catallaxy files

catallaxy in technical exile

The Rathouse 2002 –

with 57 comments

The Rathouse is a website which replaced an older Fortune City site because this became loaded with pop-ups (the downside of a free site), also the Webmistress was unhappy with the limited range of fonts and other things that artists like to play with.

The Rathouse launched in September 2002, not long after the Popper Centenial Conference in Vienna. The site is named after the Rathaus, the Great Hall of Vienna.

After practicing with the Rathouse The Webmistress set  up a  site of her own to display her artworks and illustrations.

The core of the site consisted of articles about Karl Popper, Bill Bartley and F A Hayek which were printed in the long-defunct  Melbourne Age Monthly Review. This was a bold adventure into high journalism, possibly inspired by the late Robert Haupt. The Review took long articles on more or less intellectual topics. The dominant tone was leftwing and  postmodern. Cynics called it The Mogadon and some suggested it was more for the writers than for the readers. In the event there were not enough readers and it was dumped.

But the damage was done. The first piece which I submitted appeared under the heading The Purpose of Popper and the editor advised that this aroused more positive feedback from readers than any other piece to date. This suggested that it is not a compete waste of time to keep the ideas of critical rationalism alive for the benefit of a lay audience.

The site expanded to take on board a  number of  reviews that I wrote for Australian Book Review during a period when the editor was interested and also some that appeared in Quadrant.

Another section was the Guest Room for homeless waifs and strays who did not have a site of their own. This provided lodgings for the editorials of Quadrant, until it went on line, also Roger Sandall (now living elsewhere), John Hyde, John Stone, Peter Coleman, Barry Williams and Hal Colebatch.

Extra wings were build onto the premises in the form of a series of Revivalist pages, devoted to thinkers who appeared to be overlooked or forgotten. There are four of these:

Revivalist 1. Yvor Winters, Jacques Barzun, James Mcauley.

Revivalist 2. Liam Hudson, R D Fitzgeral, Barry Humphries.

Revivalist 3. Karl and Charlotte Buhler, Rene Wellek.

Revivalist 4. Ian D Suttie, Peter Bauer, Bill Hutt.

Another was planned for R G Collingwood and Edmund Wilson but the Webmistress became very busy with some of her own books and further work on the site was left in my hands. This has resulted in a lot of extra stuff being loaded onto existing pages but no new sections (I was never allowed to do that much on the site!).

Since late 2002 the site has scored almost 300,000 visits, over 100 per day on average. Apart from this time of year when most people have other things to do the daily score comes in between 100 and 200, with occasional spikes over 200 when some link turns up on a highly popular site.

This is the Full Index for the site.

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Written by Rafe

January 12, 2010 at 7:26 am

Posted in Uncategorized

57 Responses

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  1. Popper is an under-rated philosopher. He was interested in truth and wondered about how to get it. Modern philosophy is not interested in that, but in science as a sociological event.
    Science fails to get absolute truth either axiomatically or inductively and so they write it off, and throw it into the basket of cultural constructs.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 11:15 am

  2. I don’t think that Popper is under-rated. His influence on philosophy of science has been immense. The hysterical shriekings on Hegel and co, less so, and deservedly less so.

    Modern philosophy is not interested in that, but in science as a sociological event.

    Is there a single piece of ‘modern philosophy’ you’ve actually looked at dave? Are you wetting the bed about those editorials in the Oz about the evil postmodernism?

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 11:32 am

  3. Is there a single piece of ‘modern philosophy’ you’ve actually looked at dave?
    .
    yes. I’m not going to give a resume here, but yes I have. So to avoid the charge of being, whatever you’re charging me with, let me clarify. Modern philosophy of science – which is what I was mostly talking about – got some real insights from Kuhn and Feyerabend etc. These were exciting new ideas at the time. Unfortunately they’ve led in the interim to a demotion of science as simply one of any number of cultural narratives. Kuhn in particular didn’t see it that way and even Feyerabend was ambivalent, but that’s the end result in 2009. This is unfortunate in my view.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

  4. Unfortunately they’ve led in the interim to a demotion of science as simply one of any number of cultural narratives.

    Perhaps you could be more specific about who is doing this ‘demotion’ of science. Otherwise it looks like that standard rightist stupidity you see with respect to every philosopher from the twentieth century (or every philosopher from France).

