Pierre Bourdieu’s photographs of Algeria


New English translation of Deleuze’s 1959-’60 course on Rousseau

By Arjen Kleinherenbrink (Nijmegen).

Tanya Luhrmann on cultural context and schizophrenia

Interesting research by an anthropologist at Stanford on the way the hallucinatory ‘voices’ heard by schizophrenics vary in character depending on cultural context.

Interview with John H. McWhorter about his new book on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis

Here. (Thanks to David Roden for the headsup on this one.)

Unsugaring the pill

Looking forward to the fruits of Adam Briggle and Robert Frodeman’s research on the state and possible future of academic philosophy, announced in this blog post. Looks set to be a long overdue investigation of some of the worrying structural problems with the discipline.

It’ll presumably be primarily or wholly from a US perspective, but no doubt some conclusions can be extrapolated for those of us working in the UK and Europe. Apropos the latter, Schliesser is typically a source of useful insights…

Peter Woit on Richard Dawid on string theory

Some interesting comments from Columbia theoretical physicist Peter Woit on Richard Dawid’s new book on the significance of string theory for the development of a ‘post-empiricist’ account of scientific method.

What strikes me as a particularly interesting and difficult question, which we see in the background of the first ‘mistake’ Dawid’s takes string theory critics to make, is that of the interplay between the developing de facto epistemic norms of the (various) scientific community(/ies) and the (I suppose, realist) notion that the success of science demands that there be some objective epistemological standard that scientists are effectively meeting.  That is, in arguing that our ideas about what count as appropriate epistemic norms for the sciences (or at least for ‘fundamental physics’) should be driven primarily or indeed completely by actual scientific practice, Dawid* would seem to open up a hornets’ nest of difficult (post-Kuhnian) questions about the extent to which there are identifiable independent epistemic standard in terms of which actual scientific practice can be said (in the present, as opposed to in hindsight) to methodologically ‘go wrong’ in a serious manner. This is of course the crux of the Kuhn/Popper ‘struggle for the soul of science’ (as Steve Fuller has put it): can the philosophy of science legitimately engage in the normative activity of dictating epistemic constraints to the scientist, or must the philosopher (or philosopher-historian) be content to codify and render explicit epistemic norms embedded in the real (and evolving) practices of scientists?

The best answer is (hedging my bets rather tediously) no doubt somewhere in the middle. But I’m sympathetic to Fuller’s concerns about an overly ‘internalist’ (i.e., Kuhnian) understanding of the scientific community’s relationship with the epistemic norms of its own enterprise…at the same time as I’m sceptical about the possibilities of establishing community-independent epistemic norms for the sciences that would condemn seemingly ‘progressive’ research programmes (by the standards of the scientific community in question) on independent epistemological grounds…  A hard question to be given more thought another day, when I’m not procrastinating from other more pressing tasks!

* I should say that I haven’t yet read Dawid’s book, so I’m purely responding to the sorts of ideas that come to mind in relation to the presentation of Dawid’s views by Woit and others – I’m more interested at present in the general ideas than in a detailed assessment of the nuances of Dawid’s position! So apologies if I’ve misrepresented it… Here’s a review.

Some thoughts from Eric Schliesser on the Leiter report and the “Jennings rankings”