In a message dated 3/16/2016 4:07:13 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time,
The inability to face up to mistakes (and pathological evasion of
refutation [or 'refudiation' -- Speranza]) may also be called "soft-headed".
philosophy, this tendency is no doubt linked to the fact that the subject
lacks decisive observational tests to resolve its disputes."
This reminds me of Yogi Berra:
"You can observe a lot by just watching."
But then the sky also reminds me of Yogi Berra.
"In this context, it is ironic that Putnam argued for a philosophy of
science where scientists were pathological evaders of refutation and there was
nothing in scientific method to stop them. His argument is essentially
simple (though not the way he presents it) and relies on confusing a logical
possibility with what methodologically (a) is best (b) drives scientific best
practice (this (a) and (b) dovetail). Take a refutation where an
observation ['O'] appears to falsify a theory ['T']. No matter how
such a refutation may look, it is the case that there is more to the picture,
logically: we must also factor in background knowledge ['BK'], for
example, and in cases of deriving a positive prediction we must also factor in
'initial conditions' ['IC'] (because a positive prediction can only follow
from T given IC). Now consider this supposed 'refutation' in terms of a 'blame
game': it is always logically possible to evade a refutation by saying the
error does not lie with T but with O itself [e.g. the apparatus was
faulty] or with some hitherto undiscovered flaw in our BK or our supposed IC.
it would be a mistake to treat this logical possibility as showing that,
from the pov of sound method, we can always evade any refutation - and it
would be a gross mistake to think that the pathological evasion of refutation
is characteristic of scientific method. Yet both mistakes - and a few
others like thinking IC are always necessary for refutation (they are not,
because a negative and falsifying prediction can be deduced from T without
them) - are at the heart of Putnam's paper in Popper's Schilpp volume. In
paper will also be found several "priority claims" that though they fit
well with Putnam's "arrogant tone" (as Popper well describes it) cannot be
sustained e.g. that Putnam was among the first to realise that, logically, a
refutation can always be evaded, when Popper for one had recognised this
from the start. Putnam suggests he is putting forward views that mark a major
advance on anything written by Popper, and as if Popper's views belong to
a bygone age of thought now surpassed, but the truth is that Putnam's paper
did not herald any ground-breaking new philosophy of science. This is
unsurprising given it rests on elevating the logical possibility of 'always
evade refutation' into some kind of methodological key-stone. It is hard to
understand how there has been any kind of scientific progress if Putnam's
views were true as a characterisation of science (i.e. that the aim of science
is to evade refutation). So what kind of audience would take Putnam's views
seriously? One trained in modern philosophy after the 'linguistic turn':
for to allege the aim of science is to evade refutation is precisely the
kind of paradoxical-sounding nonsense that appeals to some philosophers, many
of whom are scientifically illiterate and also hostile to science (or what
they understand of 'science')."
Many thanks to McEvoy for his abstract of Putnam's thinking on matters
Popperian. Among his titles, indeed, Putnam's, that is, it was that of
"Professor of the Philosophy of Science", at, trust, MIT (not a uni, but an
institute -- but very pretentious when titling their professors).
Putnam will go on to say that he can talk about, in English, a "division of
linguistic labour", what also enables Putnam, despite his alleged total
ignorance of what an elm tree looks like, successfully to talk and think
His favourite example was water. It was only in the 18th century that it
was discovered that what the English call 'water' is composed of H2O.
But he invented, for philosoophical purposes, twater, composed of XYZ.
McEvoy was referring to 'facts' and I threw in 'state of affairs'. Putnam's
argument is that the water/twater distinction is proof that functionalism
needs narrow content. (Grice drew his functionalism mainly from Putnam's
student, D. K. Lewis, though).
Putnam's example involve “Twin Earth,” an imaginary planet which is
molecule-for-molecule identical to Earth, including having exact duplicates of
Earth's inhabitants, except for a systematic change in certain parts of the
In a particularly well-known version of this example, we consider Earth as
it was around 1750, before the chemical structure of water was discovered,
and we consider an inhabitant of Earth named “Oscar” who is a competent
user of the term "water".
We then imagine a Twin Earth which is exactly like Earth in every way,
including having an exact duplicate of Oscar, with one exception: for every
place on Earth that contains H2O, the Twin Earthly duplicate of that place
instead contains XYZ, a substance with a different micro-structure from water
but with similar observable properties.
On Twin Earth, it is XYZ, not H2O, that falls from the skies and fills the
lakes and oceans.
Putnam calls XYX "twater", to distinguish from H2O "water".
Putnam argues that the stuff that falls from the skies and fills the lakes
on Twin Earth is not "water", but "twater".
According to Putnam, when Anglophones used the term "water", even in 1750,
they intend (alla Grice) to refer to natural kind, a kind of thing whose
instances share a common nature, not directly observable, which explains the
observable properties of instances of the kind.
