Archives For context

Author Information: Lyudmila A. Markova, Russian Academy of Sciences, Markova.lyudmila2013@yandex.ru

Markova, Lyudmila A. 2013.”Context and Naturalism in Social Epistemology.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (9): 33-35.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-XC

Please refer to:

Two notions, context and naturalism, are the subjects of analysis of both Ilya Kasavin (“Reply to Rockmore”, 2013) and Tom Rockmore (“Kasavin on Social Epistemology and Naturalism: A Critical Reply”, 2013). I agree with many of Kasavin and Rockmore’s points — especially with those that concern the difficulties in the classical (traditional) epistemology.

Context

Rockmore writes (2013):

I agree with Kasavin that context is indeed problematic. Yet I would like to resist the effort either to free cognitive claims from context or, on the contrary, to absorb the former into the latter. … The proper relationship seems to me to be a kind of constitutive tension that can never be overcome and which must be construed not in general but rather on a case-by-case basis in order to understand the weight of the particular cognitive claim (11).

Kasavin (2013) refines his understanding: “… [T]he context of science is the whole scope of its current sociality and its cultural history — a kind of independent reality accompanying science during its temporal existence” (26). “… [T]he quantity of alternatives is limited at a given moment” (28). Continue Reading…

Author Information: Ilya Kasavin, Russian Academy of Sciences itkasavin@gmail.com

Kasavin, Ilya. 2013. “A Further Reply to Rockmore.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (5) 12-14.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-JZ

Please refer to:

It is my pleasure to turn once more to the exchange with Tom Rockmore. I appreciate his critical remarks as they have forced me to express my position more radically.

We agree on a number of points. We both wish to avoid an overly simplistic appeal to a contextual understanding of meaning. But when Rockmore wants to make a stronger claim that context functions not only to understand meaning, but also to justify truth claims, is this really offering a stronger position? Is it reasonable to separate definitively meaning from truth clams? Don’t truth claims have meaning? Continue Reading…

Author Information: Tom Rockmore, Duquesne University, Institute of Foreign Philosophy, Peking University, rockmore@duq.edu

Rockmore, Tom. 2013. “Further reply to Kasavin: Context, Meaning and Truth.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (3): 22-24.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-Hk

Please refer to:

In my initial response to Kasavin’s paper, I tried to clarify his position in sketching a different view of the relation between cognition and context. My objective now is to stress and to justify the difference between our two views of the relation of thought to context. According to Kasavin, we are simultaneously wholly free and wholly determined by context. I contend, on the contrary, that we are never wholly free, nor ever wholly determined by context.

In his rejoinder, Kasavin isolates three statements in my response that he maintains subtly misrepresent his position. He further clarifies his view with comments on what he calls underdetermination and the explanatory value of context before concluding with a remark on freedom and determination in reference to our disagreement. Let us leave aside the difficulty about whether I successfully captured his position in my initial response in order to concentrate on the present version of his view. According to Kasavin, “underdetermination” means “the complexity of determination”. To elucidate this claim, he suggests the explanatory value of context, and he points out that different epistemic agents working independently achieve similar results.

I take Kasavin’s central claim to be that we appeal to context to understand meaning. He rightly wishes to avoid an overly simplistic version of this point. I want to make a stronger claim since I think that context functions not only to understand meaning but also to justify truth claims. Kasavin gives examples from literature and from mathematics in which similar backgrounds led in practice to similar results. That is certainly the case, but it does not follow that if results in similar situations are similar that this justifies similar truth claims. I do not know how one could formulate a truth claim about the poems by Rilke, Svetaeva and Pasternak about Maria Magdalena. It is further unclear that the cognitive value of the independent discovery of non-Euclidean geometry by Gauss, Lobachevski and Bolyai depends in some way on their similar contexts. One might prefer, say, one version of non-Euclidean geometry over alternatives. But the correctness of a non-Euclidean approach to geometry depends in turn on prior views about what constitutes an appropriate approach to geometry, including current conceptions of geometrical proof, axioms, postulates, and so on.

“Underdetermination” is often taken to refer to the inability to decide which among several views is correct on rational grounds. Descartes, for instance, appeals to a form of underdetermination in his dream and his demon arguments. In both cases we cannot decide on rational grounds whether we are being deceived. Quine suggests that the available evidence is insufficient to decide which belief we should hold about the facts. In his view of the indeterminacy of translation, He famously insists on the poverty of evidence in his gavagai example. In philosophy of science undetermination is often thought to be problematic for scientific realism.

Kasavin, who uses the term “underdetermination” in a different way, suggests that knowledge claims depend on context for meaning. That seems correct. Yet, since meaning is not truth, they need to be distinguished. There are many theories of meaning. There are also many theories of truth. Here we do not need to decide between different theories of meaning and truth. It will be sufficient to indicate a basic way that meaning and truth differ. A very rough way to put the point is that “meaning” refers to what the author conceivably has in mind, say in formulating a theory, but “truth” refers to the correctness of the cognitive claim. Thus “meaning” might imply a relationship between signs and that they stand for, but “truth” refers to the relation to the facts or reality. Hence, I am suggesting that meaning is more than simply identifying truth conditions since what someone has in mind, hence means to say, and whether that statement is correct, or true, are not merely equivalent.

