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1 REALISM AND THE REASONS OF THE HEART In a footnote to his seminal article “The Natural Ontological Attitude”—an article

which begins with the sentence “Realism is dead”— Arthur Fine offers a pregnant analogy between realism and religion. In support of realism there seem to be only those ‘reasons of the heart’ which, as Pascal says, reason does not know. Indeed, I have long felt that belief in realism involves a profound leap of faith, not at all dissimilar from the faith that animates deep religious convictions. I would welcome engagement with realists on this understanding, just as I enjoy conversation on a similar basis with my religious friends. The dialogue will proceed more fruitfully, I think, when the realists finally stop pretending to a rational support for their faith, which they do not have. Then we can all enjoy their intricate and sometimes beautiful philosophical constructions (of, e.g., knowledge, or reference, etc.) even though to us, the nonbelievers, they may seem only wonder-full castles in the air. In various recent articles, I have tried to expand on Fine’s analogy between realism and religion. I have been suggesting that we see realism as an etiolated version of the religious attempt to bow down before a non-human power to which human beings owe respect. I have also urged that we see the idea that natural science is privileged over other parts of culture as a version of the priestly project of claiming respect from

2 other humans because of one’s purported special relation to such a power. As I see it, the great divide in contemporary philosophical thinking is between representationalists who believe that there is an intrinsic nature of non-human reality to be held in human thought and antirepresentationalists who believe that scientific, like moral, progress is a matter of finding ever more effective ways for enriching human life. Representationalists are necessarily realists, since if they did not believe that there was a Way the World Is In Itself they would have no reason to insist that culture is divided between areas where there is a “fact of the matter” and areas in which there is not. Whereas realists find pathos in the thought of the gap which seperates human thought from its non-human object, we antirerpesenationalists find pathos in thinking of the distance which seperates us from a utopian human future—from the world in which our remote descendantsl have developed far better ways of dealing with the non-human environment, presently unimaginable artistic genres, and far kinder and more decent social institutions and customs. On my account of modern times, the pathos of man’s seperation from God has been succeeded, among the intellectuals, by these two alaternative forms of pathos. If you do not like the term “pathos”, the word “Romance” will do as well. Or one could use Thomas Nagel’s term “the ambition of transcendence”. The important point is not the choice of terms but the recognition that both sides in contemporary philosophy are

3 trying to find a suitable replacement for religion. Representationalism and realism are no more or less passtionately irrational than antirepresentationalist humanism. Neither side is ever going to have a knockdown argument, any more than Enlightenment secularism had a knockdown argument against traditional theism. . The heartfelt conviction that there just must be a non-human authority to which we can resort has been, for a very long time, woven into the common sense of the West. It is a conviction common to Socrates and to Luther, to scientists who say they love truth and fundamentalists who say they love Christ. Reweaving the network of shared beliefs and desires which makes up Western culture so as to get rid of this conviction will take centuries, or perhaps millenia. This reweaving, if it ever occurs, will result in an inabilty to share the intuitions which, in our culture, are pumped up by the cosmological argument for the existence of God and by the argument that only correspondence to the intrinsic nature of reality can explain the success of natural science. I think that it is a bit misleading to say, as Fine does in the quotation with which I began, that such arguments as these cannot provide “rational support” for the view being defended. What counts as rational support, like what counts as valid inference, is a matter of what people are willing are accustomed to take as rational or as valid, and this in turn is what coheres with their intuitions. Those intuitions are determined by the

as used in the conclusion of the cosmological argument is merely a name for our ignorance. anybody who just shrugs them off. what?” They think that anyone who does not share the need to answer these questions. in most cases. just as theists think it irrational of Hume. Consider the realist who is told that his explanation for the success of science is no better than Moliere’s doctor’s explanation of why opium puts people to sleep. For they feel the need for answers to questions like “What came before the Big Bang?” and “Why does science succeed?” So they typically fall back on rhetorical questions such as “If not God. what?” “If not correspondence to reality. consider the theist who is told that the term “God”. Kant and Steven Weinberg to speculate about the nature of the First Cause. they insist that it produces no conviction. Even if they go so far as to admit that their opponents’ objection to their favorite argument admits of no refutation. Realists think that it is irrational for Fine to shirk the attempt to explain the success of science. equally unfazed. As an example of what I mean. is being irrational.4 culture in which they have been raised. and there is no way to shortcircuit culture by appealing either to Reason or to Nature. Both are. It is often said that religion was refuted by showing the incoherence of the concept of God or by showing that there is no evidence for the existence of God. It is often said that realism can be refuted by showing . The battle is always between an old culture and one striving to be born.

