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Augustine’s Cup: Boundary Conditions and Relocating Science in a Post-postmodern World
Unformatted Document Text:  only answerable questions are worth asking? Much of science is built on responses to questions that were once thought unanswerable, until method caught up with intelligent speculation. Moreover, important developments in the sciences and mathematics have both informed and been informed by metaphysical concerns. Menard provides a readable and cogent account of how Laplace’s work in statistical theory and in quantitative sociology energized determinist theorizing, and of how Maxwell’s demonstration that the second law of thermodynamics is probabilistic performed the same service for opponents of determinism. 4 Subsequent developments such as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the mathematics of chaos theory provided further encouragement to those who prefer to view the world probabilistically; it will be interesting to see how Wolfram’s theorizing concerning cellular automata is incorporated into such debates. Conversely, in the field of experimental psychology, the work of German scholars such as Wundt and Fechner, 5,6 derived largely from a desire to gain empirical insights into philosophic questions concerning mental experience and phenomena such as the nature of attention. Cognitive and neuropsychology continues to provide evidence of relevance to metaphysical issues. For example, some argue that dualism assumes that perception is presentational . That is, perception directly represents physical reality. This would obviate much of the idealist world view. The idealist argues that perception is representational. In this perspective, what we think we perceive is in fact constructed and is not necessarily a “true” reflection of some physical reality. Results in cognitive and neuropsychology, at least as I would interpret them, support the representational viewpoint. Recent studies of long- blind patients with their sight restored indicate that they can only with training and time make sense of visual impressions. 7 One can see the shadows and colors, lines and angles that make up a triangle without being able to see a triangle. Conversely, art teachers tell us

Authors: Slater, Michael.
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only answerable questions are worth asking? Much of science is built on responses to
questions that were once thought unanswerable, until method caught up with intelligent
speculation. Moreover, important developments in the sciences and mathematics have both
informed and been informed by metaphysical concerns. Menard provides a readable and
cogent account of how Laplace’s work in statistical theory and in quantitative sociology
energized determinist theorizing, and of how Maxwell’s demonstration that the second law
of thermodynamics is probabilistic performed the same service for opponents of
determinism.
4
Subsequent developments such as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and the
mathematics of chaos theory provided further encouragement to those who prefer to view
the world probabilistically; it will be interesting to see how Wolfram’s theorizing concerning
cellular automata is incorporated into such debates.
Conversely, in the field of experimental psychology, the work of German scholars
such as Wundt and Fechner,
5,6
derived largely from a desire to gain empirical insights into
philosophic questions concerning mental experience and phenomena such as the nature of
attention. Cognitive and neuropsychology continues to provide evidence of relevance to
metaphysical issues. For example, some argue that dualism assumes that perception is
presentational . That is, perception directly represents physical reality. This would obviate
much of the idealist world view. The idealist argues that perception is representational. In
this perspective, what we think we perceive is in fact constructed and is not necessarily a
“true” reflection of some physical reality. Results in cognitive and neuropsychology, at least
as I would interpret them, support the representational viewpoint. Recent studies of long-
blind patients with their sight restored indicate that they can only with training and time
make sense of visual impressions.
7
One can see the shadows and colors, lines and angles
that make up a triangle without being able to see a triangle. Conversely, art teachers tell us


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