Art as Cognitive - Beyond Scientific Realism

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Art as Cognitive: Beyond Scientific Realism Laurence Foss Philosophy of Science, Vol. 38, No. 2. (Jun., 1971), pp. 234-250. Stable URL: Philosophy of Science is currently published by The University of Chicago Press.

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ART AS COGNITIVE: BEYOND SCIENTIFIC REALISM* LAURENCE FOSS "The nzasters were those ulho said something new irz their time. At first a nuisance, they succeeded later in irzizoculating the public with their own special needs, which eventually became etleryone's heritage." Ozenfant, Foundations of Modern Art (Dover, 1953) Thesis: Art like science radically affects our perceiving and thinking, and the two are substantially alike in that together--along with an inherited "natural" language system with which they overlap-they enable us to articulate the world. Science has been advanced as the measure of all things: scientific realism. By implication, art pertains to beauty, science truth. Science effects conceptual breakthroughs, changes our models of natural order. On the contrary (I argue), as a nonverbal symbol system art similarly affects paradigm-induced expectations. Substantively there is no difference in the way each enables us to articulate or measure the world : symbolic realism. The myth of resemblance as a criterion of representation-imitation as a one-one relation-has, at least since the time of Plato, obscured this truth. Once the distinction between representational and nonrepresentational art falls, the true nature of artist (like scientist) as maker is illumined. The artist, the scientist (disciplinarian), the cosmologist (those responsible for the formulation of so-called natural languages-in time all of us) make the world or, what practically amounts to the same thing, the known, perceived world. This is the claim of the symbolic realist. Is symbolic realism itself only a watershed? What implication does this critique have for assessing the role of the philosopher today?

"The making of a picture commonly participates in making what is to be pictured. The object and its aspects depend up011 organization; and labels of all sorts are tools of organization. . . . A representation or description, by virtue of how it classifies and is classified, may make or mark connections, analyse objects, and organize the world."? Thus does the distinction between representational and nonrepresentational art fall; or at least "resemblance disappears as a criterion of representation" ([9] p. 231). The notion of artist as maker is reinforced, now in an ontological, not just a derivative or "craftsmanship," sense. And the theory of art as imitation, at least in one of its popular guises, is rendered accordingly transient and superficial. These are my theses. The last first. A stipulative definition. The converztional artist may be said to imitate, while possibly consciously elaborating on his imitation, importantly exploiting the standard representation. Whereas the pioneer artist does not imitate;

* Received November, 1970. t N. Goodman ([9], p. 32). This essay might be taken as an extended commentary on Goodman's stimulating "theory of symbolisms."



so far as he is pioneer he overtly rejects existing representational standards as inadequate or as already sufficiently tapped in favor of newly forged ones, implicitly advanced as less inadequate, more comprehensive, perspicuous, etc. Thus when Cezanne first exhibited in Paris in the early nineties, people did not recognize figures in his impressionist drawings, we are told. They saw "nonrepresentational" paintings. Subsequently, when Cezanne's pioneer conventions were accepted, bathing figures were seen and, thereafter, when actual bathing figures were seen, they were viewed in part as Cezanne represented them, via his standards of representation or "projection rules." "In representation, the artist must make use of old habits when he wants to elicit novel objects and connections. If his picture is recognized as almost but not quite referring to the commonplace furniture of the everyday world, or if it calls for and yet resists assignment to a usual kind of picture, it may bring out neglected likenesses and differences, force unaccustomed associations, and in some measure remake our world." ([9], g. 33). Thus the pioneer. To a complaint that his portrait of Gertrude Stein did not look like her, Picasso is said to have replied: "Never mind, it will." Gloss: Once we have come to accept Picasso's way of seeing, have come to accept his rules of personality projection onto canvas (that linear sketches, for example, could be used to refer to things like subjects of portraits that were formerly represented by curved lines: cubism), we too will in part see Miss Stein as Picasso drew her; interpret her, if you like, accordingly. We see the world according as our existing conventions (categories, projection rules) enable us to see it. Believing is seeing. Our world is this world. What other world is there-except that promissory-notish world described by those conventions, categories which obtain at the "indefinitely far off end of inquiry," our Peircean, terminal categories? In other words, the world is, as Wittgenstein once thought, composed of facts. This is world,. World, is composed of things. However facts are explicated via existing categories (projection rules). Different categories, different facts; and there is no uniquely apt set of categories. Insofar as the world constrains our choice of categories, we discover the world (world,); insofar as we choose the categories we employ (from an indefinitely open class of such category sets), we make the world (world,). In section 6 we will return to this idealist-rationalist debate as to whether we discover or create the world. In somewhat altered terms, it is also the debate between classical and scientific realist. The next question: "How are these conventions, concepts, categories fixed? Who is primarily responsible for them?" Answer: the pioneer artist, poet, cosmologist, scientist, i.e. maker of symbolisms. The painting, sculpture, etc. of the fine artist has been compared to the crucial experiment of the natural scientist: "if the realignments it directly and indirectly effects are interesting and important, the picture-like a crucial experiment-makes a genuine contribution to knowledge." ([9], p. 33). Relevant evidence for the soundness of the picture would seem to consist in a widespread affirmative response to the unspoken question: "Does it enable



