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5.0 out of 5 stars A refutation of science as ideology, May 12, 2012
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This review is from: Naturalism and the Human Condition: Against Scientism (Paperback)
If the "unexamined life is not worth living," as Socrates told us, the unexamined consequences of an outdated view of the human subject is just as bad. Olafson's analysis has both extensive practical consequences and impressive theoretical implications for contemporary philosophy. No, it does not solve all our problems, but it offers a place from which we can begin again.

In Chapter 15 of IDEALISM AS MODERNISM,Idealism as Modernism: Hegelian Variations (Modern European Philosophy) American philosopher and Hegel scholar Robert Pippin examines Hegel and Heidegger on the topic of anti-Cartesianism. Both philosophers revise Descartes' classical understanding of the human subject that gave us our "natural attitude," with its ego as a consciousness that provides a mind with a sense of self. Olafson explains the problem and provides a thorough-going critique to show how studies of the natural sciences can mistakenly use the natural attitude and thus contribute to the perpetuation of the old view.

Olafson's key concept is called "presence." What that adds to the natural attitude is the realization that when we examine entities, our ability to examine also requires an examination and must be explained. How is it that entities show themselves to us? What does that mean? Where does such meaning come from? Why cannot we eliminate meaning from anything we do, including hard science?

The natural attitude uses the conventional vocabulary of "mind," "self," "consciousness," and "world," etc. By substituting its discipline of objectively collecting data, science tries to avoid the slipperiness of those concepts. Separate requirements, such as making data available publicly, distinguish objective collection from subjective interpreting of the data. However that fails to guarantee separateness, since data is useful only insofar as it is interpreted.

The leakiness becomes evident when interpreters employ the natural attitude without realizing it. The natural attitude has faulty philosophical assumptions. That frailty becomes especially pernicious if the flaws of the natural attitude are denied, which allows "scientism" or dogmatic science to take root.

The new understanding of the human subject requires a revised concept of "world." Olafson shows how the new perspective works better when it follows the lead of Heidegger's "being-in-the-world" as an alternative way of conceptualizing "mind" and "self." Olafson translates those notions in a common sense fashion to show how the natural sciences can find a more secure place in the new post- or anti-Cartesian perspective.

Olafson comments that a search for normative implications improves if rather than "looking for values, we examine more closely the relation in which human beings stand to one another." He goes on,

"Every human being has interests and judges events generally and actions especially--his own and those of others--by the way they affect these interests. Other people are also able to judge whether what they are doing is advantageous or detrimental for those who are affected by their actions.(...) The core of morality is simply the requirement that we be able to justify what we do that affects other people to those who are so affected in the light of all the relevant facts about it. 'Justify' here means to show persuasively that some action is (...) as sound for the person or persons to whom they are proposed as they are for the one who proposes them.

"The idea of morality is that of an association in which everyone is recognized as having the right to make decisions about his own well-being and to contribute to a public determination of the good for its members. (...)He or she is after all a dweller in a milieu of truth as we all are and must recognize one another to be." Pp 63-4
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Initial post: Feb 5, 2013 11:23:59 AM PST
Louis Berger says:
I think you might find my recent publication relevant and interesting: Language and the Ineffable: A Developmental Perspective and Its Applications.
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