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

  5. “Otherwise it looks like that standard rightist stupidity you see with respect to every philosopher from the twentieth century (or every philosopher from France).”

    THR, you seem to be suffering the effects of hot night in Melbourne. Popper, I believe, was a 20th C philosopher, and Descartes, I believe, and even Montaigne and Pascal, where philosophers that lived in France; I haven’t ever bumped into “standard rightist stupidity” regarding any of them.

    dover_beach

    January 12, 2010 at 11:55 am

  6. Perhaps you could be more specific about who is doing this ‘demotion’ of science.
    .
    Pretty much anyone except Daniel Dennett and people with a similar point of view to him.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 11:59 am

  7. There’s no need to be coy, dover. It should be fairly clear by now that there are a bunch of (predominantly rightist) cretins who go weak at the knees anytime somebody mentions any 20th Century French philosopher, for fear that these marauding ‘relativists’, who campaign for the eating of babies, will continue their program of turning science into a game of tiddlywinks. Basically, what you see in the pomophobics is a thinly-veiled anti-French racism, combined with an anti-intellectualism that would make a pig in the Louvre appear comparatively cultured and broad-minded.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 12:04 pm

  8. Pretty much anyone except Daniel Dennett and people with a similar point of view to him

    So nobody, in other words.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 12:05 pm

  9. Pretty much anyone except Daniel Dennett and people with a similar point of view to him

    Actually I think DB is opposed to Dennett and the other sociobioligists. Am I right. Are you into the demotion of science DB?

    Steve Edney

    January 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm

  10. Yes, in some rightist cretins that is indeed the reaction; no doubt this is analogous to the reaction induced in leftist cretins whenever a conservative philosopher of any nationality is introduced into conversation.

    But so far as the charge of anti-French ‘racism’ is concerned, the best satire of “marauding ‘relativists’,…,[and] their program of turning science into a game of tiddlywinks” was achieved by a Frenchman, Alan Sokal.

    dover_beach

    January 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm

  11. “Actually I think DB is opposed to Dennett and the other sociobioligists. Am I right. Are you into the demotion of science DB?”

    I’m ambivalent about Dennett’s project. I particularly liked his ‘Darwin’s Dangerous Idea’ but find his sociobiological tendencies unsatisfactory. I’m not into the “demotion of science”, but then, I’m not a fan of placing it on a pedestal either. I think it is a powerful mode of explanation within its own sphere; beyond it, not so much.

    dover_beach

    January 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm

  12. So nobody, in other words.
    .
    I’m not taking the bait, THR.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm

  13. Alan Sokal is American.

    Steve Edney

    January 12, 2010 at 12:24 pm

  14. Sokal was indeed from the US, and is also a lefty, incidentally. His hoax was very funny and very clever, his attempts to rationalise his positions in subsequent books much less so. Nonetheless, I think his work is instructive, both for its failures and successes.

    Also, DB, in terms of anti-French sentiment – my personal observation after the French refused to support the invasion of Iraq was that a whole range of people declared cultural warfare on the French. This fed into a broader hysterical campaign purporting to demonstrate that children in schools are fed ‘postmodernism’, taught that 2+2=5, etc.
    I’m not taking the bait, THR.

    You’ve derided all modern philosophy (other than Dennett) on the grounds that it runs amok with science, then, when asked for an example of this, you run a mile.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 12:30 pm

  15. Sorry, you’re right, Steve; I think I conflated his nationality with Jean Bricmont’s, a French-speaking Belgain, when they co-authored, Impostures Intellectuelles:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellectual_Impostures

    An innocent mistake which doesn’t detract, I think, from the point I made.

    dover_beach

    January 12, 2010 at 12:31 pm

  16. “Also, DB, in terms of anti-French sentiment – my personal observation after the French refused to support the invasion of Iraq was that a whole range of people declared cultural warfare on the French.”

