[lit-ideas] Re: Putnamiana
- From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
- To: "lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2016 07:00:57 +0000 (UTC)
Never mind. "Ladenness" can be a trick>
Or tricky. JLS is also right that there can various theories of
There can also be various theories as to how observation is theory-laden.
Now ask: does the theory-ladenness of observation impede observation as a test
of a theory?
It depends. It may do where the observation is so laden with the theory to be
tested that it is not any independent check on that theory.
At the risk of offending any witches on the list, and other risks, let's take
the example of the 'witches ducking stool' and conceive the stool as producing
an observation where the witch is submerged for minutes. In this version, the
theory is 'if the alleged witch drowns that proves she was a witch (so evil God
didn't save her) and if she doesn't drown that proves she is a witch (so evil
the devil saved her)'.
It is clear this cannot be a scientific test because both outcomes - drowning
or not drowning - are with consistent with the theory, and so the ducking stool
is not a scientific test of the theory because there are no test outcomes that
can falsify the theory (leaving aside possibilities like the witch growing
wings and flying off like an angel etc).
What about 'observation'? It depends what level and kind of observation we have
in mind. If we say we observed the witch to be a witch because she either
drowned or didn't drown, it is clear this level or kind of 'observation' is so
laden (with the theory it supposedly confirms) that it is not an observation
that is independent of the theory sufficient that it provides any rational
check on its truth.
But an observation can be highly theory-laden and operate as a check on
theories provided it is sufficiently independent of the theories it is
checking: so theory-ladenness does not mean an observation cannot check
theories, though it may do where the observation consequently lacks
independence from the theory it checks.
Something like that.
On Wednesday, 23 March 2016, 20:57, "dmarc-noreply@xxxxxxxxxxxxx"
In a message dated 3/23/2016 4:25:08 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
I came to 'theory-ladenness' laden with the wrong theory.
Never mind. "Ladenness" can be a trick, and you've now corrected your wrong
theory. As we see from the earlier post, 'theory-laden' has been applied
variously, so indeed there is a theory behind theory-ladenness and as long
as you've come to it, your theory could not be THAT wrong.
Why do I say 'theory-laden' has been applied as 'adjectivising' different
stuff? Well, I should consult with M. Aragona, but...
In 1886, The Medical & Surgical Reporter" applies "theory-laden" to 'tome':
i. It is in strong and favourable contrast to the ponderous, theory-laden
tomes of Ziemmsen's Cyclopœdia.
Surely we can reduce that to some reference to 'theory-laden' as applied to
observation, but I would not know if Ziemmsen would agree!
Hanson himself does not apply 'theory-laden' to 'observation'.
In 1958, N. R. Hanson in "Patterns of Discovery" he writes:
ii. "There is a sense [or way as I'd prefer -- Speranza] in which seeing is
a 'theory-laden' undertaking. Observation of x is shaped by prior
knowledge of x."
There are two sentences here:
iia. There is a [way] in which seeing [can be seen] as a 'theory-laden'
iib. Observation of x is shaped by prior knowledge of x.
In any case, he applies it to 'undertaking', and the subject of his claim
is just ONE verb, 'seeing' (one of Grice's favourite verbs, as in "Macbeth
saw Banquo" -- "to think that there is a disimplicature here, since Banquo
wasn't there to be seen is a commonplace of Shakespearian scholars.")
In 2000, Economy & Philosophy, vol. 16 has 'theory-laden' applied to
'observation reports', not 'observation' simpliciter and per se. A world of
iii. It is nowadays fashionable to claim that observation reports in
science are no less 'theory-laden' than high level explanations.
Note that iritatingly, "Economy and Philosophy" are still being _scared_ as
Hanson (understandably) was back in the day -- having never read, most
likely, Ziemmsen's Cyclopœdia.
In 2008, M. Glantz & J. Mun in, "The Banker's Handbook on Credit Risk",
make fun of 'theory-laden' as applied, if not to 'tomes', as the "Medical and
Surgical Report" had done, to plain books (excluding their own handbook):
iv. There are a plethora of mathematical modeling and theory-laden books
without any real hands-on applicability."
No wonder Putnam was fascinated by the concept!
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