series and said: "But I went on in the same way."—It would now be no use to say: "But can't you see....?"—and repeat the old examples and explanations.—In such a case we might say, perhaps: It comes natural to this person to understand our order with our explanations as we should understand the order: "Add 2 up to 1000, 4 up to 2000, 6 up to 3000 and so on."

Such a case would present similarities with one in which a person naturally reacted to the gesture of pointing with the hand by looking in the direction of the line from finger-tip to wrist, not from wrist to finger-tip.

--Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, passage 185.

Superpain

Aug. 10th, 2009 05:08 am
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I like this response I just made to Nate on the several-days-old pain thread, so I'm reposting here so it doesn't get lost:

One of my favorite papers I wrote in college argued that - despite what philosophers claim - in standard usage intensity of pain is not strictly personal and ineffable but is a social value judgment that we can and do argue about, just as we argue about beauty, etc. - well, not "just as," since "beauty" is sometimes said to inhere in a sunset or sculpture or other inanimate object (despite the eye-of-the-beholder bromide), but we most certainly don't leave it up to an individual's self-report to decide how hurt he's feeling, whether his pain-statements are valid, whether or not he's malingering or whining, etc.

[And I'll add here that in instances where pain confers legitimacy - e.g., you are accorded personal or political validity on the basis of your suffering - pain is something of a Superword. E.g., "Hero Of Fear": "Terry says he's more real than me 'cause he's sick all the time/Not like I get sick/Or you get sick/But real sick." (For meaning of "Superword," click link on sidebar.)]
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Have been pointed to the Webpage for musoc.org, an activist site with avowed political intent that supports, among other things, the following ideas and policies:

--Art music is objectively superior to pop music.

--If you disagree you are a relativist.

--Anything that is not art music is pop music, so minimalism, 'total' serialism, musique concrète, etc. are pop music.

--Pop music should be BANNED from all public and work places that are not licensed entertainment venues.

--Pop music should be BANNED from children's television and other media.

(h/t Josh Kortbein)
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Over on Blue Lines Revisited, Tom throws a couple brief criticisms at most music convos about subjectivity, objectivity, and relativism, and I add some pessimistic comments of my own, including this one:

My complaint about the subjectivity/objectivity/relativism conversations, beyond most people's not knowing how to do them, is that what motivates the conversations gets sidestepped in the actual conversations themselves. The conversations arise from an uneasiness with the conventions for discussing and judging music, those conventions forcing us to make judgments but putting those judgments up for question and debate. And what the subjectivity/objectivity/relativism conversation generally avoids or botches is the question of authority: What authorizes what we say about music, and [a question that's more subterranean] who authorizes it? The subjectivity/objectivity/relativism terminology is awful because it gives us two dumb choices neither of which matches actual social practice: "subjectivity" tells us that we can say whatever we want, "objectivity" tells us that it's the facts that authorize what we say. Neither choice is correct, neither corresponds to what we actually do, which is to constantly make judgments about the music, judgments that, as I said, are up for question and debate. And the subjectivity/objectivity/relativism convo is generally a dishonest way to influence the debate by trying to persuade someone not to question judgments - either 'cause the judgments are "subjective" so our only choice is to agree to disagree or because they're "objective" hence based on facts about which we're not allowed to disagree, supposedly - so almost everything that actually goes into the judgments (including but hardly limited to where the music is being listened to, why, and who with) is avoided in the subjectivity/objectivity/relativism discussion... except when I'm part of the discussion, in which case you'll find me recommending that we eliminate the words "subjective" and "objective" from the language altogether and insisting that no one gets to use the word "relativism" without explaining what the hell he or she means by it.
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[livejournal.com profile] tarigwaemir asks in the Kuhn 20 thread whether the quantum revolution is really a revolution,* seeing as we still use classical mechanics as "a valid approximation for certain frames of reference." Kuhn would emphatically say yes it's a revolution (and so would I, though my poor knowledge of physics makes my "yes" less impressive than his). In Structure Kuhn directly addresses our continued use of Newtonian mechanics, though in regard to the difference between classical physics and relativity, not between classical physics and quantum physics. Kuhn says flatly, "Einstein's theory can be accepted only with the recognition that Newton's was wrong." He argues against the contention that Newton's Laws can be seen as a correct, but limited, application of Einstein's, or that our limited use of Newton's Laws somehow means those laws remain in effect.** Kuhn's argument runs from pp 98-103 of the second edition. I'm only giving you the tail end, where he's arguing against the idea that Newton's Laws can be derived from Einstein's theory as a special case of it. ("<<" means "way way way way less than," and I'm guessing that "(v/c)2 << 1" is a way to limit velocity to being way way way way less than the speed of light. I apologize if I'm wrong.)