    True, but this was balanced by a certain anti-Americanism; in fact, both fed the other. Cretins have a habit of stoking each other’s malice.

    dover_beach

    January 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

  17. How was it ‘balanced’? There was no similar campaign to discredit US intellectuals and their pursuits.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

  18. You’ve derided all modern philosophy
    .
    oh, what rubbish.
    All I said was that much of modern philosophy discounts science as just another cultural narrative,and that I’m disappointed in that development. I guess you missed the past 40 years? I’m not interested in defending the claim, nor your parody of it.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 12:47 pm

  19. All I said was that much of modern philosophy discounts science as just another cultural narrative

    I know perfectly well what you said. I asked for specifics, and you’ve been drawing blanks ever since.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 12:52 pm

  20. Come on, THR. There was no “campaign” to discredit French intellectuals and their pursuits; there were however a large amount of ad hoc insults, etc. about the French and their pursuits.

    dover_beach

    January 12, 2010 at 12:54 pm

  21. And so far as dd is concerned, THR, you know well enough he didn’t deride all of modern philosophy since in the same breathe he defended the work of Popper. Seriously, its not hard to give a list of names of French (or other) philosophers that have been less then generous with the epistemic claims of science. And you might have noticed that dd even mentions the name of Feyerabend somewhat favourably; you wouldn’t expect this of a “rightist cretin” who couldn’t tell Feyerabend from Latour.

    dover_beach

    January 12, 2010 at 1:03 pm

  22. I asked for specifics, and you’ve been drawing blanks ever since.
    .
    that’s because I don’t need to prove to you that I know what I’m talking about. I’m not sitting an exam here.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 1:11 pm

  23. THR, here are some people who believe that science is a social construct… so you don’t think that they’re a figment of my imagination.
    Pinch and Bijker
    Collins
    Bird
    Gergen
    .etc….
    why I wasted time doing this is beyond me. I’m not revisiting this thread, THR.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

  24. There was no “campaign” to discredit French intellectuals and their pursuits; there were however a large amount of ad hoc insults, etc. about the French and their pursuits.

    IIRC, the Oz had multiple editorials attacking ‘postmodernism’, and it’s alleged effect on education, mentioning the likes of Foucault and Derrida by name. PM Howard got in on the act (though he didn’t necessarily go after the French specifically). For several years during the noughties, the term ‘French’ became a synonym for ‘socialist’ and ‘multicultural’ (despite France being neither).

    DB says:
    And so far as dd is concerned, THR, you know well enough he didn’t deride all of modern philosophy since in the same breathe he defended the work of Popper

    Dave says that there’s been a ‘demotion of science as simply one of any number of cultural narratives’ from ‘pretty much anyone’ bar Dennet and friends. That’s pretty much a blanket dismissal, no?

    You claim to know what you’re talking about as if it’s self-evident. It isn’t. This is quickly demonstrated by a look at your links. Specifically, your insinuation is that a ‘social constructionist’ take on things is tantamount to scientific relativism, and a dismissal of all science as ‘cultural narrative’ (your words).

    One of your own links indicates that ‘The study of the “social construction of science” refers to the analysis of social influences on the content of scientific knowledge.’ This statement is hardly the same as relegating science to the dustbin of ‘cultural narrative’. And look at the areas of ‘science’ highlighted by your own links – they mention economics and psychology, hardly areas in which ‘social influence’ is acknowledged only by cranks and relativists (or social constructionists, for that matter).

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 1:39 pm

  25. I thought Bird the philosopher of science thinks that truth comes out of his ass?

    jtfsoon

    January 12, 2010 at 1:50 pm

  26. This is quickly demonstrated by a look at your links.
    .
    it was a google scholar search – I was merely showing that there is plenty of literature on the topic of “science as a social construct.” I made a statement about modern philosophy, and you’re quizzing and probing and so on.
    .
    You claim to know what you’re talking about as if it’s self-evident. It isn’t.
    .
    likewise.
    If you don’t agree with any statement I’ve made, by all means say so.
    You’ve made no substantive contribution to this thread, yet act as if I must give you a reference list for a blog comment.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm

  27. hardly areas in which ’social influence’ is acknowledged only by cranks and relativists
    .
    when did I use the word crank? please provide a link. And just out of sheer curiosity, do you actually have an opinion on this topic?