For all these reasons. and useful words cannot be denied coherence simply because their users can be forced into tight dialectical corners. Where argument always seems to fail. No one accustomed to throw around a term like “the will of God” or “mindindependent World” in complex and sometimes persuasive arguments is ever going to be persuaded that his concepts are incoherent. A concept is just the use of a word. Insofar as religion is dying. Insofar as realism is dying. asks the same questions. the reasons of the heart should have their way. and we anti-representationalists appeal. or to abandon. as James rightly says in “The will to believe”. it is because of the attractions of a humanist culture. But this does not mean that the human heart always has the same reasons. it is because of the attractions of a culture which is more deeply and unreservedly humanist than that offered by the arrogant scientism which is the philosophical position most frequently associated with the ideals of the Enlightenment.5 the incoherence of the notions of “World” or “correspondence” as the realist uses them. and instead to say that the notion of “rational support” is not apropros when it comes to proposals to retain. it seems best to stop saying that either religion or realism is unsupported by rational argument. Both claims seem to me almost entirely wrong. intuitions as deep-lying and long-lasting as those to which theists. The gradual growth of . not because of flaws internal to the discourse of theists. and hopes for the same answers. realists.

the hard areas. the philosophical literature about realism and anti-realism will have been aestheticized in the same way as we have aestheticized the debate between Occamites and Scotists. is testimony to the heart’s malleability. In the sort of culture which I hope our remote descendants may inhabit. momentous and forced option” for us. will we be able to hear questions about the mind-independence of the real as having the quaint charm of questions about the consubstantiality of the Persons of the Trinity. Only when the sort of cultural change I envisage is complete will we be able to start doing what Fine suggests--enjoying such beautiful and intricate theistic or realistic constructions as Spinoza’s Ethics and Kripke’s Naming and Necessity as aesthetic spectacles. only when Dummett can no longer find an audience for his view of the history of philosophy. and the softer areas in which we are on our own. momentous and forced option”. I think. Only when realism is no longer “a live. This need to divide culture into harder and softer areas is. Dummett capitalizes on a hope which has burned brightly since Plato—the hope that we can divide up the culture into the bits where the non-human is encountered and acknowledged.6 secularism—the gradual increase in the number of people who do not find theism what James called “a live. the most familiar and pervasive contemporary form of the idea that there is something to which human beings are responsible save other human beings—something like God or .

or can I find a better one?” . or only one of its appearances?” and replace it with the question “Am I using the best possible description of the situation in which I find myself. Davidson and Brandom have helped us understand how to stop thinking of intellectual progress as a matter of increasing tightness of fit with the non-human world and how to picture it instead as our being forced by that world to reweave our networks of belief and desire in ways that make us better able to cope. The idea of a hard area of culture is the idea of an area in which this responsibility is salient.7 Truth or Reality. Dummett’s suggestion that a lot of philosophy is about the question of whether bivalence obtains for a certain range of sentences amounts to the claim that philosophers have a special responsibility for telling us where the hard ends and the soft begins. will only triumph when we no longer discard the question “Do I know the real object. Fine. He is the philosopher of science who has done most to deflate the arrogance embodied in Quine’s quip that philosophy of science is philosophy enough. A great deal of Fine’s work is devoted to casting doubt on the need to draw that line. Humanism. Much of what he has written gears in nicely with the writings of two other contemporary philosophers—Donald Davidson and Robert Brandom—who are trying to put all true sentences on a referential par. in the sense I am using the term. and thereby to erase the line between the hard and the soft.

