Positivism vs Realism

Richard Zander bryo at COMMTECH.NET
Fri Dec 12 13:27:12 CST 1997

Byron Adams wrote:
> Re: the thread of realism vs positivism:
>         It seems reasonable to me that any scientific research program or
> methodology employing discovery operations subservient to positivism should
> be exposed as such.  I think this is a very clever and valid way to
> criticise a research program or methodology, and I would like to see it
> continue.  So far (from reading the threads) I am not convinced that this
> argument has been clearly made or defended.

Two things about this, Byron. "Discovery operations" assume that there
is a reality out there, say, a pattern, that exists independently of
your theory and method of research. That's okay, you're a realist. I
think that this leads to overconfidence about what "converging to the
truth" means, especially using a non-statistical method like parsimony
analysis. Postitivism is on the outs now, since W. Quine published his
Two Dogmas paper (see his web page) that showed that all statements are
theory-laden, and the difference between analytic (idea-generated)
statements and synthetic (observational) is rather vague. On the other
hand, he said "there is no place for a priori philosophy." To the extent
that your assumption that metaphysics HAS a place in science, you are
handicapping yourself with a burdensom circularity.


Richard H. Zander, Buffalo Museum of Science
1020 Humboldt Pkwy, Buffalo, NY 14211 USA bryo at commtech.net

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