Kuhn: Can Newtonian dynamics really be derived from relativistic dynamics? )

*The quantum example in "What Are Scientific Revolutions?" somewhat obscures its revolutionary character by not alluding to the many changes wrought by the quantum but instead focusing on the vocabulary shift from "resonator" to "oscillator" that accompanied the recognition that the resonator's energy levels were discontinuous rather than continuous.

**My analogy on the Kuhn 20 thread was to say that our continued use of Newtonian mechanics was like our continued use of the words "sunrise" and "sunset," which have a real and irreplaceable function (at least not replaceable in any way that I can see) but whose existence hardly makes the Copernican Revolution less revolutionary or means that Ptolemaic/Aristotelian cosmology are still partially in effect.
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The term "paradigm shift" has made it into the common language as "a fundamental change in the way of seeing or doing something." Of course, many people's threshold for what counts as "fundamental" or "change" is really low, and "paradigm shift" is usually what people want the other guy to undergo so that his ideas will come to match the ones we've already got. But that's not the term's fault, that a lot of people become posturing dumbasses when they employ abstract intellectual terminology. A more damaging problem is that people are interested in paradigm shifts but not in paradigms; that is, the idea of breaking through restrictions is appealing, whereas the idea of creating new restrictions and being supported and nurtured by those restrictions is less appealing. But Kuhn came up with the idea of shifts back in the 1940s, along with the idea that the shifts were between incompatible modes of thought. It wasn't until the late '50s, however, that he developed the notion "paradigm," and he did so not only to understand how shifts occurred, but to understand how it was that the hard sciences were so much better at asking and answering questions and at creating fundamental shifts in thought than were the social sciences, which seemed to continually be reverting to square one.

If Kuhn is right, this is what paradigms do for the sciences:

1. Paradigms organize and focus a science's activity by telling the scientist what questions to ask and how to go about answering them. Which is to say that paradigms restrict and specialize the scientist's attention. And as a science develops and undergoes scientific revolutions it breaks into more and more subsciences that are ever more specialized.

2. Paradigms create expectations that are sufficient enough in their precision that anomalies can occur. And when anomalies can't be explained away as equipment failure or scientist error and can't be worked into the paradigm, then they become impetuses for a scientific revolution, i.e., a paradigm shift, and for the ultimate creation of new restrictions and new specialization.

(I recommend that you look back at Kuhn 8½, which contains excerpts from "The Essential Tension," the 1959 article in which Kuhn first uses the word "paradigm.")
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Oliver Morton in the New York Times (Found in Transit): One day, over a lunch mostly devoted to an enthusiastic if only partially successful attempt to turn me on to the isotopic intricacies of the Earth's sulphur cycle, my friend Kevin Zahnle summed up the case for finding out how common complex biospheres are on planets around other stars: "It is simply the most interesting question that we have it in our power to solve."

There are other deep and interesting questions about biology's cosmic setting — How does life get started? How varied can it be? — but it's not clear what sort of research program might answer them. However, it's possible to specify pretty well the research program needed to find out how common planets with life at least a bit like Earth's life are.


I bolded the statement that made me think of paradigms. What a paradigm* does for a science is it tells the science's practitioners how to move forward. It presents them with problems and also with puzzles and solutions the scientists can model their problem-solving on.

*I'm using "paradigm" in both of its intertwined senses, as an exemplar (a concrete puzzle and its solution) and as a disciplinary matrix (the constellation of formulas, laws, procedures, values, etc. of which the exemplars are a part). The key word in the previous sentence is "intertwined," since as I read through Structure I'm more and more getting a feeling for why at that point Kuhn was running his two meanings together.
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Working away on the question of the distinction that Kuhn draws between rules and paradigms, and why he thinks it's important to draw such a distinction:

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions p. viii: I was struck by the number and extent of overt disagreements between social scientists about the nature of legitimate scientific problems and methods. Both history and acquaintance made me doubt that practitioners of the natural sciences possess firmer or more permanent answers to such questions than their colleagues in social science. Yet, somehow, the practice of astronomy, physics, chemistry, or biology normally fails to evoke the controversies over fundamentals that today often seem endemic among, say, psychologists and sociologists. Attempting to discover the source of that difference led me to recognize the role in scientific research of "paradigms." These I take to be universally recognized scientific achievements that for a time provide model problems and solutions to a community of practitioners.

pp 3-4: Instructed to examine electrical or chemical phenomena, the man who is ignorant of these fields but who knows what it is to be scientific may legitimately reach any one of a number of incompatible conclusions.