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  28. THR… do you know anything about this topic at all?

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 2:04 pm

  29. dd

    THR is a devotee of the philosophy influenced by that cokehead Siggy Freud. He and Steve Munn had a stoush about this ages ago. i think he’s a bit touchy and would deny that his favourite philosophers are anti science

    jtfsoon

    January 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm

  30. oh okay.
    well he got my blood pressure up since he’s basically saying, throughout the thread, that I don’t know what I’m talking about… starting with this opener
    .
    Is there a single piece of ‘modern philosophy’ you’ve actually looked at dave? Are you wetting the bed about those editorials in the Oz about the evil postmodernism?
    …and it’s gone on from there. I said I wouldn’t take the bait, yet I did.
    Bad on me.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

  31. Rubbish, dave. You made the claim that, apart from a handful of modern philosophers (Dennett, Popper) everybody else dismisses science as ‘cultural narrative’. I asked if you could back this up – rather than do so, you simply gestured to the outcome of your search on ‘social constructionism’, as if this latter is tantamount to an anti-science position. You made the extreme claims about modern philosophy, you should back them up. Your own links explicitly define social constructionism as being a position in which science is held to have social influences. It’s a massive leap from this to your implication that everybody is engaged in scientific nihilism. You’ve refused to justify your assertion about ‘cultural narratives’ with any evidence whatsoever. What you’ve given us instead is a bit of intellectual obesity attempting to go for a jog around the block. It’s not an edifying sight.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

  32. I asked if you could back this up
    .
    no, that’s not how it went. That exchange was down the track when you caught me talking loosely. Of course “everybody else” doesn’t dismiss science, that was a careless generalisation when I was responding to your goading and insults.
    .
    No this began when you said (without any reason for saying it) that I get my philosophy from the Australian (and ‘wet my pants’ doing so), and you’ve been improvising from there.
    .
    By the way if it’s true that you’re a Freudian (who knows what you think as you’ve refused to offer a single insight throughout), then you’ve got no intellectual standing at all, as Freudianism is as discredited as Marxism. Which is to say, totally. If you’re living in intellectual backwaters like those two, then no wonder you don’t understand modern thought.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 2:33 pm

  33. The Sokal and Bricmont critique of POMO was highly nuanced and directed at specific targets, not including Derrida. It helped that they were lefties, thus giving the lie to the spin that this was a part of the left/right culture wars.
    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2NYXP4Y0B5PHC/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm

    BTW it was Foucault who coined the term “obscurantist terrorism” to describe the tactic of Dirrida and others who write in a way that cannot be understood and then abuse critics for not understanding them.

    Rafe

    January 12, 2010 at 2:39 pm

  34. That exchange was down the track when you caught me talking loosely.

    If you were merely ‘talking loosely’, you could have simply said as much and moved on. Instead, you were thinking loosely, persisting in this idiotic claim that almost all modern philosophy is anti-science.

    By the way if it’s true that you’re a Freudian (who knows what you think as you’ve refused to offer a single insight throughout), then you’ve got no intellectual standing at all, as Freudianism is as discredited as Marxism. Which is to say, totally. If you’re living in intellectual backwaters like those two, then no wonder you don’t understand modern thought

    I’m not here to champion either Marx or Freud, but I’m very curious as to who has discredited them, especially coming from a devotee of (ahem) Dennett. Neither Marx nor Freud constitute the ‘mainstream’ of their respective fields. On the other hand, neuroscientists (among others) are increasingly turning to psychoanalysis for insights. The one-size-fits-all cost-effective ‘therapies’ like CBT have utterly failed. It may be too big a topic for this thread, but I’m curious as to how exactly psychoanalysis has been ‘discredited’. More likely, it’s been supplanted by cheaper and stupider ‘therapies’.

