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Augustine’s Cup: Boundary Conditions and Relocating Science in a Post-postmodern World
Unformatted Document Text:  one, a problem that may enrich thinking about science as much or more that thinking about metaphysics. (I say thinking about science, and not scientific thinking, intentionally. These are very different enterprises; the first is a philosophic enterprise, the second is not.). To say that a physical universe or social world is not fully knowable is not the same as to argue that therefore it is illusory. Some versions of idealism, and post-modernism, that argue the world exists only as it is constructed by the human mind, are fundamentally untenable. We can only know the world through as it is represented and reconstructed by the mind. As such, our intellectual knowledge is always constrained and incomplete. Yet we are able to achieve a great deal of shared understanding of the world. Some of this consensus is fundamentally subjective. It is based on shared culture, a set of common experiences that has entrained in us similar filters that give rise to similar interpretations. Some is based on evidence, on probabilities derived from either sensory experience or forms of organized and replicable observation—scientific method. The scientific enterprise, from this perspective, can be viewed as containing two distinct though related components: the culture of science and the scientific method itself. The culture of science or of various scientific disciplines—as a set of values, as a means of self-definition—is as much a cultural construct as any other. Moreover, the verbal and linguistic framing of ideas and theories that shape scientific inquiry also reflects culture and history, and both inform and limit the directions and priorities of scientific inquiry. Latour provides an extensive account of this dimension of scientific inquiry, 15 but one that obscures, in my view, the respect for results obtaining from rigorous methodology that in most cases prevents scientific discourse—in the long if not in the short term--from being simply another domain in which politics, rhetoric, and pull prevail over substance.

Authors: Slater, Michael.
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one, a problem that may enrich thinking about science as much or more that thinking about
metaphysics. (I say thinking about science, and not scientific thinking, intentionally. These
are very different enterprises; the first is a philosophic enterprise, the second is not.).
To say that a physical universe or social world is not fully knowable is not the same
as to argue that therefore it is illusory. Some versions of idealism, and post-modernism, that
argue the world exists only as it is constructed by the human mind, are fundamentally
untenable. We can only know the world through as it is represented and reconstructed by
the mind. As such, our intellectual knowledge is always constrained and incomplete. Yet we
are able to achieve a great deal of shared understanding of the world. Some of this
consensus is fundamentally subjective. It is based on shared culture, a set of common
experiences that has entrained in us similar filters that give rise to similar interpretations.
Some is based on evidence, on probabilities derived from either sensory experience or forms
of organized and replicable observation—scientific method.
The scientific enterprise, from this perspective, can be viewed as containing two
distinct though related components: the culture of science and the scientific method itself.
The culture of science or of various scientific disciplines—as a set of values, as a means of
self-definition—is as much a cultural construct as any other. Moreover, the verbal and
linguistic framing of ideas and theories that shape scientific inquiry also reflects culture and
history, and both inform and limit the directions and priorities of scientific inquiry. Latour
provides an extensive account of this dimension of scientific inquiry,
15
but one that obscures,
in my view, the respect for results obtaining from rigorous methodology that in most cases
prevents scientific discourse—in the long if not in the short term--from being simply
another domain in which politics, rhetoric, and pull prevail over substance.


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