Realism and Science

Obviously, I’m keeping out of the back-and-forth among Shaviro, Bryant, and Harman on real relations, not least because I do think that publications ought to come out that I’m working on and then I dive in. Until then I’m agnostic. But I want to focus on something Harman writes:

But philosophy is not just about images, and the sense of the real in scientistic philosophy is generally quite feeble. These positions collapse into pragmatism or instrumentalism at the slightest touch. “Realism” for them really just means: using science to beat up unscientific people. The real is never addressed at all.

This is where Latour is helpful in science studies, since his relationism is often the “slightest touch” that sends things off in instrumentalism. I also have in the background the critique of Theory that ran in the Times this weekend and which I cited earlier. We can argue about Theory some other time, but what annoys me is that the critique one often finds is that Theory people can’t get out of culture to find “reality,” but this is just a defense mechanism hiding the whole linguistic turn in Anglo American philosophy. And then the “reality” that gets presented is so prosaic that one would think that these ‘scientific” realists hadn’t even read the work of actual scientists for the past one hundred years. For these realists, it’s always Newton’s time (and time for Newton). More pertinent to Harman’s point, the “real” is left unaddressed anyway, since the point is to beat up on Continental Theorists and their supposed unscientific ways before you go back to reading Quine.

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