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Augustine’s Cup: Boundary Conditions and Relocating Science in a Post-postmodern World
Unformatted Document Text:  that our ability to recognize a triangle makes it very difficult for us to see and reproduce the actual lines, angles and shadows that we use to infer the existence of the triangle. 8 Similarly, an old dispute between Descartes and Spinoza could also be in large measure resolved empirically. Descartes argued that we can understand the fictional or false as such; in a sense, we understand the false, if we know it to be false, presentationally. Spinoza, in contrast, argued that we can only receive perceptions as if they were real. We then must retrospectively qualify those perceptions or thoughts, discount or discard them. Gilbert, in an ingenious series of experiments, demonstrated that a variety of distractions could prevent participants in the experiments from discounting information that they understood to be false. In other words, distracted people were less able to qualify or discount information they knew to be false, and were therefore more likely afterwards to believe information from a false message to be in fact true. These results, of course, were consistent with Spinoza’s perspective. 9,10 The presence of empirical support for one side of a metaphysical question does not mean the metaphysical problem is solved, of course. However, the availability of empirical evidence supporting specific viewpoints may stimulate progress in a domain of thought that otherwise seems to move in circles. Similarly, an increased willingness to identify testable empirical propositions in social, political, and metaphysical thinking would do a great deal to make social science research of larger intellectual importance. For example, Nussbaum provides an insightful analysis of the relation between cognition and emotion. 11 This analysis incorporates a thoughtful and appreciative review of psychological research in this domain. The essentials of her provocative argument—that human values can be best understood as the principles used to inform the relation between cognition and emotion—might in turn inform and advance empirical research. Values can, albeit somewhat crudely, be identified

Authors: Slater, Michael.
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that our ability to recognize a triangle makes it very difficult for us to see and reproduce the
actual lines, angles and shadows that we use to infer the existence of the triangle.
8
Similarly, an old dispute between Descartes and Spinoza could also be in large
measure resolved empirically. Descartes argued that we can understand the fictional or false
as such; in a sense, we understand the false, if we know it to be false, presentationally.
Spinoza, in contrast, argued that we can only receive perceptions as if they were real. We
then must retrospectively qualify those perceptions or thoughts, discount or discard them.
Gilbert, in an ingenious series of experiments, demonstrated that a variety of
distractions could prevent participants in the experiments from discounting information that
they understood to be false. In other words, distracted people were less able to qualify or
discount information they knew to be false, and were therefore more likely afterwards to
believe information from a false message to be in fact true. These results, of course, were
consistent with Spinoza’s perspective.
9,10
The presence of empirical support for one side of a metaphysical question does not
mean the metaphysical problem is solved, of course. However, the availability of empirical
evidence supporting specific viewpoints may stimulate progress in a domain of thought that
otherwise seems to move in circles. Similarly, an increased willingness to identify testable
empirical propositions in social, political, and metaphysical thinking would do a great deal to
make social science research of larger intellectual importance. For example, Nussbaum
provides an insightful analysis of the relation between cognition and emotion.
11
This analysis
incorporates a thoughtful and appreciative review of psychological research in this domain.
The essentials of her provocative argument—that human values can be best understood as
the principles used to inform the relation between cognition and emotion—might in turn
inform and advance empirical research. Values can, albeit somewhat crudely, be identified


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