Social constructivism vs Positivism
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22-02-2013, 08:18 AM
RE: Social constructivism vs Positivism
Exactly, Chas. Classy move restating it though. Really adds to the conversation.

Hey, Purple.

Did my post help clarify things?
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22-02-2013, 09:46 AM
RE: Social constructivism vs Positivism
(22-02-2013 08:18 AM)Ghost Wrote:  Exactly, Chas. Classy move restating it though. Really adds to the conversation.

Hey, Purple.

Did my post help clarify things?


The postmodernists are all butt-hurt that science gets the privileged position, that it sits at the head of the table. Science isn't given the privileged position, it earned it.

All they've got is fashionable nonsense.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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22-02-2013, 10:53 AM
RE: Social constructivism vs Positivism
I just lost a lot of respect for you, Chas, and, whether you believe it or not, that really upsets me.

You see walls where there are none, a war where there is coexistence and enemies where there are friends. I'd love to rescue you from that place, but to do so, I have to descend into it and I have no interest in subjecting myself to that horror.

After years of study and considered reasoned thought, I am very much a postmodernist, proudly so, and when you say that we're fools and butt hurt and nonsensical and that our work is crap, I rightly take offense; which, it seems, was your intent. That's incredibly base and, when coming from you, a man that I otherwise have developed a great deal of respect for, quite shocking. You're smarter than that. I know that you are. So you must excuse me, but I have no interest in that.

I'm interested in conversations because I'm fully aware that many postmodernist ideas are difficult to grasp and quite counter intuitive. When I see people like Dawkins criticising it from a place of non-understanding, I get frustrated. Just as frustrated as when he hears people criticise evolution from a place of non-understanding (which, as a Darwinist, frustrates me too). I get excited when people ask me questions because I get to share my understanding of something that is important to me and help people better understand it. Why do you think I write such long posts? Because I'm passionate about it. But when people make it personal, I'm just not interested anymore. Ca vaut pas la peine as we say in French.

If you want to dismiss the entirety of postmodernism because of a clever prank (and I'm the first to admit that it was a very clever prank), then that's your prerogative. Are there postmodernist wankers? Of course there are. And we deal with them as they come. But there are many brilliant postmodernist thinkers (and I do hate being slavish to categories, but in this case it seems helpful) who have a truly insightful understanding of the nature of things and I for one appreciate their contributions. If you cannot, then so be it, but I think you're missing out. If you want to assume that I'm somehow "butt hurt" because science gets a privileged position, whatever that means, then fine. I have a positive relationship with science and see no incompatibility between the constructivist view and science, so I really don't know what you're on about.

So whatever I guess.
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22-02-2013, 02:58 PM
RE: Social constructivism vs Positivism



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The atheist is a man who destroys the imaginary things which afflict the human race, and so leads men back to nature, to experience and to reason.
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22-02-2013, 04:18 PM
RE: Social constructivism vs Positivism
(22-02-2013 10:53 AM)Ghost Wrote:  I just lost a lot of respect for you, Chas, and, whether you believe it or not, that really upsets me.

You see walls where there are none, a war where there is coexistence and enemies where there are friends. I'd love to rescue you from that place, but to do so, I have to descend into it and I have no interest in subjecting myself to that horror.

After years of study and considered reasoned thought, I am very much a postmodernist, proudly so, and when you say that we're fools and butt hurt and nonsensical and that our work is crap, I rightly take offense; which, it seems, was your intent. That's incredibly base and, when coming from you, a man that I otherwise have developed a great deal of respect for, quite shocking. You're smarter than that. I know that you are. So you must excuse me, but I have no interest in that.

I'm interested in conversations because I'm fully aware that many postmodernist ideas are difficult to grasp and quite counter intuitive. When I see people like Dawkins criticising it from a place of non-understanding, I get frustrated. Just as frustrated as when he hears people criticise evolution from a place of non-understanding (which, as a Darwinist, frustrates me too). I get excited when people ask me questions because I get to share my understanding of something that is important to me and help people better understand it. Why do you think I write such long posts? Because I'm passionate about it. But when people make it personal, I'm just not interested anymore. Ca vaut pas la peine as we say in French.

