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The ontological assumptions of science.

 
 
fresco
 
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:24 am
Maturana the celebrated biologist and philosopher wrote that science was entirely "subject dependent" i.e. that it lay wholly in the domain of consensual subject interactions and required no metaphysical assumptions of an "ontic reality" beyond the existence of the observer.

Was he correct and if so what implications does this have for what we call "knowledge" ?
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:43 am
I can't say if he were correct or not (and neither can you). However, i tend to agree with the contention that "knowledge" is a consensus definition.
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:53 am
Setanta,

Maturana would in fact define "correctness" as an "emotional reponse". He needs to do this in line with his rejection of "ontic reality". So perhaps my question should have read...."Do you commune with this view ?".
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 08:57 am
Well . . . mebbe . . . so long as he keeps his hands to himself . . .
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Setanta
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 09:02 am
By the way, ontic reality can only be an assumption, since absolute ontic reality would imply an ability to describe the ontic entity exhaustively, to describe its existence and the ramifications of its existence in all possible states. To the extent that it is unlikely that a human can ever achieve ontic certitude, it makes a contention that "correctness" is an emotional response a philosophical cheap shot--an easily supported accusation against one's interlocutors because of the unlikelihood of anyone successfully fulfilling the descriptive imperatives of a claim of ontic reality.
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wandeljw
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 09:04 am
Thanks for starting this thread, fresco. Thomas Kuhn commented that science is so specialized that we must rely on a consensus of experts in each specialty.

(You are probably referring to a different type of consensus, however.)
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 09:26 am
Setanta,

Maturana implies a bit more than a label when he uses the phrase "emotional response". He is in fact referring to certain "biological" axioms which equate "cognition" with "the life process". The implication is that there is a state of "visceral adaptation" isomorphic to the "cognitive" act of agreement.

wandeljw,

I don't think this is a different form of "consensus". We are merely delegating the consensual process to others in areas where we don't feel inclined to "adapt".
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Cyracuz
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 09:53 am
Can we even relate to "ontic reality"?
Our reality is in essence our perception of it, and our perception deals in concepts and phenomena. In a sense, the ontic is the raw material that we form our concept of reality from. Or am I completely in the bushes on this?
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 10:34 am
Cyracuz,

Maturana implies that there is no way out of circularities like " perception is bounded by the distinctions in language which lead to further distinctions and the creation of language". It is this quality of circularity as a natural phenomenon (parodied by "chicken and egg") which distinguishes the nature of "life"(aka "cognition") and the futility of looking for ultimate "causes" or "realities".
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Cyracuz
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 01:40 pm
But if so, isn't the concept of "ontic reality" an example of such a futile attempt to break the circle?

My reasoning tells me that there is some foundation upon which the mechanisms I call cognition are founded. Some aspect of reality that goes beyond my capacity to percieve it. That is what I would call the ontic, but I do not think I can prove that it exists.

But it has to be said that word, ontic, is new to me. I am unsure as to it's application, as may or may not be evident in how I use it. I ask from ignorance. :wink:
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Terry
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 02:29 pm
If there is no ontic reality, where does the sensory data that observers interpret to form the consensus come from? Do they just imagine it? Why?

So how did the observers themselves come into existence, and why do they commune among themselves to create the illusion that something real is out there, if it isn't? Why would most of the observers who are allegedly creating science by consensus believe that their agreed-on version of reality is real, if they knew that they were creating it themselves? If they don't know, then "who" is really doing the creating?

And why can't we change this world by all agreeing on a better model?
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Cyracuz
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 02:34 pm
Because we can't agree on what "better" means.

Regarding the rest of your post, I look forward to reading the replies of those who have a better handle on this than I do.
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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 04:30 pm
Re: The ontological assumptions of science.
fresco wrote:
Maturana the celebrated biologist and philosopher wrote that science was entirely "subject dependent" i.e. that it lay wholly in the domain of consensual subject interactions and required no metaphysical assumptions of an "ontic reality" beyond the existence of the observer.

Was he correct and if so what implications does this have for what we call "knowledge" ?

I wish I could answer, but I don't even have enough background knowledge to understand the question. I feel like RL in an evolution debate. Smile
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Cyracuz
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 04:43 pm
Laughing
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Cyracuz
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 04:50 pm
fresco wrote:
Maturana the celebrated biologist and philosopher wrote that science was entirely "subject dependent" i.e. that it lay wholly in the domain of consensual subject interactions and required no metaphysical assumptions of an "ontic reality" beyond the existence of the observer.

Was he correct and if so what implications does this have for what we call "knowledge" ?


Yes, I think he was correct.
The implications to knowledge, as I see it, would be that knowledge too is "subject dependent". Meaningful only to the subjects it interacts between. "Knowledge" is a construction made up of concepts stacked on concepts in an intricate mix, and as such it is meaningful only to those who possess the same attributes and means of measurement as the entity that produced it.
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fresco
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 05:11 pm
"sense data" are mutual descriptions of certain biological activities/adaptations of organisms operating within a common environment. Their activities are "structurally coupled" i.e contribute to common social networks. If we considered two domains of organisms, one of which is "color blind" Maturana would say we do not need to consider the "ontic reality of color" in order to discriminate between the two, examination of their differential biological structure would be sufficient. The fact that such differential structure gives rise to differential relationships with the environment described as "color perception" is a side issue. The environment does not of itself possess "properties". All "properties" imply actions of an observer, or expectancies of such actions encoded (re-presented/re-lived) in descriptions.
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Cyracuz
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 05:17 pm
How would that work if we were one of the two organisms, if we were the colorblind organism? Would we then understand the biological attributes in the other organism that enabled them to see color?
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 05:36 pm
In answer to Terry,

For Maturana, "observers" are languaging organisms. Language operates at the secondary level of "coordination of coordimation" of actions, and "observers" always operate within the language domain. There can be no "observation" without at least a nominal level of "measurenent". To say a lion "observes" its prey is therefore to anthropomorphise a lion's "actions" with respect to its discrimations. If in doubt, consider a lower animal like a stickleback "attacking a red stick" on the mating season. (reference Tinbergen)
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fresco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 05:38 pm
Cyra...no. The concept "color" would not be in our language.
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Terry
 
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Reply Wed 2 Jan, 2008 05:44 pm
Fresco, organisms can describe sensory data to each other and agree on mutual interpretations, but where do the original data themselves come from?

Agreed that "color" is a perception by some organisms and not a property of the environment, but there are photons of particular frequencies emitted by things in the environment. Are the photons imaginary or part of an ontic reality? If imaginary, why was it necessary for the observers (whose existence you still have not accounted for) to create the concept?

It seems to me that you distinguish a higher-order "reality" created by sentient beings who can discuss it with each other and that which is perceived by lower animals. Sticklebacks can not reach a consensus on anything, so is anything that they perceive "real"?
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