RE: Science---or Myth?
Mon, 10 Jun 1996 13:59:19 EST

Sorry for the delay; I've been away at a conference...

And sorry for including all of this; I can't find an intelligent and concise
way to edit it...

Gary Blanchard writes: <>
>> Gary Blanchard writes the following about John Fisher's post:
>> 1. What do you mean by 'language'?
>> > 2. If something is 'pre-verbal,' by which one means
>> > 'outside of / beyond language,' then how do we know of
>> > its existence? How do we consider / view / think
>> > about it? How does it presence itself to us?
>> > 3. If something is, indeed, 'outside of language,' can
>> > we humans even be aware of it? Example: A dog
>> > whistle.
>> I can't speak for John, but I'd like to address these questions. By
>> language, I would (start with) sign activity, where signs are defined
>> as arbitrary symbols used to communicate shared meaning. I would
>> differentiate signs from other types of symbolic activity, like images,
>> gestures, or from signals, like facial expressions.
>> I also prefer the notion of non-verbal to preverbal. Imagistic
>> activity can be non-verbal, as when I imagine my wife, the smell of
>> coffee, or a Mozart sonata. Images are not necessarily linguistic,
>> but they can be structured in part by signs, or at least by meaning.
>> We know about images from our subjectivity of them; they are presented to
>> us in the activity of construing something when it is not immediately
>> before us.
>> A dog whistle is not simply "outside of language" -- it is outside
>> of the range of out sensory receptors. We can entertain all types of
>> experiences that are outside of language! These would include the
>> examples of images listed above, as well as emotional feelings, the
>> feeling of being in the forest after a rain, coldness, etc.... Language
>> is a vehicle of commuication, enculturation, as well as inner thought,
>> etc. But it does not exhaust human functioning; to imply as much would
>> be to offer a reductionism -- a different kind of reductionism, but
>> a reductionism nevertheless.
>> Mike Mascolo
>Dear Mike-
>Thanks for your message. I believe I understand what you are saying. I
>am willing to engage about it, if you are interested.
>My first question: What is your source for the claims you have made
>above, about how the world is, and how it works?
>What if what you are saying could be shown to be simply an aspect of
>Naive Reality (no pejorative intended)? Naive Reality, or Objectivism,
>is characterized by a speaker believing that what they think/feel they
>see/know about reality is in fact actually so, and can be proved to be
>so with evidence, i.e., scientifically. Wouldn't you want at least to be
>aware of / look into / consider an alternative view?
>By my questions I simply am seeking to launch such an inquiry. And the
>same rules of evidence would apply to any claims I make as they do to the
>claims of others. This is not about a dominance-submission game, or
>wanting to be 'right.' This is about getting as clear an understanding as
>we can of the way things actually are. To do anything less than that is
>to operate on the basis of illusions / myth / religion / anti-science, it
>seems to me.
>Come back to me, okay?
> Best, Gary

I'm not entirely sure how to respond here. On the one hand, your questions
are right on target -- you are asking me (us) to be reflexive about the
source of our views. On the other hand -- and I do not wish to be arrogant
here -- I think that I (we) are very aware, as constructivists, that our
claims about the world have a history, are embedded in presuppostions,
etc. Personally, I am aware of at least some layers of the embeddedness
of my own constructions, although it is very important that others continue
to point out assumptions about which I am not aware.

I must admit that I am not yet ready to buy the postmodern belief that
I can't have my grand narratives. I want to erect my grand narratives,
as well as local theories that are generated by them. I do wish to
test the "scientifically", although I do not believe that I'm getting at
truths-independent-of-my-construings. I DO believe, however, that the
use of systematic observation and evidence can indeed lead to better
conceptions of our worlds -- conceptions that allow us to explain patterns
of data better than previous conceptions or competing conceptions. I say
this knowing full well that our preconceptions interpenetrate data

I also think that there's nothing really wrong in boldly putting forth
a view that one views as having merit, or more merit than another view, as
long as one is reflexive about one's assumptions, and willing to entertain
other views. There is something to the clash of ideas. Let's say that I
put my ideas on the table about a given phenomenon. I provide my data,
etc. You come along and provide alternative data and alternative arguments.
I defend, and hang on until the rest of my life. You ultimately prevail.
One might call this a masculinist, modernist way of doing things. But
note what happened -- my putting my ideas out there allowed you to
articulate yours better, and ultimately, your views prevailed. My point
here is that I need not give up "taking a position" or a "general
theory" in order for "progress" of ideas to occur. And note -- my
defending my position is a social act; it is in the social activity of
advancing, agreeing, defending and arguing that *general* progress within
a field takes place, even if I go down as a result of it....

Hope this is at least modestly comprehensible...

All the best,
Mike Mascolo