or lines of thought. however. to form a sort of manifesto for the kind of antirepresentationalist movement in philosophy whose aspirations I have just outlined. 130) .8 I see Fine’s “NOA papers” as fitting in nicely with Davidson’s claim that we can make no good use of the notion of “mind-independent reality” and with Brandom’s Sellarsian attempt to interpret linguistic meanings as a matter of the rights and responsbilities of participants in a social practice. and so forth referred to by the scientific statements that we accept as true. passages about reference and passages about method. The writings of these three philosophers blend together. which are obstacles to my syncretic efforts. There are two sets of passages in his 1984 paper (“The Natural Ontological Attitude”) which arouse doubts. An example of the first reads as follows: When NOA counsels us to accept the results of science as true. so that a sentence (or statement) is true just in case the entities referred to stand in the referred-to relations. in Fine’s work. properties. processes. relations. Thus NOA sanctions ordinary referential semantics and commits us. I take it that we are to treat truth in the usual referential way. (p. I come across passages. in my imagination. to the existence of the individuals. Occasionally. via truth.

and indeed has no use for the latter. a something that will “then act as limit for legitimate human aspirations” (And not. 63) So why drag in a semiotic hearing aid such as “ordinary referential semantics”? If. I think it would be more harmonious with the overall drift of his thinking to mock that Quinean idea rather than to try to rehabilitate it. like Davidson. Fine does seem to have a use for this notions. (And not. NOA. and it trusts in our native ability to get the message without having to rely on metaphysical or epistemological hearing aids”. should we still say that we are “committed.9 Reading this passage leaves me uncertain of whether. as Fine recommends. “tries to let science speak fo itself. Fine wants to read all the sentences we accept as true—the ones accepted after reading literary critics as well as after reading scientific textbooks—as true “just in case the entities referred to stand in the referred-to relations” Davidson thinks that the sentence “Perserverance makes honor bright” is true in this way. But Davidson thinks this because he does not think that reference has anything to do with ontological commitment. as a goal of inquiry. and I suspect he drags in “ordinary referential semantics” because he thinks that reference and ontological commitment have something to do with each other. p. to the existence” of this or that? Whey . 56) . we stop trying to “conceive of truth as a substantial something”. Fine says. just as much as “F=MA”. via truth. p.

at least not in any ordinary sense of ‘really and truly out there in the world’. “ (Afterword. as he suggests we do. is “I take the question of belief to be whether to accept the entities or instead to question the science that backs them up. will we still ask ourselves questions like “Am I committed to the existence of X?” As support for my suggestion that the notion of ontological commitment is one Fine could get along nicely without. in response to the objection “But does not ‘believe in’ mean that they really and truly exist out there in the world?” Fine says that he is not sure it does. Fine is saying. for a physicist to say that to say that she believes in electrons and to say that she does . let me cite another of his instructive remarks about the analogy between religion and realism. To say that they believe in God and that they talk the talk are two ways of describing the same phenomenon. Similarly. He points out that “those who believe in the existence of God do not think that is the meaning. p.10 should we conceive of “existence” as something which we sometimes commit to and sometimes refrain from committing to? If we give up the notion that we are trying to correspond to reality. Fine’s answer to the question “Do you believe in X?”.” I take the point of the analogy to be that people who talk about God as the unquestioningly and unphilosphically religious do not need to distinguish between believing in God and talking the way they talk. for such X’s as electrons and dinosaurs and DNA. 184) Then.

they are justifiably irritated.11 not question the science behind electron-talk are two ways of describing the same situation. To use a word in a certain way and to believe in the existence of the referent of that word is the same phenomenon. When Kant or Tillich ask theists whether they are not really talking about a regulative ideal or a symbol of ultimate concern. in her capacity as physicist. rather than something that they think really exists. this idea epitomizes a confusion between existential commitment and a profession of satisfaction with a way of . The idea that we might be in a better position to figure out what to believe by first finding out what there really and truly is—by finding the right ontology--is an impossible attempt to separate thought and language from action. she talks electron-talk into her life as true. Physicists should be equally irritated when asked whether they think that statements about electrons are true or merely empirically adequate. It accords with the overall humanist position I outlined in the first section of this paper to say there are no acts called ‘assent’ or ‘commitment’ which we can perform that will put us in a different relation to an object than simply talking about that object in sentences whose truth we have taken into our lives. The theist sees no reason to resort to demonstrations of existence. or analyses of the meaning of “is” when applied to God for he talks God-talk into his life as true in exactly the manner. Looked at another way.

