Paul Henry Rosenberg rad at
Wed Mar 24 16:02:09 PST 1999

Kelly wrote:

> paul exclaims:
> >Egad! How many times do I have to say it?
> many more times
> >I am NOT a positivist.
> once is never enough.

do for i = 1 to 10^(10^10)

I am NOT a positivist.


Is that enough?

> >I am a pragmatist. I think positivism is a load of crap.
> >Why can't any of you read? (A bad case of PoMo-itis, perhpas?)
> and why must we be so hyperbolic here paul? why must we ignore the
> fact that you know kelley is into critical pragmatism as well? those
> soapboxes, i do like building them for you, though. ange i bet too.
> heh.

I dunno, Kelly, I just thought I'd try responding to you as a text for a while, just to see how it goes. Not good, I take it?

Well, anyway, it seems pretty obvious to me that your "pragmatism" has precious little to do with pragmatism as develioped by William James and John Dewey. Mine has a lot to do with theirs -- and with their quarrels against positivism.

> >You're committing so many fallcies here, I can't keep them
> >all straight.
> i'll bet you say that to all the girls.

You'll never know! <G>

> and you're being so vague here. why?

I'm not being vague, I'm being mysterious.

> >Take away the single quotes, change "plenty" to "all" and
> >you'd STILL be
> >No. Mathematics is most definitely NOT a language, though of
> >course it can be spoken of metaphorically as one -- as can
> >music, dance, painting, what-have-you.
> paul, haven't you read your hempel.

Eons ago. He was best as a refutation to his ideological kin.

> of course mathematics is a language. it's a system of
> representation.

Language is NOT a system of representation.

> 2 refers to 2 of something.

No it doesn't. Not unless it explicitly does. That's the whole point of abstraction. Are you SURE you're Kelly?

And what do transfinite numbers refer to?

More to the point (passing from mathematical objects to statements [the closest thing to language you can find in math]): What does Goedel's Theorem refer to?

> and aside from
> that both you and sam conveniently ignored that i was
> talking also about the mathematical formulae used in
> positivist research--the research that produces the stats
> that you were speaking of w/ ange.

There IS no such thing as "positivist research". That's the whole point of the pragmatist critique -- that positivism is FALSE theory of how science operates.

> science operates through explanations. positivist science through
> deductive-nomological explanation.

Positivist science is an oxymoron. Or, perhaps it's practided by oxymorons. No, make that di-oxymorons.

> and like it or not most of the
> stats you might refer to and the research you might draw on to make an
> argument rest on some positivist or neo-positivist account of social
> scientific explanation.

Research and statistics depend on common practice in the various fields. Positivism doesn't play ANY role in them whatsoever. It simply mis-represents the process.

> positivist explanation:
> L1, L2, L3,...,Lr >>explanans sentence
> C1,C2, C3,...,Ck >>explanans sentence
> __________________
> E >> explanandum sentence
> modified for the social sciences under attack by the pragmatists,
> interpretivists:
> p (0, R) is close to 1
> i is a case of R
> __________________
> __________________ [makes highly probable]
> i is a case of 0

Pragmatism is NOT simply a probabilistic rehash of positivism.

> or:
> the probability for persons exposed to other persons
> with chicken pox to develop chicken pox is high
> Ralph was exposed to Jane who had chicken pox
> __________________________________________
> __________________________________________
> Ralph developed chicken pox
> the dominant approach to positivist social science is operationalism.
> but, even so hempel recognized that this was inadequate: "If a theory
> is to applicble to empirical phenomena, its characteristic terms will
> have to be suitably interpreted with the help aof an antecedently
> available, *pretheoretical* vocabulary" In other words, in for science
> to proceed some things are given, axiomatic. which is really what
> started this whole thing to begin with.

James grounded science in common sense. Which is not to say that common sense is sacrosanct. One of the notorious things that science does is confound common sense. Yet, what gives it power is that it does this by beginning with common sense.

All endeavors begin in previous endeavors. Science is no different. (Not only do we have pre-theoretcal ideas, but purposes too!) Pragmatism is particularly untroubled by this recognition. It simply recognizes that this is the human epistemic condition. We can have no other.

But the less uptight we are about our situation, the more we're likely to be intelligent about it, recognize and accept the provisional nature of knowledge, etc. -- all things that positivists are notoriously bad at.

> >ur mathematical capacity derives from different parts
> >of the brain, evolved for different purposes. Mathematics
> >per se (as opposed to representations of it) cannot express
> >humor. There are no ironic equations. It's nothing at all
> >like a real natural language.
> is this not a claim that must be backed up by empirical
> evidence? you have to prove this and yet you just put it
> here expecting everyone to believe you.

And just how many non-ironic equations would count as overwhelming evidence?

> >Nor are mathematical formulae used to scientifically
> >test the truth of a theory. EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE is used
> >to scientifically test the truth of a theory. Mathermatics
> >can certainly help in this process, but no more
> >than measuring and recording instruments help.
> and how is that empirical reality collected, viewed, measured, chopped
> up, conceived, gathered, locked and boxed?

I already said "Mathermatics can certainly help in this process, but no more than measuring and recording instruments help."

> and i don't fathom how you can say math is part of this. the whole
> logic of probability testing underpins the statisical formulae used to
> demonstrate quasi-causal relationships say between someone's social
> class position and their views on abortion, or between the predictive
> ability of the SATs.

do for i = 1 to 10^(10^10)

I already said "Mathermatics can certainly help in this process, but no more than measuring and recording instruments help."


> >"I saw my girl getting sloppy." -- DEVO
> oh you were maybe thinking of it in terms of sloppy seconds. heh.
> kelley
> "i've been distracted by sin, sometimes without a reason"

Mental space junk, perhaps.

-- Paul Rosenberg Reason and Democracy rad at

"Let's put the information BACK into the information age!"

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