Can we be open to and informed by the sciences without turning them into an untouchable transcendental authority? Jussi Parikka thinks that this is possible if we do not let ourselves be intimidated by epistemological reductionism, however skilfully camouflaged.
Parikka’s parry to object oriented pretentions is steadfastly pluralist and empirical: let’s read more scientific research. In each objection he calls for pluralism: against semantic stipulation, he advocates more careful vocabularies and more concrete criteria; against tendentious chronologies, he reminds us of the counter-history of materialism. So it is only fitting that he should end his post with a further de-transcendentalising call to take more account of empirical research. Naxos converges on the same conclusion, warning against the « scholastic vices where the ‘philosopher’ invents, contemplates and draws conclusions of the ‘object’, but from the overflying commodity of the [intellectual] laboratory ».
Parikka is not as naïve as some of our scientistic intellectuals about the authority of science – it too is only a relative affair. There is no pure scientific theorising, unadulterated by ideology: « science is not a neutral cold gaze that just registers the world ». In the real world science is permeated by mythological elements: »a lot of sciences are not able to be that self-reflexive, and constantly smuggle in a huge amount of conceptual and other material that makes their epistemology infected with the human/the social ». Against this mythological infection of science we must promote in their practitioners, but first exhibit in our own practice, the virtues of self-reflexive empiricism.
I think, in an earlier post, you drew a distinction, drawing on Latour, between Science and sciences. Science can be dogmatic, claiming that it’s findings are etched in stone, but generally this seems to be a product of journalism about science, not sciences themselves. It seems to me that scientific practice has critique built in, that it perpetually strives to take into account its own procedures and the stance from which experiments are done, and that, above all, its findings are always subject to revision with new data and experiments. This seems quite different than myth where myths are treated as absolute and never subject to revision. For me the most attractive thing about science is that it perpetually carries risk within it, allowing for all our common sense certitudes about the world and ourselves to be called into question. Consider the way in which Einstein forced us to thoroughly revise our understanding of space, time, and simultaneity, or the way in which neurology perpetually calls into question our experience of ourselves.
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