our patience or impatience with. The point of putting the matter Brandom’s way is to make clear that metaphysical discourse. We do so by pretending that our decision about whether to engage in those practices can be based upon reflection on the desirability of certain ontological commitments. as Brandom nicely says in MAKING IT EXPLICIT. and commitment falls out of the talk.) To deny the existence of Pegasus. Similarly. But this is fantasy. It is. 444ff. Fine and Davidson seem to me entirely right in saying that we need to stop the pendulum swinging back and forth between an analysis of trut . And so on for other structured spaces. instead. and reference falls out of the attempt to interpret what we are saying. as Davidson points out. An existential commitment. for example. pp. a discourse in which we express our like or dislike. is to deny that “a continuous spatiotemporal trejectory can be traced out connecting the region of space-time occupied by the speaker to one occupied by Pegasus”. the discourse of ontological commitment. such as those of mathematics. (See MIE. is a claim to be able to provide an address for a certain singular term within the “structured space provide mapped out by certain canonical designators”. To deny that Sherlock Holmes’ fairy godmother exists is to deny that she can be related to Conan Doyle’s text in the way that Moriarity and Mycroft can.12 speaking or a social practice. does not provide us with a such a structured space. we talk first. We talk first. various linguistic practices.

” (ibid. If one takes Davidson’s line on reference. I entirely agree with Fine’s claim that we should be neither realists nor antirealists. then the notion of reference becomes hard to tie up with that of ontological commitment. But there seems to me at least the potential for a division between Find and Davidson when it comes to reference.13 of correspondence and an analysis of it as acceptance. but no ontological ones. p. Davidson urges that we not treat reference as “a concept to be given an independent analysis or interpretation in terms of non-linguistic concepts”. and should acknowledge that the concept of truth “cannot be “explained” or given an “account of” without circularity” (And not. One will lots of sentential attitudes. he says. p. reference is. These relations are given a content indirectly when the T-sentences are. 222) For Davidson. It seems equally unnatural to ask whether I am committed either to the existence of jejuneness or of magnetic monopoles. p. a “posit we need to implement a theory of truth” (bid. p. The notion of . 223) If one assumes that a theory which permits the deduction of all the T-sentences is all we need in the way of what Fine calls “ordinary referential semantics”.. one will not find it natural to hook it up with the notion of ontological commitments or attitudes. a theory of truth for a natural language “does not explain reference. 219) Rather. (Inquiries. at least in this sense: it assigns no empirical content directly to relations between names or predicates and objects. 62).

and the like. That he would is suggested by his saying that those who accept NOA are “being asked not to distinguish between kinds of truth or modes of existence or the like. degrees of belief. Perhaps.” (And not. 62) It chimes also with the last paragraph of his recent Presidential Address to the APA.14 ontological attitude. Fine would agree both with Davidson about the nature of the notion of reference and with me about the need to treat literary criticism and physics as producing truth. p. however. but only among truths themselves in terms of centrality.” (NOA. 19) If Fine would carry through on these remarks by saying that there is no more point in using notions like “reference” and “ontological attitude” in connection with physics than in connection with literary criticism. or ontological commitment. p. 127) This last quotation chimes with Fine’s remark that “NOA is basically at odds with the temperament that looks for definite boundaries demarcating science from pseudo-science. seems to have no function in the life of someone who takes the results of both physics and literary criticism in “the same way as we accept the evidence of our senses” (to use Fine’s phrase). and reference. then he and I might agree that nobody should ever . of exactly the same sort. in which he says that “the first false step in this whole area is the notion that science is special and that scientific thinking is unlike any other”. or that is inclined to award the title “scientific” like a blue ribbon on a prize goat. (Viewpoint.

was not just a sideshow in physics. would he himself express the hope that ‘quantum theory is at least consistent with some kind of underlying reality”. But if Fine’s ultimate view is what I think it ought to be.15 bother to have an ontology. and Bohr. the four-dimensional space-time manifold and associated tensor fields”. about having more things in his ontology than there are in heaven and earth. the realist. He should say rather that an idle intellectual exercise was the outward and visible form of a serious discussion about what young physicists should and should not spend their time looking for. the nonrealist. To give up on the project of dividing culture into the hard and the soft areas would lead one to give up on the project of listing the things that there are in heaven and earth. a list presumed to be shorter than the list of expressions in our language which can be nominalized and thereby reified. he should hesitate to say that “the war between Einstein. Nor. if Fine’s view were what I would like it to be. Fine goes on to say that had Eintstein’s claim been right then “space and time cease to be real”. Nobody should have the sort of worries Quine had. as Fine puts it. To take this line would mean that Einstein would not have been worrying about a serious question when he. nor an idle intellectual exercise”. He would translate this ontologicalsounding remark into some sort of suggestion about what lines of research . “wanted to claim genuine reality for the cnetral theoretical entities of the general theory.

