My recent observations about science and philsophy produced skeptical responses from Levi and Graham. I think that my general tone was misunderstood (this often happens to me in real life too, so no surprise), as well as some of the points I was making.
However, to be honest, I am feeling under a lot of pressure right now –so much for the vacation by the sea– due to several things I have to take care of in terms of reading and writing, so I won’t pursue this topic further right now. I think that the idea I had about philosophy-centered interviews with scientists is a good one, which could also help clarifying the issues at stake, as long as –of course– I furnish them with a balanced and correct presentation of the philosophical positions I want to ask them about. For the time being, as a very general clarification, let me simply say that I wholeheartedly agree with this post scriptum that Graham addressed to me
Continental philosophy spent so long trying to keep the sciences in a tiny box that now there’s the danger of a wild overreaction: putting philosophy itself in the same tiny box once the sciences are freed from it. That’s what we most need to avoid. Let’s keep our cool and piece things back together carefully.
Similarly, by no stretch of the imagination would I even imply something like ‘you’d better be careful about talking about the inhuman world in non-scientific terms, because Sokal might come to get you’ (even though there are two ways to interpret this, the first being ‘…and he’ll kick your ass with the mighty power of his Science™’, and the other being a simple acknowledgement of a fact, perhaps accompanied by the reasonable statement ‘and, for the sake of intellectual argument, you’ll have to somehow deal with him’, the second of which I might agree with). I was simply indicating how the potential source of conflict has morphed its nature from the 90s science wars to today, but that it is still there. I don’t particularly care about Sokal’s opinions of philosophers. But I do care –if possible—about avoiding future sterile philosophers-scientists standoffs.
About that, let me just conclude with a quote from this paper by Latour, which I read earlier today:
If you tell an audience that scientists have entertained in the course of time shifting representations of the world, you will get nothing in answer but a yawn of acceptance. If you tell your audience that those transformations were not necessarily linear and did not necessarily converge regularly in an orderly fashion toward the right and definitive fact of the matter, you might trigger some uneasiness and you might even get the occasional worry: “Is this leading to relativism by any chance?” But if you now propose to say that the objects of science themselves had a history, that they have changed over time, too or that Newton has “happened” to gravity, and Pasteur has “happened” to the microbes, then everyone is up in arms, and the accusation of indulging in “philosophy” or worse in “metaphysics” is soon hurled across the lecture hall.