SUO: Re: Question about Example in KR Book
I think that we agree on a moderate position, except for the
labels. Just a few comments:
> Your definition of "realism" ("Once we have ......" below.) claims
> the middle ground between extreme realism and extreme nominalism,
> which are the versions I was defining. This grabbing of the middle
> ground so trivializes the realism/nominalism issue that Richard Rorty
> (whom we both agree is a nominalist) would be perfectly happy with
> your brand of realism -- as would Quine, another nominalist! In
> claiming that middle ground, by definitional fiat, you have not
> solved an important philosophical problem, but rather covered it up.
I prefer Wittgenstein's attitude: show people how to escape from
the philosophical puzzles and get on with their lives. I admit
that's a cover-up from the point of view of philosophical history,
but the exact positioning of any particular problem within its
historical context goes far beyond the purpose of this mailing list.
> So in the end, I claim it is possible to acknowledge the force of
> the nominalism presented by Kuhn, Quine et al, and still put one's
> trust in the laws of science and technology, to get in one's car
> and drive to the doctor's office where one will be treated with
> a possibly invasive technology that one understands very imperfectly.
What I object to in your statement is the phrase "force of nominalism".
I believe that what makes Kuhn, Quine, et al., significant is their
underlying acceptance of scientific realism. Quine, for example,
recognizes the importance of set theory, which seems to be innocent
enough on the surface. But from the assumption that sets "exist"
in some sense, you can construct all the Platonistic forms and show
that they "exist" in the same sense. Once they accept set theory
and the claim that scientific laws reflect something real, you can
just as easily say that they recognize the "force of realism".
> Conclusion: what I called "nominalism" and you called "realism" is
> nominalism, pure and simple, from the realism/nominalism and truth
> theories perspective....
Now you are trying to force me to accept your label. I would prefer
to say that Quine and Kuhn are closet realists because they accept
science and set theory. Rather than fight over these issues, I would
just prefer to drop all labels, except perhaps in a discussion of
> ... Scientific methodology is more realist the more stable background
> theories to an experiment are. It is more nominalist the less stable
> those background theories are.
I would rather just drop the labels here. I certainly agree that
the result of induction alone is nothing more than a summary of past
observations. That is the classic definition of nominalism. But
an inductive hypothesis does not become accepted as a theory unless
and until it has made successful predictions about future observations.
The ability to predict the future is a classic aspect of realism.
Scientific methodology includes both.
Question about Quine: I have read a lot of Quine's work, but I don't
recall that he has ever emphasized or even mentioned that science
makes successful predictions about the future. Do you know of any
place in his opera omnia where he says anything like that?
The crucial point I wanted to make is that all successful engineers
and car drivers make predictions about the future that they are
willing to stake their lives on. As long as you acknowledge that
point, I don't really care whether you label it moderate nominalism
or moderate realism.