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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Aug > Aug 20

Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 02:42:37 +0100
Archived: Mon, 20 Aug 2007 10:43:56 -0400
Subject: Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

>From: Cathy Reason <CathyM.nul>
>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>Date: Sat, 18 Aug 2007 01:36:04 +0100
>Subject: Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

>>From: Gerald O'Connell <gac.nul>
>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 18:00:54 +0100
>>Subject: Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

>>>From: Cathy Reason <CathyM.nul>
>>>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>>>Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2007 06:59:06 +0100
>>>Subject: Re: The van Gogh Fallacy

>>It has everything to do with tradition.

>No, it has everything to do with using words to mean what they
>in fact mean.

A worthy aim, so why don't you stick to it? I was originally
using the term 'empirical', not 'empiricism' - you have
conflated a simple adjective used to indicate the source of what
is taken as axiomatic with a noun indicating a particular school
of epistemological thought. Please note: everything that is
empirical is not necessarily (or even particularly often)
indicative of empiricism. Your attempted rhetorical elision is
unjustified and unwarranted, even in a discussion that you seem
unwilling to take beyond the arid confines of a series of
dictionary definitions.

>Empiricism asserts the primacy of experience,
>rationalism asserts the primacy of intellect. Those positions
>are just inconsistent.

Except of course, that, as you characterise them, they are not:
how do we arrive at experience except through exercise of the
intellect? How could the intellect function without experience
as the ground upon which it achieves traction? Reflection upon
these questions should lead you to see that our mental processes
are far more complex and subtle, and that the idea of 'primacy'
in connection with 'experience and 'intellect' is naively


>>>This is the method of textual analysis and literary criticism,
>>>not science.

>>I'm not quite sure what you mean here.

>Literary criticism starts with the text as axiomatic and
>proceeds to derive inferences from it.

Sounds fairly scientific to me.

>This is exactly the
>reverse of how science operates.


>In science, one starts with
>hypotheses and then proceeds to test them against evidence.

A most extraordinary statement. So where do these hypotheses
come from that science 'starts with'? Religious authority?
Textbooks? Divine inspiration? Thin air? The Discovery Channel?
The backs of cereal packets?


Doesn't science, in general (by which I mean to include the
activity at large, while excluding that of individual scientific
operatives who perform only part of the overall process), start
with hard data about the world (empirical data, please note),
then form hypotheses that attempt to explain this data
(according to rationalist criteria of logical consistency and
coherence, please note), and then proceed to validate (or
otherwise) these explanations through comparison with further
data (much of it specially generated through experiment or
prediction for the express purpose of rigorous testing)?

Perhaps, in my exasperation, I am being unfair. Perhaps, Cathy,
your view of what science does is unduly informed by special
cases such as those currently under debate at the frontier of
theoretical physics where it is even argued by some that
theoretical development has moved so far away from all
possibility of experimental confirmation that what is being done
is no longer science, having moved to a level of abstraction
where the starting points for many hypotheses are merely other

Perhaps that's it. But I kinda doubt it....

Gerald O'Connell

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