Social psychology

There are quite a few philosophers who draw from empirical research these days:

1. Neuroscience/neuropsychology
2. Economics/game theory
3. Social psychology
(among others)

I think I’ve changed my mind about this a little over the past few months. I used to outright reject any insight from such disciplines (possible exception of nonempirical game theory); but I deem that there are some important provisos that should be fulfilled before considering them as having philosophical implications. And, oddly enough, these are non-philsophical considerations.

i. Are the variables sound?
ii. Are the variables sufficiently able to be mathematically constructed?
iii. Are the findings empirically repeatable?
iv. Has a pilot study been conducted to deem methodologies effective
v. Is the study ethical?

Let me consider the last point. Why should we care that a study is ethical? There are various reasons, and most of them perhaps you may not have considered. The obvious one is that, unethical studies cause harm to the research subject. Minor implications: reputation of the researcher, his group, their funding agency, their university/institution, and the discipline’s reputation as a whole comes to jeopardy. This means people will not trust researchers if they are unethical, and for good reason too if they were known to cause harm. Some of you might be more filppant and say something like okay so we may have done this research already, there is still import of the study, right?

Not necessarily. Unethical studies are difficult to repeat, one for ethical reasons, two, because often the variable are too different to repeat in exactly the same way. Studies that cannot, or will not be repeated are too difficult to verify, but they are, if you are innovative enough, able to falsify it (by testing the aspects of the operation design process). Unethical studies tend to stand in a singularity, very few studies would bear resemblance to them, so there is no context, and further, the researcher-subject relationship; due to the nature of oppressive and coercive relationships, are difficult to reconstruct. Further, studies like Milgram’s social psychology experiment are difficult to interpret given certain presuppositions that must be addressed: nature or nurture? What is the structure of explanation?


The antiomies of the foundations

There is a distinct contradiction, and yet, agreement, in the following two propositions:

P1. Mathematics cannot be shown to be complete
P2. We cannot but conceive of Mathematics, properly construed, as ideally composed of a set of axioms such that all and any system of mathematics can be reduced to a common simple system, or set of axioms such that shows a common genus to all mathematics.

This view, I maintain, is a Kantian view of mathematics. Kant’s constraints upon the proper conduct of science is that there ultimately originates a primary concept, but, that this concept is knowable or discoverable, or even actual, is not relevant, nor should we be too concerned if we never find it.

For science to be proper, Kant says, it must fit an ideal of knowledge, but such an ideal is projected (this entails the ideality of natural kinds) and not real. Such an ideal also seems to suggest that we use a bit of elipsis in our explanations and descriptions of science. A Kantian view of science also would set as a desideratum that there were a formalisability/mathematicisation constraint on anything if it is to be proper science at all.

The ideal is a projection, and is an “as if it were real” constraint (that is the ellipsis to which I speak of). Because it is a projection, our kinds and entities and laws within the scientific frame work not only can be subject to change, but desirably so, are they changeable, for scientific theories could always change, and are not rigidly set.

Rigidity is still present in the Kantian conception of science, however, in the desideratum of the constructability of formal langauges upon which we describe our phenomena. Consider the difference between ‘Water’ (h20) and water (that stuff we drink). Most, if not all the water we come across is not ‘water’, perhaps in some ways, ‘water’ does not exist, HOWEVER. Water necessarily presupposes ‘water’, in virtue of its ideality. For what makes water1 the same as water2 other than h20? Nothing.

H20 is criterial of water, but in a way, its pure form is never to be found in water, only ‘water’, which projects onto all thigns called water, makes sense of our empirical concept in such a way to be science. But, because ‘water’ is a priori regulatively ideal, it is also subject to change. The contradiction is, then, how is water necessarily h20, yet only indexical to our scientific understanding?

The answer to this lies in the conception of necessity. Necessity here, is defined as a criterial relation. Therefore, to say that “2 is a number” is necessarily true is to state a criteria. Necessity is criteria. But then, is not necessity similar to possibility? For criteria presupposes the conditions, and conditions is construed in the Kantian system as possibility. It would seem then that necessity can only take place as a concept where possibility is first defined, such that in a sense, necessity is only possible if, possibility allows, and this is necessarily so.

Destre (and Michael)