If you want to dismiss the entirety of postmodernism because of a clever prank (and I'm the first to admit that it was a very clever prank), then that's your prerogative. Are there postmodernist wankers? Of course there are. And we deal with them as they come. But there are many brilliant postmodernist thinkers (and I do hate being slavish to categories, but in this case it seems helpful) who have a truly insightful understanding of the nature of things and I for one appreciate their contributions. If you cannot, then so be it, but I think you're missing out. If you want to assume that I'm somehow "butt hurt" because science gets a privileged position, whatever that means, then fine. I have a positive relationship with science and see no incompatibility between the constructivist view and science, so I really don't know what you're on about.

So whatever I guess.


I'm a pragmatist. I assume there is a physical reality that is accessible to our investigation to some degree. We may be only a step or two away from understanding the nature of space-time and matter-energy, or there are an infinite number of layers of reality that we will never entirely know; and anything in between.

But the only tool we have is science. There is no other tool for investigating physics, chemistry, biology, the whole ball of wax. We are learning more and more about how our brains and minds work through science. Not through philosophy, not through religion.

Philosophy informs us about how we might behave, why we might decide to choose to act, and so on. But evolutionary biology and neuroscience tell us what the underpinnings of our urges, our ethics, our limits are.

Maybe you have a broader definition of postmodernism than I, and a narrower definition of science.
By my definition of science, a prehistoric man who learned to track animals by reading the physical signs and applying knowledge and deduction was practicing science. By my understanding of postmodernism, science does not have a privileged seat at the epistemological feast. I claim it is eating alone; there is no one else at the table. Every other epistomological pursuit constructs stories, not knowledge.

So if a school of thought says that science is just another construction, I reject that school of thought. Not that that school may not have some useful things to say, but it is centrally flawed.

Skepticism is not a position; it is an approach to claims.
Science is not a subject, but a method.
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23-02-2013, 01:32 PM
RE: Social constructivism vs Positivism
Hey, Chas.

Thank you.

Quote:I'm a pragmatist. I assume there is a physical reality that is
accessible to our investigation to some degree. We may be only a step or
two away from understanding the nature of space-time and matter-energy,
or there are an infinite number of layers of reality that we will never
entirely know; and anything in between.

I feel you. But where you assume, the constructivist view takes a stand. We cannot comment on the existence of objective reality (which is kind of like honey with vegans, some are fine with it, others won't eat it; that is to say, many people are fine with the idea of there being one) but what we do know is that the brain does not deal in objective reality, the brain deals in construction and this is supported by multiple physical science disciplines, multiple social science disciplines and philosophy as well.

Didn't quite follow the second sentence. I mean, I didn't quite grok your point on that one.

Quote:But the only tool we have is science. There is no other tool for
investigating physics, chemistry, biology, the whole ball of wax. We are
learning more and more about how our brains and minds work through
science. Not through philosophy, not through religion.

I disagree that science is the only tool.

Science, at it's heart, is about creating a model through which we can understand, manipulate, control and predict the physical. And yes, absolutely, it's really dope at it. But no one here is suggesting that it isn't. Phelps might be, but he can suck my ballsack, so fuck him.

You've framed this as a matter of science is great and if I disagree, then I'm anti-science. Which is.... well, wonky. Science is great. Science does teach us stuff. That's undeniable. So that's no longer a part of this conversation.

You're right, philosophy, religion, hell, anthropology, psychology, political science, economics, human relations (the social sciences, the humanities, the arts), none of these things tell us the same things as neurology and biology. Because they aren't those things. But to say that they teach us different things, or complimentary things, or that they shed light on the accomplishments or the miscalculations of neurology and biology, is NOT to say that neurology and biology are shit. Even to say, science is a construction, is not to say that science is shit. All that is being said is that there are different things to learn and that the nature of the things we know is different than we suspect.

But to say that these other things, these things that are not the physical sciences, to say that they teach us absolutely nothing is demonstrably false and insulting to the literally millions of people that work in those fields and dedicate their life and energy to them. It's arrogant... "it" is, not you, brother.

Carbon dating might tell us how old a cro-magnon cave painting is, but it cannot tell us why the artist used that brushing technique, or why those people depicted the animal in that way, or what the ritual value of that work was to those people. That's not the domain of the scientist. That's my domain.

