Saturday, June 16, 2012

Feyerabend and Minimalist Ontology

Terence Blake's got another Feyerabend post: IS THE ONTOLOGICAL TURN A USELESS DETOUR?: Feyerabend on Ontological Critique? He links to late letters which Feyerabend wrote to one Isaac Ben-Israel, who was interested in military intelligence. Now, if you're thinking of James Bond, spies, and stuff, that's the least of it. Much of the best, most interesting, and most challenging intelligence is done from open sources. Curious about North Korea, or Iran? Well, what can you infer from information you can obtain on the web? How can you tell when a situation of interest has arisen deep inside those countries? That's practical epistemology of the most urgent sort.

Anyhow, we find this in one of those letters:
My argument is a metaphysical argument: reality (or Being) has no well-defined structure but reacts in different ways to different approaches. Being approached over decades, by experiment of ever increasing complexity it produces elementary particles; being approached in a more ‘spiritual’ way, it produces gods. Some approaches lead to nothing and collapse. So I would say that different societies and different epistemologies may uncover different sides of the world, provided Being (which has more sides than one) reacts appropriately.
Meanwhile, my buddy John Wilkins has a measured assessment of Feyerabend that's a few years old: How not to Feyerabend. Wilkins, you may recall, is something of a pluralist.

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