Re: Learning the earth system LO3919

David Frampton (
Wed, 29 Nov 1995 09:03:04 -1000

Replying to LO3841 --

I readily accept Don Deguerre's point that when I quoted Richard Rorty off
the top of my head I didn't contextualise the comment, i.e. I didn't
situate it historically within an account of pragmatism from C.S.Peirce to
Davidson or as a putatively viable philosophical positioning from which to
perspectivise science as another human story. Don then recontextualised
Rorty more ably and explicitly than I did in a systems thinking framework.

However, the question was the viability of the idea of 'tampering with
nature', and I'm not sure that what Don said undermined the relevance of
Rorty's comment to that issue - as part of the map, granted - Rorty's
recognition of the 'language games' in our discourses and institutions
would probably not have allowed of a more ambitious territorialising
interpretation. There is indeed the continuing puzzle that those who
impute 'social engineering' (which is paradigmatic with 'tampering with
nature') to those who believe they are 'co-discovering and co-creating
reality' may typically see themselves as located within the kind of
ahistorical 'nature' that Rorty refers to - and may consequently see it as
quite legitimate to exclude and demonise such 'social co-creations' -
while viewing an externalised technological culture quite harmlessly and
unproblematically. I can understand, I think, how Don saw my comment as
enshrining a category error, but perhaps that's because I wanted to draw a
parallel rather than a distinction between 'engineering society' and
'engineering science'. Part of the puzzle is the thinking that we are
doing totally different kinds of things when we engage in those two

David Frampton