Monday, April 27, 2009

Science and Institutions

Pangrammatically speaking, science is to intuition what politics is to institution. This suggests a rather radical conclusion: science cannot be institutionalized. It is the purpose of politics to transform institutions, and the purpose of science to transform intuitions. The idea of "free inquiry" derives its sense from this grammar.


Presskorn said...

So this homology is a piece of grammar? In the Wittgensteinian sense, I presume, in which a piece of grammar is partly constitutive of the sense of its constituent terms...(on a conservative reading of the notion of grammar at least)

More interesting perhaps: What does "transforming intuition" mean?

I think most people have a rough idea of what it means to "transform an institution", but "transforming intuition" seem to have a, so to speak, unclear grammar...?

Presskorn said...

Update: Google hits: "Transforming institutions" receives 14.600 hits while "Transforming intuition" receives 108 hits mostly utilizing "intuition" in its mystico-psychological sense & not its Kantian sense...

Thomas Basbøll said...

I don't agree. Intuitions are just the immediate sense we make of things that happen to us. It's a perfectly normal (ordinary) thing to have your intuitions "transformed". The only thing that is not common is using a word like "transform". One might normally say: "Aha!" or "Now I can go on."


Presskorn said...

No, I don't exactly dig.

I think I need something following the preposition in "transforming intuition into X" in order to fully dig.

After all, science doesn't transform intuition into just anything...

But, Of course, your point might be that science does exactly that: science really just transforms intuition, tourt court or immanently, without it changing into anything else...

I suspect your point might be something like that, since it corresponds to the case of "transforming institutions". When we think of transforming institutions we just think of them as immanently changing, of them being re-organized & not of them as changing into to something different from institutions.

But is there really a correspondence here? Doesn't science rather make intuition undergo a metamorphosis into concepts, predictions or the like...

My point might also be stated as follows:

Politics as such doesn't transform institutions in any particular direction, while science (even as such) does transform intuition in a particular direction.

This strikes me as a minor crack in your homology. But I am wise enough to expect prompt refutation; after all this is the center piece of your pangrammaticism....

Thomas Basbøll said...

The institution of the family has been transformed by the women's liberation movement, a political exercise.

Our intuitions about disease have been transformed by medical science.

Even workaday governance and inquiry conditions the development of our intuitions and institutions. A minister is fired and another takes her place. The immediate power of her ministry and related departments may change.

Obama has transformed the institution of interogation.

I don't mean transformed into something that is not longer intuition/institution. I mean that the political and scientific activities transform the grammar of our lives.

Sometimes these transformations are just small changes. But they, very exactly, formal.

Thomas Basbøll said...

"no longer"


they ARE formal

Henry Gould said...

By intuitions, do you mean "perceptions"?

If so, your equation sounds like something out of Kant. Perceptions don't become realized (as experience) until they are processed by the logic of (a priori) Reason. ie., given a rational meaning, within the logic of Reason. Experience is the synthesis of empirical perception and this interior logic.

If "science" is the rationalization of empirical evidence (perceptions) then, as you say, science is to intuition as politics is to institutions.

The problem with this is, as Kant pointed out, 1) the objects we perceive are strictly unknowable in themselves; and 2) the reasoning Self is not the same as our ordinary (phenomenal) selves, & is also unknowable. So we neither know the source nor the object of our realizations.

Sounds like our world, all right.

Highly recommend philosopher Gillian Rose on these issues.

Thomas Basbøll said...

Yes, my approach to intuition is essentially Kantian. But I don't think perception = intuition in Kant. Rather, an intuition is the knowledge (about an object) that is immediately available to us. (It is not that objective knowledge is not possible, but that the object can't be known as such.) Intuition delivers that part of our initial impression which is, as it were, correct. It delivers knowledge (true belief) before any reflection takes place.

Perceptions, by contrast, may be mistaken. (As I understand Kant, meanwhile, not all intuitions are occasioned by perception. There is "pure intuition" as well. Though I'm neither sure that my reading of Kant nor Kant himself are right on this point.)

Science transforms what we take as true immediately. Politics transforms our immediate sense of justice. Both affect, as it were, our "first impressions". It is only in so doing that they can be said to affect "the store of knowledge" and the "distribution of power".

Presskorn said...

I agree with your reading of Kant: Within transcendental idealism there no real concept of ”pure perception”. Perception is always already synthesized, i.e. always something that immediately makes sense to us (or carries an immediate sense, if you like).

The post & the comments, btw, reminded me of this instructive Heidegger-quote:

”In order to understand the Critique of Pure Reason this point must be hammered in, so to speak: knowing is primarily intuiting... All thinking is merely in the service of intuition. Thinking is not simply alongside intuition, ”also” at hand; but rather, according to its inherent structure, it serves as that to which intuition is primarily and constantly directed.”[Heidegger, Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, p.15-16 in the Bloomington 1997-edition]

On another note, I am also reminded of Wilfred Sellars' distinction between ”the scientific image” and ”the manifested image”(also apropos of your concept of an image). The manifested image is our everyday intuition of things, whereas the scientific image is concerned with laws, protons & the like.

In Sellersian terms, we might think of the ”transformation of intuition” that you speak of, as the dialectic between the scientific image and the manifested image.

But there also some friction here, since Sellars stresses that the manifested picture is practical. Which I guess would mean that it would belong to politics rather than science.

And yet perhaps there no problem here: The pangrammaticist is well aware that perception & action, seeing & speaking, science & politics, knowledge & power are sorts of nuclei and yet he is trying to spell out the internal connections of such nuclei by spelling out what perception is to action, what seeing is to speaking, what science is to politics, what knowledge is to power....

Thomas Basbøll said...

Thanks for that Heidegger quote. It's excellent!

And all feeling is merely in the service of institution. That's is why politics and emotion are so inextricably related.

Heidegger, if I recall, was the one that got me to see that Kant (and everybody else) gave primacy to vision in epistemology. At first I wanted to correct that within epistemology, but I am now comfortable with the idea that "knowing is primarily intuiting" and derives from perception (modelled on vision). Leave the practical to ethics, I say; don't let it affect your epistemology (pace the pragmatists, I guess).

By the way: seeing is knowledge as doing is to power. Not speaking. We can speak our knowledge (assertion) just as well as we can speak our power (injunction).

I do not distinguish scientific knowledge from everyday knowledge, so Sellars's distinction doesn't work for me. There is a "dialectic" of sorts between the visual and the manual image. But the difference between what I see (a sun beam) and what a scientist seas (a stream of photons?) has to do with differences in what we know about light.

There is no "scientific" body of knowledge separate from some other body of "ordinary" knowledge. There is knowledge and then there is what people merely "believe". Any attempt to rethink your intuitions is "scientific". What is not scientific is complacently continuing to see things as you always have.

Presskorn said...

Blanchot, if I recall, was the one that got me to see that everybody gave primacy to vision in philosophy of language. In his 'Speaking is not seeing' in Blanchot, The Infinite Conversation, p.25-33.

According to Blanchot seeing & speaking is inextricably related, yet not identical. I still sometimes think about this. Sometimes, at it were, pangrammatically. Which is why I was tempted to include on my list, well knowing that it doesn't fit your scheme exactly....

PS: Yeah, the Heidegger quote rocks...