They identify "water" by observable characteristics like colourlessness and
odourlessness, but also assumed that there was a microstructure which
explains these observable properties.
Since 1750, we have learned what this microstructure is, namely that water
consists of molecules of H2O.
But water was H2O even in 1750, before we learned this.
(Although this is difficult to formalise, Grice granted, -- "You are too
formal," Putnam replied. "I was surprised," Grice later recalled, "that of
all people it would be Putnam who would insult me like that.")
Other natural kind terms, Putnam argues, work in the same way.
For instance, we identify diseases by their symptoms, but we assume that
there is an underlying cause of these symptoms, for example a particular
microorganism, and that even before we know what this underlying cause is, it
makes the disease what it is.
Now Twin Oscar, being an exact duplicate of Earth's Oscar, will have many
of the same properties Oscar has.
For instance, he will be disposed to accept a sentence of Twin English that
is written and pronounced like the English sentence:
i. Water is wet.
ii. Twater is twet.
However, Putnam argues, Twin Oscar's word "twater" is obviously no
There is no water on Twin Earth, only XYZ, i.e. twater.
Twin Oscar has never seen water, talked about water, or interacted with
water in any way. He has seen twater, talked about twater, and interacted with
twater in various ways.
So it seems that he cannot possibly refer to water; only to twater.
Two points can be made parenthetically about this example -- and they
relate to McEvoy and Yogi Berra:
(1) The OBSERVABLE properties of twater (XYZ) do not need to be identical
to those of water (H2O); all that is needed is that Oscar and Twin Oscar
have not observed the differences.
(2) In some ways it is unfortunate that the water/twater example has become
Putnam's best known example, because Grice thought it has a failing that
many of his other examples lack, namely that most of the human body consists
of water, not twater.
This has the consequence that Twin Oscar cannot be an exact duplicate of
Oscar unless Twin Oscar also consists largely of water, which does not. It
consists largely of twater, we assume.
Other examples Putnam considers involve switching aluminum and molybdenum,
beeches and elms, diseases, and so on, and these examples do not suffer
from the same problem that water and twater do.
It is important for this example that, although 1750 residents of Earth did
not yet realize this, all water (but not twater) was in fact H2O.
Had it turned out instead that some of the stuff called "water" was H2O
while other stuff ALSO miscalled "water" (rather than the more correct
"twater") was XYZ, water would not have turned out to be a single “natural
In that case, the English word "water" would refer to anything that was
either H2O or XYZ, and we could say that the Earthly and Twin-Earthly
"water"-words referred to the same thing.
Again, if it had turned out that there were a huge number of different
microstructures that produced the observable properties of water, water would
not have been a natural kind at all.
In that case we would probably say that anything with the right OBSERVABLE
properties was water, and in that case again we could say both
"water"-words were co-referential (alla Frege).
In fact, though, neither of these possibilities obtains.
Water is a natural kind whose essential nature is that it has the chemical
Since there is no H2O on Twin Earth, there is no water there, only twater.
Twin Earthlings never had occasion to give a label to water, since there is
none on their planet, and their "twater" does NOT refer (alla Frege) to
Since Oscar and Twin Oscar have exactly the same intrinsic properties, yet
refer to different substances when they use, respectively, "water" and
"twater", their intrinsic properties cannot suffice to determine what they
If the meaning of a word suffices to determine its reference, then meaning
cannot be determined by intrinsic properties either.
As Putnam famously puts it, “‘meanings’ just ain't in the head!”
(He was using 'ain't' colloquially).
Although Putnam's water/twater argument as presented so far concerns the
reference of "water", "twater", and other natural kind terms, it is natural
to extend it to mental content as well (as McGinn, Burge, and Loar have
Not only does Twin Oscar not refer to water when he uses the term "twater",
he does not have beliefs about water either, only "twater".
To be sure, Twin Oscar has beliefs that play the same role in his mental
life that Oscar's water-beliefs play in his.
But in Twin Oscar's case, those beliefs are not about water, but twater.
In particular, while Oscar believes that water is wet, Twin Oscar does not.
He believes that it is twater that is twet.
Since Oscar and Twin Oscar have identical intrinsic properties, yet Oscar
believes that water is wet while Twin Oscar does not, but that twater is
twet, mental content cannot be determined solely by intrinsic properties.
But Popper might still be unsatisfied.
Putnam was perhaps admired by Lakatos, since after all, some call Lakatos
the "mathematical" Popper -- in that he applied Popper's model to the
progress in mathematics -- and Putnam's original PhD dissertation, under
Reichenbach, and Carnap, was on mathematics.
As a believer, with Grice, that philosophy, like virtue, is entire, Putnam
saw himself as the Renaissance man that he was, though!
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