Hey Paul? (Pomo Ground Clearing)

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at primenet.com
Sat Mar 6 19:36:33 PST 1999

Hello everyone,

Carrol Cox writes: I hope this gets a reply. I never use the word in public because I'm not sure myself how it is used. In the privacy of my mind I do have a meaning for it (and a negative one): It is the belief in the identity of fact and knowledge, which can (perhaps usually does) translate into the belief that facts explain themselves, which emerges as the denial of the reality of relations but only of the things related which emerges as both a hidden Platonism and as a nominalism gone mad.

What the various people on this list mean by it I do not know. In writing I never use the label but just use the paraphrase, "belief that facts explain themselves," thus avoiding either debates over terminology *or* a pointless exchange of labels no one understands.

Doyle Absolutely. I have plenty of room for someone to say something clearly enough to me about what positivism is. I like your definition a great deal, Carrol. I could speculate what someone seems to mean by positivism, but frankly positivism appears to me to have been a metaphysical movement of a few people (I believe starting with Ernst Mach) who had some influence in Western European science, but faded away a long time ago as a doctrine. To say someone now is a positivist or typical science practices positivism is very muddy to me. I could better understand "scientism" because it implies someone is "religious" about some position in science (which is why your definition is so to the point, that matter explains itself) that is supposed to have special authority, but it is entirely unclear from those expressions of a critical attitude toward science what could be if science weren't positivist. I think too that Paul assents to that Marxism was positivist, and that rings hollow to me not because some "Marxist" doesn't have dogmatic attitudes cropping up about scientific speculation, but that Marx was a pretty good example of a scientist in the way I think it ought to be understood. The charge of scientism gives me no understanding at all to get out of such paradoxes as a moral charge of positivism seems to assert. They are unhelpful labels with no way to advance understanding in a "scientific" way. regards, Doyle Saylor

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