Saturday, October 22, 2011

Ted Sider, the truthseeker

alFrEdO tRiFf

Lately, I've followed Ted Sider's ideas with interest. But I cannot fathom why he thinks himself a prophet battling the forces of evil. I found the fragment below in his paper "Ontological Realism" (the red underline is mine):
Thoroughgoing Goodmanian skepticism about similarity is a breathtakingly radical metaphysical hypothesis, and is utterly unbelievable. Just try to believe that every grouping of objects is just as good, objectively speaking, as every other, that no objects "go together" simply because of the nature of things. I predict you will fail. If all groupings are equally good, then the world is an amorphous collection of objects. Any linguistic community is free to choose any groupings they like for their predicates, describe their surroundings in those terms, and formulate laws of nature using those groupings. Provided they say true things in the resulting language, they succeed as inquirers just as well as any other linguistic community. We can describe the world of color using the familiar predicates, but we would lose nothing beyond convenience and familiarity by shifting to the language of 'grue' and 'bleen'. Surely that is wrong. The world has an objective structure; truth-seekers must discern that structure; they must carve at the joints; communities that choose the wrong groupings may get at the truth, but they nevertheless fail badly in their attempt to understand the world.
for "utterly unbelievable," Sider spends a bit of engaging effort. Don't you think?
"all groupings are equally good"? Who said that? Not Goodman, professor Sider.
"I predict" & "truth seekers" is enough for me: Behold! Sider, the prophet of Philosophy! 
"carve at the joints" makes me think of roast turkey.
under(standing) always (under)stands.

Let's start with this Goodmanian motto: "Identity or constancy in a world is identity with respect to what is within that world as organized." (WW, 8)

Sider surely understands that there is different fit of rightness for voodoo and quantum physics, since they both work within their world-versions. Goodman is obviously more interested in physics than voodoo,* but he still maintains that "grouping" depends of your context and needs: 
The many stuffs -matter energy, waves, phenomena- that worlds are made of are made along with the worlds. But made from what? Not from nothing, after all, but from other worlds. Worldmaking as we know it always starts from worlds already on hand; the making is remaking. (WW, 6)  
I can see Sider grinding his teeth in discontent. Either you get it or you don't.
All Goodman quotes taken from Nelson Goodman's Ways of Worldmaking (Hackett Publishing, 1978). * "The pluralist, far from being anti-scientific, accept the sciences at full value. His typical adversary is the monopolistic physicalist who maintains that one system, physics, is preeminent and all-inclusive, such that every other version must eventually be reduced to it or rejected as false or meaningless." (WW, 4).

1 comment:

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