    As for Marx – the economies of the developed world are on life support. Profits have been modest, at best, except where there is cheap labour to exploit (like China). On the other hand, surplus funds have gone into finance, seeking the returns that aren’t there in manufacturing. Meanwhile, class conflicts have been displaced from the banner of communism into a myriad of small struggles. If you think that Marx is irrelevant, you’ve been living in a cave the past couple of years.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 3:52 pm

  35. The Sokal and Bricmont critique of POMO was highly nuanced and directed at specific targets, not including Derrida.

    I still think the hoax was better than the critique. Some of the latter was rather flimsy. For instance, they took objection to Lacan because he drew upon mathematics and knot theory for analogies. Elsewhere, they took on some soft (if somewhat deserving) targets like Irigary. In the final analysis, I think Sokal and Bricmont pointed out the idiocy of a particularly obscure style, rather than offered any critique of the content veiled by said style.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 3:54 pm

  36. I’m very curious as to who has discredited them
    .
    Popper, for one.
    As for the Sokal hoax, I agree with Stanley Fish. Alan Sokal put forward his own undertakings as reliable, and he took care, as he boasts, to surround his deception with all the marks of authenticity, including dozens of “real” footnotes and an introductory section that enlists a roster of the century’s greatest scientists in support of a line of argument he says he never believed in. He carefully packaged his deception so as not to be detected except by someone who began with a deep and corrosive attitude of suspicion that may now be in full flower in the offices of learned journals because of what he has done.
    (note to THR: please don’t bother explaining that by agreeing with Fish this undermines my position, or your straw-man characterisation of it)

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm

  37. whoops somehow the blockquote didn’t work out.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm

  38. I’ve read the Sokal paper. It’s readily available online. There were lots of dead giveaways in the piece. It was written for theory geeks in the Humanities, and not for physicists, but there were still plenty of things that ought to have raised suspicion. Even from a strictly pomo humanities point of view, it was incoherent gibberish that didn’t make sense.

    As for Popper – both he, and you, have evidently missed the point vis-a-vis psychoanalysis. In a narrow and facile sense, he’s kinda correct – psychoanalysis is not physics or chemistry. Beyond that, he has nothing meaningful to say on the matter.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 5:09 pm

  39. What is the point vis a vis psychanalysis? Popper was irritated by true believers in Marx and Freud (Vulgar Marxists and Freudians) who found Marxist and Freudian explanations for everything.
    But he was quite prepared to accept that there could be some truth in the doctrines, if only the believes would adopt a critical approach so the programs could grow.
    His critique of the real Marx (as opposed to the Vulgar Marxists) was respectful (overly respectful) and also devastating. It was also a bit on the long side and Clive James descried the OSE as tiresome and repetitious (not really fair).
    Good news, there is a condensed version!

    http://www.the-rathouse.com/OpenSocietyOnLIne/AATheProjectwithIndex.html

    Incidentally, Freud was radically corrected by Ian D Suttie (1935) but Suttie died too soon and the Freudian hegemony was maintained for several more decades.

    Both Suttie and also Karl Buhler (Popper’s teacher) were better value and more scientific than Freud.

    Rafe

    January 12, 2010 at 8:52 pm

  40. There were lots of dead giveaways in the piece.
    .
    yes, and in The Usual Suspects there were lots of clues as to the true identity of Keyser Soze; and yet the ending still comes as a surprise.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 8:56 pm

  41. BTW it was Foucault who coined the term “obscurantist terrorism” to describe the tactic of Dirrida and others who write in a way that cannot be understood and then abuse critics for not understanding them.
    .
    I did not know that. I like it a lot.
    By the way, you mention the “lie” that there’s a political angle on all this, but surely there is; Postmodernism represents an attack on the enlightenment.

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 8:58 pm

  42. That’s an interesting collection of summaries, Rafe.

    I actually think psychoanalysis is on safer ground than Marxism here. Psychoanalysts make truth claims, but they are principally reserved for the analytic situation, which, I would argue, is radically unlike anything else. It isn’t entirely necessary for these claims to be verified outside of that context, though, over the course of the past 100 years, many of them have been. The attacks on Freud based on an alleged lack of scientificity misses the point entirely. Whilst Freud himself may have believed that he was doing ‘science’, many of his followers would quite happily distinguish between a discipline that is rigorous and logical (like psychoanalysis, at its best) and a discipline that meets the strictest criteria for formalisation or hypothesis testing (like certain of the natural sciences).

