October 11, 2006

Relaxing on the Porch

Presently, I’m sitting on the porch with my trusty laptop. I love to sit or sprawl here on my rattan couch, work on the blog, read, look out at the tops of live oaks and palms – I can see queen, royal, and coconut from here - and/or snooze. I keep several books on the table next to the couch and peruse them depending on whether or not I want heavy or light reading. Currently in the stack are Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), The Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact by Ludwig Fleck (1982 edition) on the heavy side, and, on the lighter side, Flight of Aquavit by Anthony Bidulka. The Fleck book is there because of Kuhn’s, as the latter seems to be an extension of the former. I Googled both on line, and found out that my conclusions are correct because, Kuhn himself claimed Fleck as an inspiration. I’m not far into either, but there are two ideas I’ve gathered from Kuhn and Fleck’s works so far. First, scientific theory is dependent on culture, and therefore, a particular scientific revolution is unthinkable in times and places other than ones own. Therefore, we can look back through time and understand those scientific revolutions that exist in the past. However, by way of example, an aborigine from the Seventeenth Century would not have been able to understand Newton’s theory of gravitation. Secondly, it seems that a particular way of looking scientifically at the universe (a paradigm) from a particular place in time would have been viable and appropriate at the time, though to us it may no longer be correct and applicable. At first, it seems as though Kuhn is making a claim that scientific revolutions are somewhat random, though he claims not. Instead, my understanding is that while dependent on culture to exist, scientific revolutions (paradigms) are none-the-less based in actual fact and capable of being theorized, studied and hopefully proved by scientific method, though, at the same time, our conceptualization of “science” itself could not exist in a culture other than our own. Fleck’s work precedes Kuhn’s by decades, and as such was way ahead of its time. Both fit logically into the postmodern way of looking at man’s understanding of all things as culture based.

So, there you have it, one of my intellectual digressions. I can’t help it. What else have I to do at my age, but think in circles and spirals loosely woven together in frayed and tattered fabrics? Thank God, I’m still able!

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