188) On the view I am suggesting. it is not clear what else we need to do.16 physicists will find profitable and which not. or avoid getting. and once we know how to get. translate remarks about what non-human things there really are into remarks about what human beings should do to improve the human future. in short. nor as externally real things. a new device. There Fine says that It is no possible to have a global characterization of scientific products—neither as constructions. we need to go local and particularist. for the only characterizations which might come to mind are likely to be variations on the worn-out themes of hardness and softness: characterizations such as . He would. One more example of a passage which makes me wonder whether Fine’s view coincides with my own can be be found in the “Afterword” to THE SHAKY GAME. We need to look at each case and see what there is to say about the character of scientific products and representations and whether any general characterization is needed at all. a new vocabulary) is useful for this and useless for that. a new hormone. similar products by steering students into this disciplinary matrix rather than that. If science is genuinely open. For once we have decided that a scientific product (a set of statements. there is no need for a local characterization either. nor as generally reliable models. (p. It is not clear why we should want any further characterization.

external world” is just one more social construction. If that doctrine is right. I would rather say that we shall only escape the need for a hardsoft distinction when we have abjured the made-found distinction. This is why I am dubious about the Fine’s claim that “Constructivism is a useful antidote to realism. is no more or less constructed than is the human self-image which will. because there are no objects which are not quasi. like the theist’s conception of man’s position in the universe. I balk at the letter. I hope. about some given scientific product..17 “made” “found”. .” So although I applaud the spirit of Fine’s remark that the realist’s “determinate. and that therefore never start asking. its attention to science in action deepens our understanding of the social in science and the myriad ways in which science is open” (p. as anything else. 188). The realist’s conception of inquiry. and in which the notion of love of truth has become interchangeable with that of love of conversation. It seems to me that one can follow Latour around on his tours of laboratory life without adopting anything remotely like “constructivism”. and as much real. I take the moral of Davidson’s doctrine of triangulation to be that everything we can ever speak of is a much constructed. we do not need Latour’s notion of “quasi-object”. dominate the culture of our remote descendants—a self-image in which non-human authority plays no role. “instrumental” and “real. what our share and what nature’s share in its production has been.

. p. p.18 Before leaving the topics of reference and ontological commimtment. “is not an alternative to realism and antirealism. let me remark that the passage I quoted about “ordinary referential semantics” has been seized upon by Alan Musgrave tp ridicule Fine’s claim to have a position distinct from that of the realist. evaluator. 139) He should say that we felt the need for such an interpreter. and public-relations man only so long as we thought of natural science as privileged by a special relation to non-human reality. at least at the metalevel. . as such a philosophy of science. nor to rehabilitate notions like “ontological commitment”. 174) Leplin is right. but a preemption of philosophy altogether. Musgrave would have had less ammunition. I think. cannot be squared with the rich tradition of philosophical debate among scientists over the proper interpretation of theories.” So I think that the Fine should not attempt to take the Einstein-Bohr debate at face value. He should grant to Leplin that “Philosophy of science in the role of interpreter and evaluator of the scientific enterprise. to say that Fine’s “idea that ‘scientific theories speak for themselves’.” (Leplin. are superfluous. if Fine had not only omitted this passage but had been more explicit in admitting that NOA. in my opinion. as Jared Leplin has lately said. that one can ‘read off’ of them the answers to all legitimate philosophical questions abouit science.” (Leplin. and of scientists as the priests of the modern age. and realism in particular.