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 9:01 pm

  43. yes, and in The Usual Suspects there were lots of clues as to the true identity of Keyser Soze; and yet the ending still comes as a surprise

    It’s not obvious that the Sokal paper was a hoax, but it was perfectly clear that it was a dud, and should not have been published. Sure, humanities guys could not have been expected to be on top of the science, but they could have consulted a colleague down the hall. And more than the stuff on physics, it’s the use of the pomo sources that is itself the giveaway.

    Have a look at the references. It’s basically a short paper, yet it’s heavily referenced. And the references themselves – you’ve got Marxists (Althusser), psychoanalysts (Lacan, Nasio), ‘poststructuralists’ (Irigary), philosophy of science (Kuhn, among others), deconstruction (Derrida) and actual physicists (like Einstein). Either somebody is doing the mother of all critiques/syntheses, or the author is just yanking your chain.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 9:10 pm

  44. Postmodernism represents an attack on the enlightenment

    For the most part, many so-called postmodernists continue the Enlightenment tradition rather than attack it. Claims to the contrary simply don’t withstand the slightest scrutiny, except in a couple of extreme cases.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 9:13 pm

  45. Whilst Freud himself may have believed that he was doing ’science’

    If Freud believed he was doing science then he must have completely disowned his famous 1895 paper which to this day most recognise is what a scientific psychology should be about. Freud knew his limitations but failed to acknowledge them. Freudianism and behaviorism will eventually give way to the cognitive science, which is still embryonic and riddled with problems, but it is the way forward; not so much because of its claims but because of its methodologies.

    Seriously, its not hard to give a list of names of French (or other) philosophers that have been less then generous with the epistemic claims of science.

    “Post-modern philosophies that view science as just one belief-system among many are too silly to be worth refuting at length – the utility of scientific knowledge is a brute fact that is shown in the increase in human power.”

    John Gray, Black Mass.

    John H.

    January 12, 2010 at 9:23 pm

  46. Cognitive science is too weak. It’s methodology is basically equivalent to gambling with loaded dice. There’s a whole range of heroic assumptions required to make cognitivism work, and it’s philosophically naive and
    contradictory. The methodology doesn’t change things. Cognitivism, like psychology, more generally, mistakes a kind of fastidiousness for scientificity.

    As for postmodernism – how many of the so-called postmodernists (the influential ones, I mean) seriously claim that science is but one belief system among others? None of the usual suspects do – not Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze…

    Moreover, a lot of the so-called postmodernists are falling out of fashion, and different philosophers will be in vogue in the very near future. This clutching of pearls about things pomo will be a distant memory.

    This raises a more interesting question – why the fear and loathing for pomo?

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm

  47. It’s methodology is basically equivalent to gambling with loaded dice.

    Are you suggesting that the work of Le Doux or Kandel is without merit? For all the problems with cog sci it is nothing compared to the mess that is psychoanalysis. You won’t find an id, ego, or superego in the brain but you will find patterns of activity that are consistent and suggestive of function. Take the Stroop Test, wonderfully simple and yet a valuable clinical aid. If you think things like that have no value then you are dismissing what most neuroscientists and clinicians believe is the best way forward. And they all know about psychoanalysis! The single biggest problem with all modern psychology is the concept of intentionality.

    John H.

    January 12, 2010 at 9:42 pm

  48. Since when are Le Doux or Kandel cognitivists? (Admittedly, I haven’t followed Le Doux’s recent work, but..). Kandel in particular claims inspiration from psychoanalysis.

    And it isn’t just intentionality that’s the problem. IMO, it’s ontology. Cognitivism shares many flaws with classic liberalism – the human subject is a rational, autonomous, cognitivising monad. All the Stroop tests in the world won’t save you if your concepts are utter rubbish.

    You won’t find an id, ego, or superego in the brain but you will find patterns of activity that are consistent and suggestive of function.

    Yes, but you won’t find the withered homonculus of cognitivism there either.