I suggest to anyone reading this thread to invest five hours of their time to watch the full five episodes of How Art Made the World. A fascinating BBC documentary series. I've posted episode 1 below. It shows us how important art has been to humans. It's an example of how things other than science have had a dramatic impact on humanity and how they contribute to our understanding of the world. Just after the two minute mark, Dr. Spivey says that they'll use science to help uncover things. That doesn't mean that science is all, it means that everything exists in a complex. That science and art aren't autonomous entities that live in separate rooms, but that all of the tools we use for understanding are intimately linked. There is science in art and art in science. Science is wonderful. But it is not everything. And yes, anyone that tries to undermine it needs to be taken to task, but the social sciences and the humanities and the arts aren't trying to undermine science, they're conducting their own complimentary explorations of the human condition and our place in the universe. Postmodernism and the constructivist view don't set out to undermine science. They are partners and companions. Obama isn't trying to take your guns away and I'm not trying to take science away. Science is an important force in my life and in my work. But it isn't everything, and it isn't the best, and it isn't the only and it isn't necessary for human success.





Quote:Philosophy informs us about how we might behave, why we might decide to
choose to act, and so on. But evolutionary biology and neuroscience tell
us what the underpinnings of our urges, our ethics, our limits are.

Agreed. But it's not a contest.

Libido drives me to seek sex with the one I love.
Eros drives me to seek romantic love.
Phillia drives me to seek brotherly love and friendship.
Agape drives me to seek selfless love and the joy of being in the company of others.

To say that one teaches us more about one form of love than the others is true.
To say that one is better than the others requires the creation of a false frame.
To say that my life is richer knowing all four rather than just one is a simple truth.

Science is great. And I understand the need to defend it against those that would attack it. But to do so at the cost of everything outside of science is a kind of suicide.

Quote:Maybe you have a broader definition of postmodernism than I, and a narrower definition of science.

By my definition of science, a prehistoric man who learned to track
animals by reading the physical signs and applying knowledge and
deduction was practicing science. By my understanding of postmodernism,
science does not have a privileged seat at the epistemological feast. I
claim it is eating alone; there is no one else at the table. Every other
epistomological pursuit constructs stories, not knowledge.

I think that what you describe is a fine argument. Perhaps humans have been using science for millions of years. I too find the beauty in that notion. In terms of this thread, that's a very different claim than positivism. But that's just for this thread.

But that being said, those same hunters were animists and enjoyed a decidedly unscientific sacred relationship with the world. Had they not survived, we would not be here. We owe our THANKS to the non-scientific. It is a part of us that many simply deny. As far as positivism goes, it has failed to support its claim that science is the best way to generate knowledge, or more stringently, the only way. Nothing can do what it can do, for sure, but that doesn't make it superior and that doesn't mean that the rest is shit.

I honestly don't know what you mean by a privileged seat at the epistemological feast. Sounds really nice, but I don't follow.

If you truly need to claim that it's eating alone, then so be it. I have provided some arguments in support of why I disagree, but in the end, you believe what you believe. I question how you support that position, but c'est la vie. But I'm not going to call you a fool for believing that. I hope that after this exchange, you will not call me a fool for being a postmodernist. I don't require you to agree. I ask only that you understand.

On the subject of stories, stories are the ultimate model. Narrative and the master narrative is the construction that we live in.

"The pilgrims came to America and created the greatest nation in the history of the world."

That is a story that people live in. It forms the basis of their understanding of the world and their place in it. It tells us, as Quinn said, how the world came to be this way. The hunter, as Quinn also says, cannot hunt without the story.

The story IS our reality.

Quote:So if a school of thought says that science is just another
construction, I reject that school of thought. Not that that school may
not have some useful things to say, but it is centrally flawed.

My question to you is, why do you reject that school of thought? What is it about the idea that science is a construction that you find so repulsive?

I hear "science is a construction" and I rejoice. I still love, live with and defend science. I just have a greater understanding of what it is and what it isn't; an understanding that only enriches my life.

If the constructivist view tells us that science is a construction and someone uses that knowledge to attack science, to debase it, to fallaciously desparage it so that they can elevate their own ideas, to seise power for themselves, then that's unfortunate. But our response cannot be to then deny the constructivist view. Because it's the truth. As inconvenient as it may be. Let them be the assholes they are. But let us embrace the truth, no matter how painful.

When someone says, "Evolution is meaningless because it's just a theory," I laugh. I pity them. And yes, it sucks that some people might hear them and swallow their load, but that is always the case.

When someone says, "Science is 'just' a construction, therefore it's shit," I laugh. I pity them. And yes, it sucks that some people might hear them and swallow their load, but that is always the case. But I cannot mortar the bricks of the fortress within which I defend science with the rough sand of denying the constructivist view, because the walls will one day crumble.

Science, like all models, is wrong. But it is undeniably useful.

Peace and Love and Empathy,

Matt
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