falsifiability fetish was Re: anti-depressants

JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Wed Aug 30 14:14:09 PDT 2000

I said:

> Sure. the basic problem [with falsifiability] is pointed out by Quine, not in the context of
> falsifiability per se, that any theory can be held true by making suitable
> adjustments elsewhere. (This in Two Problems of Empiricism).
You said: Is that the same as Two Dogmas of Empricism?

Oops, egg on MY face.

> Don't have (either?) article

If I recall, its about p 40 of From A Logical Point of View, Rev. ed.

> but what sort of "adjustments" would we make to enable us to entertain a "Newtonian mechanics" with the laws F = ma and F = 2ma? (Perhaps you have overstated Quines claim?)

No, maybe Quine overstated his claim, but he means it. To hold true F=2ma you would have to do a lot of work and explain away a lot of stuff, but flat-earthers and creationists show us how it is done. As indeed, closer to home, do orthodox Marxists. Quine is willing to say that logic itself is revisable--given suitable story, such as quantum logic, we could give up the excluded middle. I agree with Quine here, although sometimes we lack a suitable story, and in that case, as in your example, the burden is very much on the proposers of the improbable sounding proposition. (That is one reason I harp on the burden on advocates of socialism.)

> But Doug knew all this from reading _Fashionable Nonsense_, which he
condemned here sometime back.

Haven't read it.

> Just to refresh our memory, Sokal and Bricmont discuss falsifiability on pp.
61-69. Briefly, their objections to Popper are 1) falsifiability doesn't go far enough, we need (inductive) methods of arriving at truth as well as (deductive) methods of arriving at falsity,

Right, but for Popper, falsifiability is mainly a method for telling science from "metaphysics," a demarcation criterion. And he thinks we don't have methods for arriving at truth.

> 2) falsifiability doesn't get us
to falsification as directly as it might at first seem to, since we can't test a proposition in isolotion (Quine). We are forced instead to test a web of propositions and any of them could, in principle, be the rotten apple.

Wir sind wie Schiffers auf eine Boot . . . .

> I recommend falsifiability as a handy bullshit detector which may be
profitably employed by the non-professional. Use with caution around open flame. (This is more or less where Sokal and Bricmont end up.)

I think that is fair enough. It's good enough for gummit work, said the federal employee.

> "As if giving grounds did not come to an end sometime. But the end is not an
ungrounded proposition, it is an ungrounded way of acting." Ludwig Wittgenstein

Die philosophen haben die Welt nur verscheidende interpretiert . . . KM

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