Sometimes Fine seems to take this notion more seriously than I think it deserves. undertakes to to defend realism on the basis of an examination of what he calls “processes that are well-designed for promoting cognitive progress” (Kitcher. methods teased out in ways that seem to me accurate and preceptive about ongoing science”. p. on the one hand. p.19 I said earlier that there is a second set of passages in Fine’s writings which made me wonder if I am really entitled to include him in my syncretic projects. I do not think . in his book THE ADVANCEMENT OF SCIENCE. These are the passages in which he uses the term “method”. and the disciplinary matrices which shape themselves around acceptance of those explanations. and uttterly general and completely uncontroversial methodological platittudes on the other. At the beginning of “The Natural Ontological Attitude” Fine says that Boyd and Putnam have focused on on “the methods embodied in scientific practice. (NOA. To make his case. methods that “lead to scientific success”. he would have to find a middle ground between the substantive explanations of events put forward by scientists. 113) Here Fine speaks in the same idiom as Philip Kitcher who. 192) Kitcher’s argument for the “residual truth of rationalism” in the philosophy of science is based on the claim that we can isolate such processes and attribute the achievement of cognitive progress to their use.

and employment of background constraints” (Kitcher. (“Viewpoint”. He is describing an activity which all human beings perform every day. he is not recommending anything that deserves to be called a “method” or a “cognitive process”. succeeds in this task. in the years that separate his 1984 article from his Presidential Address to the APA. For in the latter we find him making fun of the idea that “There are universal principles governing the procedures that make for objectivity”. the first of which he describes as follows: . theya re simply summaries of the arguments by means of which some victorious scientific theory triumphed. p. 13) His attitude in this paper chimes with that in the “Afterword”. on the other hand.20 that he. Kitcher’s examples of “superior cognitive strategies” are more specific. Kitcher fails to give us an interesting difference the difference between a process of reasoning and and an explanatory schema. I suspect that Fine became more dubious about the notion of method. for example. or any other writer on scientific method I have read. 288). where he says that NOA is an attitude of trust in two senses. p. When. between a method a good idea. “elimination of alternatives through the production of inconsistency. and less sympathetic to such efforts as Kitcher’s. principles whose absence would lead to “something that involves relativisim and irrationalism”. forced retreats that open problems. When Kitcher commends.

) If one trusts that scientists are serious and reliable. then one will not be inclined to ask what methods they employ. hairdressers. One will not try to find something intermediate between their practices and their successes— something which can be called a “cognitive strategy’ or a “process of reasoning”. ranging from general skepticism to the derisive contempt toward science that one sometimes encounters in the humanities. theologians. philosophers. So one will not distinguish between “epistemic” and “nonepistemic” or “rational” and “irrational” factors in scientific research. lawyers. carpenters. (the contrast here is with antiscience attitudes. literary critics. those politicians. and evaluated for reliability in a general. and therefore neither trust nor distrust . just as we praise an artist’s productions when they compare well with his. bird-watchers. The same goes when one regards various other groups of people as serious and reliable: for example.21 NOA trusts that scientists are serious people trying to do good work and that scientific procedures are reliable ways of conducting that serious enterprise. One may have no use for. and instances of cognitive progress. any more than between “artistic” and “non-artistic” or “creative” and “noncreative” factors in artistic production. methodological. when we think they compare well with those of her competitors. astrologers or engineers whom one has gotten in the habit of trusting. way. One will settle for saying that we call a scientist’s results true.

Viewed etymologically. any more than I ask how the expert bird-watcher can tell the Great Yellowlegs from the Lesser from a hundred yards away. having once been tempted to rely on their results. to faithfully following my favorite astrologer’s advice. have found a way to cut through appearance to reality. the notion of “method” is a residue of the idea that natural scientists. As I see it. One may feel derisive contempt for such a group if. we view the . I shall trust them both. one or another of these groups of experts. But one’s attitude toward any such group will not be determined by any methodological critique of their procedures of justification. Instead of thinking of how we can get “access” to a kind of object. not by one’s grasp of the procedures of justification which are employed within the group. politicians and chicken-sexers. a method is a road that takes one from subject to object. one was severely disappointed. I will not ask for an account of how his procedures fit in with the nature of things. If one stops thinking of knowledge as a relation between mind or language and an object. and instead thinks of it as the grasp of more true sentences. If I attribute a blissfully happy marriage.22 concerning. as well as spectacular financial and professional success. then the notion of such a road becomes less plausible. unlike literary critics. and no mere philosopher—and certainly no specialist in comparative methodologist--is going to make me dubious. My trust is determined by their past utility.

