March 24th, 2019
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Morris, who calls his philosophy “investigative realism,” writes, “I feel very strongly that, even though the world is unutterably insane, there is this idea—perhaps a hope—that we can reach outside of the insanity and find truth, find the world, find ourselves.” Kuhn, for all his faults, goaded Morris into writing a brilliant work of investigative realism. For that, if for nothing else, he, and we, should thank Kuhn.
If we replace the “we” with “I” then I think the statement is defendable:
“I feel very strongly that, even though the world is unutterably insane, there is this idea—perhaps a hope—that I can reach outside of the insanity and find truth, find the world, find ourselves.”
Each of us certainly has our own unique path to truth. The question is whether we can ever communicate it to someone else. And then I think history clearly says “no”. Which I think explains why this is true:
In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche said that “every great philosophy” is a “confession,” a “species of involuntary and unconscious autobiography.” Structure is a great work of philosophy, and so is the book it spawned, Ashtray, which helps us see the world with Morris’s obsessive curiosity.
What kind of work do scientists do? To the extent that scientists try to seek reality, they are engaged in the same work as mystics and philosophers and artists, and all human beings. In other words, seeking reality doesn’t make them scientists, it makes them human. To the extent that they then build models and share the models with peers, they are then engaged in work that is unique to scientists. And it is this effort, trying to communicate with other humans, that Kuhn suggested raised all kinds of difficulties.
Kuhn would surely be horrified at this analogy, but Structure works as a kind of negative theology, which insists that God transcends all our descriptions of Him. Kuhn’s philosophy also captures a profound truth about human existence, that we are all trapped in our own little solipsistic bubbles. Language can help us communicate with each other, but ultimately we can only guess what is going on in others’ minds.