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Augustineís Cup: Boundary Conditions and Relocating Science in a Post-postmodern World
Unformatted Document Text:  inherent in the assumption of beliefs. Believers may believe because they have been so thoroughly socialized into a system that they cannot envision experiencing life and themselves in any other way. They may embrace a set of beliefs because it resonates with and explains their own subjective experience of the world, because it is emotionally or spiritually satisfying. Or, acceptance of a belief system may simply be expeditious given the opportunities it affords and the social consequences of rejection. A consistent system of beliefs becomes, for many, a form of identity, a badge that admits one to a community of the like-minded in which fine points may be debated but the fundamental values are shared. Such communities may be of scientists, postmodernists, Catholics, Muslims. As human beings, we yearn for community, intellectuals no less than anyone else. I would never discourage such willing and rewarding membership. However, a more challenging but more expansive identity may be available when one acknowledges the multiple communities to which one may belong or with which one may sympathize, with a measure of reflection and honestly concerning what each offers, and what each constrains. The perspective for which I‚Äôve argued here is postmodern in its acceptance of plural systems and methods for understanding the world. It is constructivist in its recognition of how human beings build cognitive systems and mental models that make the world interpretable and action possible. It is positivist in its regard for the use of rigorous, replicable method to increase the probability of empirical claims about the social and physical world, and argues that other systems that ignore such evidence when relevant undermine their own claims for respectful attention. (Whether or not in a given case a claim is an empirical one, or whether a given bit of empirical evidence is relevant to a given intellectual assertion, is a legitimate topic of debate.) It is pragmatic in its interest in the functional utility and performance of systems of thought rather than in making claims for

Authors: Slater, Michael.
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inherent in the assumption of beliefs. Believers may believe because they have been so
thoroughly socialized into a system that they cannot envision experiencing life and
themselves in any other way. They may embrace a set of beliefs because it resonates with
and explains their own subjective experience of the world, because it is emotionally or
spiritually satisfying. Or, acceptance of a belief system may simply be expeditious given the
opportunities it affords and the social consequences of rejection.
A consistent system of beliefs becomes, for many, a form of identity, a badge that
admits one to a community of the like-minded in which fine points may be debated but the
fundamental values are shared. Such communities may be of scientists, postmodernists,
Catholics, Muslims. As human beings, we yearn for community, intellectuals no less than
anyone else. I would never discourage such willing and rewarding membership. However, a
more challenging but more expansive identity may be available when one acknowledges the
multiple communities to which one may belong or with which one may sympathize, with a
measure of reflection and honestly concerning what each offers, and what each constrains.
The perspective for which I’ve argued here is postmodern in its acceptance of plural
systems and methods for understanding the world. It is constructivist in its recognition of
how human beings build cognitive systems and mental models that make the world
interpretable and action possible. It is positivist in its regard for the use of rigorous,
replicable method to increase the probability of empirical claims about the social and
physical world, and argues that other systems that ignore such evidence when relevant
undermine their own claims for respectful attention. (Whether or not in a given case a claim
is an empirical one, or whether a given bit of empirical evidence is relevant to a given
intellectual assertion, is a legitimate topic of debate.) It is pragmatic in its interest in the
functional utility and performance of systems of thought rather than in making claims for


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