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Augustine’s Cup: Boundary Conditions and Relocating Science in a Post-postmodern World
Unformatted Document Text:  Postmodern critiques of science primarily, it seems, are intended to knock science from its pedestal, to deface the icons of Progress and Technology, and to emphasize that politics and capital shape many of the concerns of scientists and certainly the use to which their work is put. It seems to me that Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and global warming have already done that work. Postmodern critiques spray graffiti on an already fallen idol. To establish that a highly effective mode of human inquiry is not an appropriate object of idolatry is a worthwhile venture; it does not invalidate the enterprise itself. Pragmatism and Beyond The position I am describing here may have its closest kinship with William James in spirit, if not in all pragmatist particulars. The positivists follow the pragmatists in their insistence on the value of empirical inquiry, and its primacy over deductive logic. They part ways with James, however, in their insistence on the exclusive privilege of inductive scientific method as a mode of inquiry. The constructivists follow James, though they extend and perhaps overextend him, in basing their conceptualization of the utilitarian construction of ideas on the cognitive development and processes of the human mind. 20,21,22 They do not keep up with James (and even more so, Dewey) in taking into account the social construction of systematic inquiry. The element of pragmatism I will not include in my account is the dismissal of metaphysics that is articulated so clearly by Richard Rorty. It resembles the denial of metaphysics by positivists such as Carnap, but differs primarily by its indifference. As Rorty points out, positivists stake out a rigorous and rather extreme philosophic position that systematically rejects any validity to metaphysical inquiry, to discussions of truth, God, being. Rorty’s, and perhaps Dewey’s, pragmatism simply doesn’t engage with those discussions, regarding them as fruitless so long as they are without discernable utilitarian fruit.

Authors: Slater, Michael.
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Postmodern critiques of science primarily, it seems, are intended to knock science
from its pedestal, to deface the icons of Progress and Technology, and to emphasize that
politics and capital shape many of the concerns of scientists and certainly the use to which
their work is put. It seems to me that Hiroshima, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and global
warming have already done that work. Postmodern critiques spray graffiti on an already
fallen idol. To establish that a highly effective mode of human inquiry is not an appropriate
object of idolatry is a worthwhile venture; it does not invalidate the enterprise itself.
Pragmatism and Beyond
The position I am describing here may have its closest kinship with William James in
spirit, if not in all pragmatist particulars. The positivists follow the pragmatists in their
insistence on the value of empirical inquiry, and its primacy over deductive logic. They part
ways with James, however, in their insistence on the exclusive privilege of inductive scientific
method as a mode of inquiry. The constructivists follow James, though they extend and
perhaps overextend him, in basing their conceptualization of the utilitarian construction of
ideas on the cognitive development and processes of the human mind.
20,21,22
They do not
keep up with James (and even more so, Dewey) in taking into account the social
construction of systematic inquiry.
The element of pragmatism I will not include in my account is the dismissal of
metaphysics that is articulated so clearly by Richard Rorty. It resembles the denial of
metaphysics by positivists such as Carnap, but differs primarily by its indifference. As Rorty
points out, positivists stake out a rigorous and rather extreme philosophic position that
systematically rejects any validity to metaphysical inquiry, to discussions of truth, God, being.
Rorty’s, and perhaps Dewey’s, pragmatism simply doesn’t engage with those discussions,
regarding them as fruitless so long as they are without discernable utilitarian fruit.


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