Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Giving and taking

I just want to put up a couple of quotes from things I'm reading this term that have a certain affinity. This is, of course, not a novel idea One is from Sellars's EPM section 38:
"The idea that observation "strictly and properly so-called" is constituted by certain self-authenticating nonverbal episodes, the authority of which is transmitted to verbal and quasi-verbal performances when these performances are made "in conformity with the semantical rules of the language," is, of course, the heart of the Myth of the Given, For the given, in epistemological tradition, is what is taken by these self-authenticating episodes. These 'takings' are, so to speak, the unmoved movers of empirical knowledge, the 'knowings in presence' which are presupposed by all other knowledge, both the knowledge of general truths and the knowledge 'in absence' of other particular matters of fact. Such is the framework in which traditional empiricism makes its characteristic claim that the perceptually given is the foundation of empirical knowledge"
The other is from Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, chapter X (p. 126 in the third edition):
"The operations and measurements that a scientist undertakes in the laboratory are not 'the given' of experience but rather 'the collected with difficulty.'"
I had forgotten how heavily Kuhn leans on perception in his book. (We are finishing up with Structure in the philosophy of science class I'm TAing for.) I have done no research on this topic, but I wonder if Kuhn had read EPM or was familiar with Sellars's work more generally. Kuhn doesn't cite Sellars anywhere in Structure even though there are places, especially chapter X, where it would seem to fit.

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