We should have found it natural that no scientist would want his apprentices taking time off to . we should stop lamenting our lack of method and scientificity. astrophysicists. I think that the idea of “scientific method” and the idea that such disciplines as philosophy or political science or law should become “more scientific” are symptoms of our having been held capture by the picture of an abyss which seperates human minds from non-human reality If we instead get our pathos. We should have assumed that one became a good scientist by going into somebody’s lab or seminar room and getting the hang of it.23 object as whatever it is we are trying to talk about. we are never without access to it. romance. and botanists all used the same method. but which should have doffed in the course of the nineteenth—I doubt that we should ever have been told that geologists. and ambition of transcendence by contemplating the gap between ourselves and a utopian human future. If it were not for the public relations role of philosophy of science--a role which was necessary in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. evolutionary biologists. and also stop trying to reveal the natural scientist’s secrets of success. If we talk about it. and our attempt to say more useful things about it is not a matter of getting closer to it or getting a clearer view of it or fitting it better. We should not have thought that there was a natural kind called “natural science” which had a subject and method of its own.

that one’s interlocutors are serious and reliable . Agreeing as I do with Brandom that “conversation is the highest good for discursive creatures”. or any other work which advised them about what “cognitive processes” to use. and [that] there are only political or historical or aesthetic grounds for taking one role or another in an ongoing conversation” I do indeed want to substitute the notion of conversation for that of method. law and engineering. Perhaps Daniel Dennett is right that what he calls “flatfooted ignorance of the proven methods of scientific truth-seeking and their power” is responsible for my holding the philosophical views that I do. All I am entitled to say is that I have not yet encountered a work of philosophy of science which gave me reason to think that geology. In arguing.24 study Cohen and Nagel’s INTRODUCTION TO LOGIC AND SCIENTIFIC METHOD. that natural science is not a natural kind. as I have in the past. Dennett claims that on the view I espouse ‘it is all just ‘conversations’. I am of course speaking out of dense ignorance. It is always possible that Paul Gross is right when he says that people who have not practiced science cannot understand the nature of science. and for my lack of what he calls “the intellectual leverage provided by scientists’ faith in truth”. I think that to take conversation seriously— to trust. astrophysics and the rest are any more closely linked to one another than to medicine. at least initially.

and by making the current state of that conversation part of your life. simply to immerse oneself in one or another conversation among people one trusts as serious and reliable. One can identify a “scientific ground” for taking a conversational side only by immersing oneself in the disciplinary matrix within which a particular conversation is going on. or Fine and Leplin. and then do one’s best to meet the expectations of one’s interlocutors. ninety-nine times out of a hundred. But he is wrong to suggest that. of course. But I do not think that one can explicate “specifically scientific” in any way that accords with the traditional project of philosophy of science. the love of truth may lead one to break out of the disciplinary matrix within which that conversation has been going on. In the hundreth case. But I cannot see that either fidelity to disciplinary expectations or the courage to effect a break-out can be correlated with one’s view on the philosophical questions over which Dennett and I. . Dennett thinks my writings discourage people from acquiring this virtue. on my view. To love truth in a given area of culture is. disagree.25 inquirers—is the best way to display the virtue Dennett calls “love of truth”. and to try to set up a new one. only such traditionally soft grounds as might be labeled “political or historical or aesthetic” are available. I think that the obvious grounds for being on one side or another of a conversation about choosing between scientific theoires are specifically scientific grounds.

S. But astrologers. astrologers. and most of us can tell which we are doing when. The argument-chat distinction is perfectly real. seem to think that scientists and desirably hard-minded philosophers argue. do argue. I would respond that its name is “high culture. and many other critics of my work.” This is the area of culture which contains those disciplinary matrices in which power and money matter less than achieving free agreement on the answers to questions unintelligible to the vulgar”. Dennett says that we have created a “technology of truth” and that its name is “science”. so defined. bird-watchers.26 Dennett. Argument between Heidegger and Sartre. like the the Oxbridge and Sorbonne Aristotelians of the seventeenth century. and in my utopian human future they . or between Einstein and Bohr. even if one agrees with Bacon and Descartes that the topics they argue about are not worth discussing. whereas literary critics. Eliot and Harold Bloom. or between T. are just as unchatty and just as serious as arguments about Tyler Burge and Donald Davidson. and politicians simply chat. One of the differences between Dennett and myself is about whether Kant. Philosophy is one prominent part of high culture. I think that these effects were harmful. Russell on others who wanted to put philosophy on the secure path of a science improved or damaged the quality of philosophical conversation. But it does not map onto the traditional hard-soft distinction. One should grant them all the clarity and rigor they claim. Husserl.

