logic and the subconscious

Justin Schwartz jkschw at hotmail.com
Thu May 24 20:08:05 PDT 2001

Probably we are speaking foreign languages (wrt to each other). I was trained as a philosopher by analytical philosophers, proud heirs of the logical positivists--and even by one original member of the Vienna Circle, Carl Hempel. I wrote a dissertation and several papers defending scientific reductionism. I'm not a positivist: like one half of the post positivists, and many of my teachers and inspiratins (Quine, Sellars, the old Putnam, Boyd) I am a pragmatist and a scientific realist. )The other half (Kuhn, the more recent Putnam, etc.) are pragmatists and social constructivists.) I'm not a bigot: I love Hegel, I have been deeply influenced by Lukacs, and of course I am steeped in Marx. But although I can recognize and appreciate dialectics, I can't do it. Be that as it may, I am still a fierce defender of the scientific approach to philosophy--in fact, I think that analytical philosophy of science os one of the monumnts of 20th century thought.

Historically speaking, as I was arguing with the Scott a while ago, it is a mistake to assimilate analytical philosophy to logical positivism, a specific current that was important in AP's development, but has been over for 50 years. There are no LPs any more. Russell was never an LP, although he once said he wished he'd written Ayer's LP manifesto, Language Truth and Logic. If he had, though, he would have repudiated it in his next book, as he did with all his own earlier books. Russell was certainly a sort of empiricist. But his most distinctive contribution to AP is a full blown metaphysics of logical atomism (written before LP existed), and metaphysics is something the LPs abhorred. Calling Russell a LP is bit like calling Lukacs a Weberian because Weber influenced him. This is stuff I really know, Chris; if you want to raed more on it than Russell's utterly tendentious potboiler--a bad book written quickly for money--I can give you some cites.

I am not sure what all this has to do with Occam's razor. The injunction not multiply entities unnecessarily, or, translated into our terms, to choose the simpler of otherwise explanatorily equal theories, is just good scientific practice. It's obviously not an injunction not to avoid explantorily necessary or useful entities and causes. This hasn't anything to do with analytical philosophy or logical positivism. It's just what good scientists do. If you have a specific explanation that calls for posits others reject (say "value" or "class" or whatever), make a case that they are necessary, that they do some work. Then you won;t be violating Occam's razor to posit them. Occam's razor doesn't tell you that you must inhabit an intellectual desert, just that what you plant has to have roots and do work.

>>P.S. Justin, someone whose knowledge of Russell was limited to the
>>_History of Western Philosophy_ might quite reasonably think he was a
>>logical positivist. I read it in high school, and for about 7 years made
>>that assumption (since most of what I knew about logical positivism came
>>from those few paragraphs in Russell).
. . . >

Wojtek's reply was to argue
>everything could be explained by two factors: trying to be popular among
>peers and trying to piss off others, and recalled William of Occam.
>My objections for Justin's reference is that this sort of approach
>simplfiies the complexity of the universe.
>It is surprising to find a perfectly civilised amiable person speaking a
>foreign language fluently, but I strongly suspect Justin and I are speaking
>foreign languages.
>I come with what I believe to be loyalty to dialectical principles,
>including that everything is connected with everything else. The idea
>therefore of arbitrarily ruling out but the bare number of possible
>explanations by the narrowest, and I would say, mechanical, logik. That
>would be a crime against the Truth.
>. . .

>As for my remarks about Russell, one of the opportunities of posting on a
>list like this is to be challenged in areas of ignorance. In the emphasis
>of logic, I would claim that Russell is in a similar current to logical
>positivism. His "History" peaks at the end with a chapter on "logical
>Wittgenstein provides a bridge with his early writings between Russell and
>the Vienna Circle.
>In a broader sense the reductionist scientific method has been strongly
>influenced logical positivism.
>http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/l/logpos.htm# The Main Philosophical
>Tenets of Logical Positivism
>"Until 1950s logical positivism was the leading philosophy of science;
>today its influence persists especially in the way of doing philosophy, in
>the great attention given to the analysis of scientific thought and in the
>definitely acquired results of the technical researches on formal logic and
>the theory of probability."
>So in the broader sense were are still fighting the reductionist, logical,
>and positivist restrictions on scientific discussion that the Vienna Circle
>Chris Burford

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