This is the second post today on philosophical matters. Those who know me might be tempted to tell me: ‘get a life.’ Those who know me well, however, will know that there are two reasons why I can’t help philosophizing, bashing other philosophers, including myself, and reflecting on what gets our adrenaline in high gear: first of all, there is the desire to hear thought getting articulated; second of all, there is the demand of writing, which I try with and on my own body. I seduce myself. What exactly I mean by that I prefer not to waste words on at this point, but rather represent graphically through the perennial three dots. So … any interpretation of my motives goes – though some will be more correct than others.

The 6th installment in the series Tankens Magt (The Power of Thought) is about the philosophy of science. Vincent F. Hendricks, this time looking like a modern-day eco-critic, save for the long and checkered sleeves covering most of his bejeweled hands, is in conversation with Hans Siggaard Jensen, also wearing something that resembles gardening clothes, save for the glasses, which makes me think, by a stretch, of a cross between a flamboyant art critic and an interrailer. The introductory quotation is delivered. Says Quine: “Philosophy of science is philosophy enough.” I think of another quote by Quine, as soon as Hendricks articulates his: “Language is conceived in sin and science is its redemption.” If one knows some things about Quine, one also knows that, in addition to his being a mathematician, a philosopher, and a pretty good writer of aphorisms, he was also into theology. Especially sin, original or otherwise, interested him. So one tends to get irreverent to(wards) Quine. There is, of course, also the matter of the dictionary: “to quine - v. “(1) To deny resolutely the existence or importance of something real or significant. “Some philosophers have quined classes, and some have even quined physical objects.” Occasionally used intransitively, e.g., “You think I quine, sir. I assure you I do not!” (2) n. The total aggregate sensory surface of the world; hence quinitis, irritation of the quine.”

All this can easily get quite quaint, but since this is a post that should address the show and its emphasis on new trends in the philosophy of science and technology, we should not go the old-fashioned way. So we start again, this time with Quine, again – some people believe in repetition and I’m one of them – but within more context. From his The Ways of Paradox: “Such solutions are good just to the extent that (a) philosophy of science is philosophy enough and (b) the refashioned underpinnings of science do not engender new philosophical problems of their own” (1953). Hans Siggaard Jensen starts pointing out how since the 60s some philosophers, including Quine, have started questioning the condition for the legitimization of scientific discourse. Instrumentalism, constructivism, and relativism replace imperialism. Basically that’s all we need to know. And the task of the philosophers is to stimulate discourse rather than provide final answers to stupid questions, or stupid solutions to a priori-ly set answers. Who decides what discourse is dominant is the group that has the power. (I refer my Danish readers to a little article, in which I’ve said pretty intelligent things – not to mention the humor – in the Roskilde University’s newsletter, RUCnyt – about culture wars, C.P. Snow and the Sokal affair, computer technology, nerds and nissemænd.)

The rather whacked in his head philosopher, Paul K. Feyerabend, pops up during the show and I like that. Here’s a quote from him: “Knowledge is not a series of self consistent theories that converges towards an ideal view; it is rather an ever increasing ocean of mutually incompatible (and perhaps even incommensurable) alternatives, each single theory, each fairy tale, each myth.” Something occurs to me while I watch Jensen. I discover that I start counting – I often do that. I count how many times the word ‘interaction’ occurs. At least five times. I want to count exactly, but damn, I discover that the producers behind the show are way too slow for me. In spite of the available technology, they don’t upload the program on the university's website until later, so I can’t go back and count more precisely – and patience is the least of my virtues. So this number is an estimate. It goes to show, however, that, indeed, what makes the existing scientific discourse interesting is not its claim to precision, but the fact that – as Jensen also rightly observes – it relies on interaction, interrelation, manipulation, and we could add, myth, symbolization, imagination, fantasy, craziness, and sensual interpretation of logical formulations that one swallows in a haste because they taste good.

So, the point of writing about this – for those in need of a point – is to prove that materiality – I’m banging my computer – is the value of thinking about philosophy. By the same token, the science of philosophy is science enough – and enough to think about.

On the philosophy of science, then, can we have more good vibrations?


Bent said…
Let's credit our old friend Douglas Hofstadter with coining the noun 'quine' (denoting a computer program that generates a copy of its own source text as its only output.)

Hofstadter's interest in self-reflexivity (a favourite self-reflexive sentence of mine is this: "This sentence no verb" - I use it often when marking student essays, which alas are usually not intentionally self-reflexive) and strange logical loops has generated quite a bit of interest in him from humanists who tend to think in terms of meta-textuality when hearing the word selfreflexivity. See this PDF as an example...

For a blogger, I suppose a quineBlog would be a post that writes itself about itself, and when finished, posts itself and is itself...

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