    As a side point, have a look at the way statistical complexity has grown massively in psychology, at the same time that conceptual rigour and methodology have become increasingly imbecilic. It’s as if institutional stupidity can be rebaptised as ‘science’ as long as it submits to some structural equation modelling (which is, after all, nothing more than a glorified series of correlations).

    More seriously, there are a whole range of problems that cognitivism cannot treat. We’ve discussed before the severe limitations of CBT, for instance. Psychoanalysis, when done properly, allows for complexity. It’s probably the only paradigm in psychology with anything like an intellectually satisfactory level of complexity. It’s not antithetical to cognitivism in all respects, and the latter certainly has the upper hand for the forseeable future. All the same, cognitivism has structural flaws that will prevent it from growing to much. It basically cannot deal adequately with emotion, for instance. It’s good for teaching us about the primacy effect on memory, for instance, but precious little else.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 9:58 pm

  49. It is interesting to see how the positivists and logical empiricists set the scene for the sociology of knowledge, Kuhnism and POMO. Their program was dead in the water since the 1930s, actually it was always dead in the water but Popper provided a viable alternative in 1935.
    But the logical empiricists took root in the US when they fled from Central Europe (Hitler’s revenge) and they managed to keep the dead horse of inductivism propped up long enough to produce a reaction from students who wanted something with at least the appearance of life in it.
    David Stove claimed that it was Popper’s irrationalism that set the scene for the rise of strange doctrines but the reverse is the truth. Popper’s “conjectural turn” provided an alternative but the young radicals of 60s and 70s did not read Popper, they read Kuhn, Feyerabend, Marcuse, the strong program in the sociology of science, and of course the Continentals.
    BTW two Australians produced one of the best rejoinders to some of the way out lit theorists. One was a philosopher, the other a literary scholar and so they were not intimidated by the pretence of philosophical sophistication in the pomos. This summary has been endorsed by the authors, Friedman and Miller. http://www.the-rathouse.com/RC_FreadmanMiller.html

    Rafe

    January 12, 2010 at 10:15 pm

  50. There’s a lot in that link, Rafe, and it’s difficult to respond except in a piecemeal fashion. Some of Friedman and Miller’s claims are flat wrong, in my view. For instance, whilst this Belsey person may have something against the individual subject, many alleged postmodernists do not, and have elaborated lengthy accounts of the individual subject. The understanding of Saussure is a little odd, as well as the portrayal of Derrida and deconstruction – whilst deconstruction can be used for radical political ends, it doesn’t have to be. Derrida never wrote anything politically radical, and some of his deconstructionist pals and forebears had practiced extremely dubious versions of far-right politics.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 10:26 pm

  51. “It’s methodology is basically equivalent to gambling with loaded dice. There’s a whole range of heroic assumptions required to make cognitivism work, and it’s philosophically naive and contradictory. ”

    Sounds like game theory. Game theory isn’t methodologically weak, or in the end, useless. On the contrary, it is highly useful can build realistic models.

    Semi Regular Libertarian

    January 12, 2010 at 10:29 pm

  52. Kandel in particular claims inspiration from psychoanalysis.

    No he enjoyed psychoanalysis and praises Freud yet he he never became a practising psychoanalyst and instead got his Nobel by studying single cells. He became what Freud originally was: a neuroanatomist at the microscopic scale. I have his bio on my desk, he speaks a lot about psychoanalysis, When one former colleague heard Kandel was going to research memory by studying single cells he retorted that Kandel’s tranference was not complete. Silly. Yet Kandel’s life work bears no comparison to a psychoanalytic career, he did continually what great scientists do: experiment. That is a fundamental difference here between modern neuroscience and psychoanalysis.

    Yes, but you won’t find the withered homonculus of cognitivism there either.

    Take a hint, if you remove intentionality you’ve already killed that ghost. That’s why I previously stated cog sci is riddled with problems but it is still the best way forward because it has provided a powerful array of tools. The insights drawn from the work of LeDoux do have clinical relevance and can be used within a cog sci context.