I agree with Kasavin that context functions to identify meaning. Yet I also believe that context functions to justify or to legitimate claims to know. If that is correct, then the truth of the truth claim could be said to be doubly dependent on context with respect to meaning as well as to the acceptability of one claim over other possible contenders. Kasavin appears to me to be asserting a version of the familiar view that a claim to truth does not depend on but is rather independent of context. I take him to be saying that as concerns cognitive claims we are completely free, and that means we can in all cases and in fact must choose between different alternatives. On the contrary, I contend that we not free in the precise sense that our views of what is true are not independent of but rather dependent on the context in which they are formulated. Continue Reading…

Reply to Rockmore, Ilya Kasavin

SERRC —  January 29, 2013 — 1 Comment

Author Information: Ilya Kasavin, Russian Academy of Sciences, itkasavin@gmail.com, Ilya Kasavin: Website

Kasavin, Ilya. 2013. “Reply to Rockmore.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (2): 26-29.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-FK

Please refer to: Rockmore, Tom. 2013. “Kasavin on Social Epistemology and Naturalism: A Critical Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (2): 8-11.

I appreciate very much the comments Tom Rockmore provided on my paper, putting its main problem into a historical/philosophical context. I will address three claims Rockmore makes that seem not entirely correct in describing my position. Hopefully, my examination will help make the rest of my reply more transparent.

Rockmore (2013) asserts:

1.“I agree with Kasavin that context is indeed problematic” (11).

2. “Kasavin depicts philosophy as relying on science, hence as interdisciplinary” (8).

3. “ … [H]e claims that the result, or so-called discourse, is not bounded, hence is not contextual in principle” (9).

Clarifications

Replying to (1), my intention was not to problematize context as it is, but to confront the oversimplified concept of context and its naïve epistemological application. For instance, the context of science is the whole scope of its current sociality and its cultural history — a kind of independent reality accompanying science during its temporal existence. It is usually conceptualized as a limited scope of socio-cultural phenomena that can be analyzed empirically by sociologists, historians, psychologists, anthropologists etc. So, philosophically speaking, science exits in, and is essentially determined by, context. But, interdisciplinarily speaking, a part of science is always partially determined by a part of context. A philosophical view of science can hardly replace an interdisciplinary one and vice versa. They are complementary.

My negation of (2) follows from my above comments. Philosophy does not rely on science in the sense that philosophical problems can be solved by scientific means. Philosophy does rely on science to provide empirical material for philosophical analysis and offer a counterpart in an exchange of views. An interdisciplinary epistemology means epistemology that takes seriously scientific facts and carries on a dialogue with science (and with other cognitive practices as well), rather than epistemology naturalized and reduced to various concrete sciences.

Evidently I cannot accept (3) as far as any discourse, i.e., vivid cognitive process, non-stop language game, or speech is regarded only in terms of, and in interrelation to, context as relatively stable cognitive results laying outside the research focus and taken for granted (e.g., presuppositions, natural attitudes, spheres of evidence). Discourse is also opposed to text. Text is a system of knowledge linguistically constituted, relatively finished and expressing, therefore, a certain intellectual culture. I use the term “discourse” to dub a process of scientific discovery as opposed to justification; philosophical inquiry or reflexion as contrasted to a philosophical system. Continue Reading…

Author Information: Tom Rockmore, Duquesne University, Institute of Foreign Philosophy, Peking University, rockmore@duq.edu

Rockmore, Tom. 2013. “Kasavin on Social Epistemology and Naturalism: A Critical Reply.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 2 (2): 8-11.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-EJ

Please refer to: Ilya Kasavin “To What Extent Could Social Epistemology Accept the Naturalistic Motto?” Social Epistemology Volume 26, Issue 3-4, 2012

In his richly detailed, incisive paper, Ilya Kasavin studies the compatibility between “social epistemology” and “naturalism” in asking: can there be a naturalized form of social epistemology? His answer seems to be that a weak form of social epistemology is independent of context.

Neither “social epistemology” nor “naturalism” is a natural kind nor cuts reality at the joints as it were. Each presents a proposed solution to the cognitive problem after the decline of Kant’s transcendental maneuver. The latter approach is at least partly a reaction to Hume, or more precisely to Humean naturalism. Since Hume can be described as a naturalist, post-Kantian naturalism represents a qualified return to a form of an earlier position after Kant’s intervention in the debate. In the case of social epistemology, we are confronted with the consequences of the post-Kantian German idealist transformation of the critical philosophy in a social and historical direction beginning as soon as Fichte.
Continue Reading…