If I were told that “Davidson uses a good method. Heidegger or Davidson. More specifically. This will work no matter whether the good philosopher in question is Kant or Hegel. You get into the philospohical conversation by discussing what such people discussed. I would be baffled. philosophers trained in different matrices and different countries. there is no point in adivising young people. but of how conversable you are in later life: how well you can fuse your own conversational horizons with those of lots of other philosophers. so the way to become a good philosopher is to throw oneself into the works of some well-reputed philosopher and try to talk his or her talk. or the converse. Nietzsche or Mill. and Heidegger a bad one”. but not most of the other membesr of their respective cohorts. and further distinguished by the fact that they. They seem to me to be distinguished not by methods but by contexts of discussion. In particular. that they should attend to the methods being used. looking for a philosopher whom they can heroize and imitate. Just as the way to become a good scientist is to go into somebody’s laboratory and try to get in the swing of things. and in particular by answering or being persuaded by their critics How good a philosopher you get to be as a result of throwing yourself into one philosophical conversation rather than another is not determined by your initial choice. happened to .27 would cease to be made. I think that the question “What should the method of philosophy be?” should cease to be asked.

Heidegger entered the field by imagining a conversation between the Marburg neo-Kantians and such figures as Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. I would not know how to teach either method to a student.. Such a search. like that of “rational support”. rigorous philosopher and the other a bad. . or Heidegger from all those slavish disciples of Husserl who never had the guts to break out on their own. as Kuhn recounts.28 come up with some brilliantly original ideas—ideas which wer no more the result of applying a method than were Einstein’s or Bohr’s. The search for a criterion which would make one of them a good clear. unrigorous philosopher seems to me pointless. it took a hundred years to domestic a nonAristotelian mechanics.The terms “analytic method” and “phenomenological method” strike me as of no use. Both men turned out to have some original ideas. The notions of clarity and rigor. Differing expectations about what to get out of philosophy typically take even longer to be resolved. are determined by cultural expectations. once undertaken will always become a public relations exercise on behalf of one’s favored candidate. Differing expectations about what to get out of physics accounted for the fact that. unclear. Davidson entered philosophy by getting in on a conversation between Quine and Carnap. . Neither notion helps explains what differentiates Davidson from all the secondrate hacks who also call themselves “analytic philosophers”.

both made up serious. But they will not be made by following a good or a bad philosophical method. huge piles of books and articles in the philosophy of language would be thought to contain nothing but clever answers to pointless questions. whom to propose marriage to. They will be made on philosohical grounds. The decisions participants in the relevant conversations come to about whether to follow these three men into a non-representationalist philosophical utopia. When the trustworthy disagree. we are on our own. staging a break-out from a familiar disciplinary matrix. reliable. Leplin has one set of expectations about what counts as philosophy of science. or where to go to school by following a good or a bad method. They remain conversational. But this is not to say that are choices become irrational or aesthetic or political. if there work were taken to heart. in the sense that they will be the outcome of conversations in which only people who have read quite a lot of philosophy will be able to take part.29 . as Leplin suggests. will not be made on what Dennett calls “political or aesthetic or historical grounds”. So. any more than you and I decide whom to vote for. in less obvious ways. . Fine another. trustworthy interlocutors. They will be made in the way human beings have always made such decisions when faced with a choice between two sets of people. Fine is. are Brandom and Davidson.

The sources of such agreement are to the province of historians and sociologists. not of epistemologists or ontologists. most of the participants in the conversation eventually agree about what decision was best. But this is not to be explained by the existence of contact with the non-human in the former areas and lack of such contacts in the latter.30 In the areas of culture traditionally called “hard”. Richard Rorty May 3. 1999 . It is to be expalined by the fact that in the former there is more agreement about what kind of product a given disciplinary matrix is expected to produce. In other areas they do not.