    The problems in psychology are more philosophical than empirical but psychoanalysis itself is riddled with problems. Psychoanalysis has had 100+ plus years to get its shit together but modern neuroscience, in space of 30 years, has provided us with more insight into behavior and brain function manyfold over that of psychoanalysis.

    As for the complexity issue, you have to crawl before you can walk. If you look at the work of Kandel it was painstaking investigation of single neurons. The summation of 40 odd years of research can be reduced to half a page. Painstaking work but realistic work. Psychoanalysis may claim to have a working model of human behavior but most neuroscientists and psychologists would laugh at the idea we can currently cross that bridge.

    John H.

    January 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm

  53. This is getting too heavy, what about a change of pace? Bazza Mackenzie meets Karl Popper.
    http://www.the-rathouse.com/KPmeetsBM.html

    Rafe

    January 12, 2010 at 10:34 pm

  54. Getting heavy again, in reply to THR, yes there is a lot in the link, it is a 5000 word summary of a tightly argued book of about 350 pages.
    I read a heap of the relevant theorists in the 1980s and emerged with a sense of disappointment along the lines expplained by Freadman and Miller.
    There is a deeper philosophical response which appeared in Critical Review some time ago, drawing on Bartley’s development of Popper’s views on rationality. Strictly for nerds!
    http://www.the-rathouse.com/bartdeconstruct.html

    Rafe

    January 12, 2010 at 10:37 pm

  55. It’s methodology is basically equivalent to gambling with loaded dice.
    .
    what on Earth does that mean?
    And are you talking about cognitive science as a theoretical position, or are you talking about the methodology of mainstream behavioural and social sciences in general (which don’t differ from the methodology of cogsci the theoretical position)?

    daddy dave

    January 12, 2010 at 11:14 pm

  56. what on Earth does that mean?

    I mean the methodology it uses to conduct research. By ‘loaded dice’ I mean ‘rigged’. This has nothing to do with game theory.

    At some stage I will write a longer and more thorough defense of psychoanalysis. There are some reasonable ones out there – see Roudinesco’s ‘Why Psychoanalysis’, for instance.

    If we start from first principles, and approach psychology with a degree of rigour, I believe that we are always bound to end up with psychoanalysis or something very much like it. There is definitely a case for a rigorous psychoanalysis, and I fear that many of the attitudes here stem from bad impressions obtained from a few sloppy advocates.

    In a past life, I used to come across a number of neurologists. Invariably, they would have patients with persistent and unexplained pains – pains in the leg, for instance, and even a few cases of unexplained paralyses. The patients would either be given a cocktail of drugs, usually with little result, or sent off to a psychiatrist. Now, it’s possible that all these people were faking illness for the benefits thereby derived (known, after Freud, as ‘secondary gain’). That’s not the only explanation, however. The neurologists certainly didn’t think these people were faking. How do we explain this sort of phenomenon? Naturally, the DSM has expunged all traces of hysteria (fragmenting this diagnosis with somatoform disorder, conversion disorder, histrionic personality disorder, factitious disorder, pain disorders, etc). You can see how successful that is. And what does cognitivism have to say about such people? SFA, to be precise.

    Another example – scientists from a range of disciplines have been looking, in recent years, at ‘swarming’ behaviour. This isn’t just namby pamby pomo stuff – the US military have been looking at it also. Apparently, a number of creatures can plan and coordinate mass movements, apparently without any communication. Again, what can cognitivism say about this? And not just now, but ever?

    The neuroscientists still cling to psychological concepts that they inherited (in the first instance) from Aristotle. ‘Cognition’, ‘perception’, ‘sensation’, ‘affect’, pass by the eyes of cognitivists and neuroscientists as if they were ready made givens. The very findings of the neuroscientists actually demonstrate that these concepts aren’t ‘givens’ at all (there is no such thing as a ‘pure’ ‘affect’, for instance), but no neuroscientist or cognitivist ever takes this empirical fact into consideration when it comes to system building.

    THR

    January 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm

  57. THR, I can see you’ve thought about this a great deal, but that comment was a bit of a soup-mix, and not particularly clear at all.
    Another time perhaps.
    After I’ve put down the Australian and changed pants.

    daddy dave

    January 13, 2010 at 9:39 am


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