Eugene Lashchyk, Contingent Scientific Realism and Instrumentalism, 1992


Contemporary philosophy is in the midst of a crisis. For some philosophers like Rorty and Fine the crisis has passed. Philosophy is dead. But there is no mourning among the members of that group. Rorty has announced the end of philosophy first in a series of lectures and then in the book Philosophy and The Mirror of Nature.{2} Arthur Fine has, in the spirit of this trend, announced the end of the philosophy of science and the beginning of a new attitude towards science which he called the "Natural Ontological Attitude"{3} or NOA for short. According to Fine's NOA "Realism is dead"{4} and so is its counter part anti-realism. As a matter of fact, there is no work for philosophers of science to do. Science is not in need of interpretation or explication. Philosophy together with philosophy of science is dead. Long live science!

In the present paper{5} I would like to look more closely at Fine's arguments for NOA as well as to address the more general position of the end of philosophy{6} or, under Rorty's newer formulation, the end of Philosophy{7} with a capital "P". But before I turn to this analysis let me briefly sketch the phenomenon of the "end of philosophy" as it has unfolded in the history of philosophy. The hope is that such a rehearsal will put the current "end of philosophy" movement in proper perspective and permit us to come up with some useful generalizations about the task of philosophy in this post-foundationalist era. In the end I will conclude with a sketch of a position on realism which I call contingent scientific realism.

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{2} Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979). [Back]

{3} Arthur Fine, The Shaky Game: Einstein Realism and the Quantum Theory (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1986): Chapter 7 "The Natural Ontological Attitude" was originally published in Scientific Realism, ed. Jarrett Leplin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984). [Back]

{4} Ibid., p. 112. [Back]

{5} A critique of Fine's NOA was originally presented as part of my commentary on Fine's paper in defense of NOA at The Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium's Conference on the Philosophy of the Human Studies in 1986. A shorter version of this paper was published and presented in Moscow in 1987. See Eugene Lashchyk (1987) "And Not Arthur Fine's Antiphilosophical Position "NOA" Abstracts of the VIII International Congress of Logic, Methodology, and Philosophy of Science, Vol. 3, Section 13, Moscow, 1987: pp. 170-172. [Back]

{6} In one place Rorty says "I suggest that abandoning the scheme-content distinctions and accepting pragmatism does, in a sense, mean abandoning philosophy." Richard Rorty, "Transcendental Arguments, Self-Reference, and Pragmatism," in Transcendental Arguments and Science, ed. Peter Bieri et al. (Dordrecht: R. Reidel, 1979): p. 78; see also Rorty's Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. [Back]

{7} This bifurcation of philosophy can be found for example in such passages as "This third motive -- the fear of what would happen if there were mainly philosophy, but no Philosophy -- is not simply the defensive reaction of specialists threatened with unemployment. It is a conviction that culture without Philosophy would be "irrationalist" -- that a precious human capacity would be unused . . . " R. Rorty Consequences of Pragmatism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982): p. xxii. [Back]

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