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Science as Radicalism

Hey, read this. Seriously.

Science as Radicalism

William Gillis

It's no secret that a good portion of the left today considers science profoundly uncool. A slight affinity with it persists among a majority, but few asides of scorn by the continental philosophers influential in the contemporary leftist canon see spirited response and science's most prominent champions remain dated historical figures like Peter Kropotkin and Élisée Reclus. Indeed there's a lingering whiff of technocratic stodginess and death that the word "science" has never quite shaken. Those leftists most associated with it have a tendency to either be authoritarians looking to legitimize near-fascist narratives, or doe-eyed activists enchanted by saccharine visions of self-managed bureaucracies and The Meeting That Never Ends. To a great many who identify as radicals "science" appears in our lives primarily as a place our various enemies habitually retreat to conjure the authority their shoddy arguments couldn't.

. . .

The fact of the matter is that the remarkably successful phenomenon that the term "Science!" has wrapped itself around is not so much a methodology as an orientation. What was really going on, what is still going on in science that has given it so many great insights is the radicalism of scientists, that is to say their vigilant pursuit after the roots (or !!!@@e2;20ac;2dc;radis'). Radicals constantly push our perspectives into extreme or alien contexts until they break or become littered with unwieldy complications, and when such occurs we are happy to shed off the historical baggage entirely and start anew. To not just add caveats upon caveats to an existing model but to sometimes prune them away or throw it all out entirely. Ours is the search for patterns and symmetries that might reflect more universal dynamics rather than merely good rules of thumb within a specific limited context. As any radical knows "good enough" is never actually enough.

–William Gillis, Science as Radicalism
Human Iterations, 18 Sextilis 2015

Shared Article from humaniterations.net

Science as Radicalism


Friday Lazy Linking

Please stand by…

For those of you who know me only through my online presence, you should be aware that I did not, in fact, commit suicide out of despondancy over the results of the November 5 elections. Nor have I become a reclusive monk (as much as my tastes may run in that direction). Instead, my weblog has simply been on a prolonged hiatus because of a couple months of nearly non-stop academic work and a blissful bit of reclusive relaxation for the week afterwards.

I just wanted to wish everyone a peaceful and happy holiday season, and to let you know that I shall return to posting more regularly in the very near future (whether this means before the New Year or not will depend on how long it takes me to revise certain essays of mine). In any case—talk to you again soon.

In the meantime, consider this bit of correspondance from Paul Feyerabend to his frequent partner in debates over philosophy of science and methodology:

Dear Imre,

You have powerful allies in this country: Ayn Rand (know her?) is after me. She wrote a long article against a short (three and a half pages) article of mine, and sent copies to 4,000 philosophers in order to prevent American philosophy from deteriorating further. Sample: the author (i.e. me) heralds the retrogression of philosophy to the primordial pre-philosophical rationalism of the jungle . . . But what is innocent and inexplicable in an infant or a savage becomes senile corruption when the snake oil, totem poles, and magic potions are replaced by a computer …

You must admit, she writes much better invective than you.

(from Lakatos, Imre and Paul Feyerabend, For and Against Method: Including Lakatos’s Lectures on Scientific Method and the Lakatos-Feyerabend Correspondance. Quoted in Gregory R. Johnson and Chris Matthew Sciabarra, "Ayn Rand in the Scholarly Literature," The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 3.1)

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