So, the success of the natural sciences as opposed to the social sciences lies not in the natural scientists' knowing better than the social scientists what it is to be a scientist, or their having a better grasp of something called "scientific method," but in the members of a particular field or subfield sharing a set of model problems and solutions (i.e., paradigms). This isn't yet telling us the difference between paradigms and rules (as opposed to a paradigm being a type of rule, say, or a collection of rules), or why Kuhn thinks it's important that we notice such a difference. But it tells us what he thinks is at stake: a paradigm is what allows a particularly scientific community - a scientific field or subfield - to proceed with effect, without constantly having to ask itself what it's doing.
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[livejournal.com profile] dubdobdee asked me several weeks ago to remind him what the Kuhn questions were, so I'll repost some of them here. Back in Kuhn 5 I asked six broad questions, thinking we could get to work on 1 through 3 relatively quickly and 4 through 6 as we went further. "Quickly" is relative, and if you think of the notion of quickness relative to geologic time, we're but an instant away from when I asked the questions. In any event, in getting to work on question 2, another question began to supersede these six, an apparently more esoteric and seemingly less world-important one. I'll summarize the question as:

What does Kuhn think the difference is between being following a rule, on the one hand, and seeing how to apply a paradigm, on the other?

This question developed in discussion between Mark and me in the comments to Kuhn 8 and then got restated by me in Kuhn 11 in this way: Kuhn would say that the difference between following rules that tell you how to apply f = ma, on the one hand, and seeing how to apply f = ma, on the other, is _______. And then I summarized with: Kuhn would say that the difference between seeing a resemblance and following a rule is _______.

This was all in relation to this stream of questions (using the word "paradigm" in the narrow sense of "exemplar"): (a) What might these rules or types of rule be that Kuhn thinks other people think are in effect but he thinks are not? What do they do? (b) What are paradigms - these devices that Kuhn thinks accomplish what other people attribute to rules? What do paradigms do? (c) What's the difference between following a rule on the one hand and modeling your solution on a paradigm on the other? (d) Why is it that Kuhn thinks that scientists proceed by way of paradigms rather than rules? (e) Why does Kuhn think it's so important to distinguish between following a rule and being guided by a paradigm?

In trying to answer these questions, we will need to use examples more than to give definitions.

I myself don't altogether understand how to anwer the question )

The other six questions )
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Mark informs me that a well-regarded philosopher once said something somewhere linking "paradigm" to "metaphor." I haven't read this thing that the well-regarded philosopher said, but I felt like posting a caution anyway.

Not all resemblance is metaphoric )
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Offnotesnotes asks "can music be objectively good?" and Tom repeats the question and Daddino and I comment. Sane people tend to flee such discussion, but I don't, and this was my two cents:

Well, a problem is that the word "objective" has an air of precision about it but it's actually vague and problematic as all shit, and Marc never told us or figured out what he was asking. A connotation of "objective" is that everyone who has access to the same facts or data or sense impressions and isn't mentally deficient and is willing to do the work must come to the same conclusion, and we can't imagine that they wouldn't. Generally, the word that "objective" attaches to is "true" rather than "good," the distinction supposedly being that we can - or, once we know more about tides and winds and such, we will be able to - determine objectively whether a dike in or near New Orleans can withstand Category Four or Category Five hurricanes. Whereas whether New Orleans is worth the trouble of protecting and preserving, and what about New Orleans you want to protect and preserve, and whether dikes are the way you want to do it (rather than, say, moving the city periodically) are generally considered value judgments, which are supposedly the sort of thing that we can imagine disagreeing about, no matter how much data we collect.

Objective and subjective must die )
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[livejournal.com profile] byebyepride and [livejournal.com profile] tarigwaemir and Anonymous have comments on my Heidegger thread that still merit responses from me, but I'm going to put off responding for the time being. In my Heidegger post I was asking a question of Nietzsche and Heidegger that I've been asking of myself as well, and I've decided that the question will be clearer if I simply ask it of myself, and leave Nietzsche and Heidegger out of it for the time being.

The question is, "What is the importance of the idea of transcendence?" By "transcendence" here I don't simply mean "rising above circumstances" (e.g., "he transcended his militaristic upbringing to become one of the great humanitarians of the age") but rather the demand that - to mix metaphors - one's grounds, causes, or reasons must be absolutely transcendent. That is, one's grounds, causes, or reasons must be so independent of what they ground, cause, or justify that if the latter were to cease existing, the grounds, causes, and reasons would nonetheless remain unchanged. So, by this standard, if my theories are to be grounded in fact, the facts must in no way be dependent on the theories. Get rid of the theories and all that accompany them - including their premises, assumptions, vocabulary - and the facts remain identical to what they were before. (If the standards for transcendence aren't stated so explicitly, nonetheless the feeling is that all the strength or solidity or authority or capacity to shape comes from the grounds-causes-reasons, and none from what is being grounded or caused or justified.)

What I mean by importance )

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