you interestingly and effectively to pattern (a sector of) your experience in its terms? Does it cause 'new connections to be made within your nervous system'" as J Perreault recently said of D'Arcangelo's newest paintings?l The reception of the public at large over an unspecified period of time seems to be the arbiter here. "That nature imitates art is too timid a dictum. Nature is a product of art and discourse" ([9], p. 33). This is a hard saying. However, it is what is intended by the fourth-to-last sentence of the opening summary-abstract above. I want to say more about it later. Observe that it owes its soundness to the fact that the rules which govern "nature" are inextricably connected with the rules governing today's English, today's scientific and artistic conventions. The point is illuminated by asking ". . whether a different and more daring interpretation of the very same observable processes could be devised, and whether such an unusual interpretation would lead to a coherent system of thought" ([I], p. 152). What makes the process or experience the same process or experience is not its relation to some Olympian vantage point to which each of us has access by virtue of a sound sensory apparatus, common sense, or an ability to correctly use ordinary English (or German, etc.). The case for identity of experience apropos difyerent theories is weaker than this, What makes the experience the same experience is that what is perceived as, or said to be, the experience from the perspective of Theory A bears the same relation to Theory A as that which is perceived, or said to be, the experience from the perspective of Theory B bears to Theory B. Call the set of claims allegedly experiential from the viewpoint of Theory A, a, and the (different) set of claims allegedly experiential from the viewpoint of Theory B, P. Now logically and methodologically the relation of a to A is equivalent to the relation of fi to B. This affords the warrant for speaking of the same experience or the same observable processes. a : A: :P :B. Take the argument one step further. Suppose that whatever can be said of Theories A and B and their respective relations to the allegedly given can be said (other things being equal) of La?zguagesA and B, when A and B stand for "natural" languages in their indicative mode. It is often assumed that the all-pervasive character of a conceptualization or language makes it impossible to specify grounds for abandoning it. Here it is assumed that this is not so, that the "argument from common usage" is, in Feyerabend's words, correct only "insofar as it maintains that certain modes of thinking, being physiologically more basic, are also more firmly integrated into human life, behavior, perception . . . but that it goes too far when asserting that these modes of thinking are the only ones that can be integrated." ([2], p. 250).2


Unlike the conventional artist, the pioneer is conspicuously uninterested in how a subject is normally represented, and conspicuously interested in how the subject might look in relative isolation from these normal patterns. He is in other words interested in imposing new conventions to supersede the old. Witness Picasso's The Village Voice, 2-20-69. In a series of papers, I have attempted to deal with this relativity thesis of language; see 131, PI, and PI. a



remark just quoted. In Platonic terms, he is an institutor of forms. These are the conventions, concepts and categories referred to above. Norman Rockwell fulfills what we might call paradigm-induced expectations; Picasso breaks through the existing and, at his most creative, establishes successor paradigms which, in turn, mobilize new expectations. By the margin that new paradigms mobilize expectatioils, these become the new fonns. What constitutes realism (representatiocal art, accurate description, etc.) is adjusted accordingly. The upshot is that realism, or representationalism, reflects an unwarranted assumption that there is something "out there" to be symbolically represented (linguistically, pictorially, scientifically) in a unique way-if only we can get very clear in our mind's eye about it. Like a photograph does! The catch is that even photographs have to be read or interpreted: perceptual conventions are applied to them. Contrary to the realist's presuppositions, the mind (or the eye that sees) is not a camera. As already hinted, there is more to seeing than mcets the eyeball: "The eye comes always ancient to its work," ([9], p. 7) is the way Goodman puts it or, in M. McLuhan's words, "people are always adjusted to the preceding environment" ([16], p. 12). How readily we forget that we might, with comparable plausibility, carve up the world differently, that the Eskimos do so in fact, that so too do frogs (cf. [15]), and that we, Western Mediterranean people, see a somewhat different world, identify different world furniture. at different stages in our evolutionary odyssey. As remarked, current conventions monitor the meaning of "the world" or "reality." No symbol, no corresponding item acknowledged. But no item acknowledged, no item belonging to the real world-by the conventions currently governing the use of this concept. These comments are brought together by saying that what there is is specified by relation to a frame of reference. The realist has traditionally taken this frame for granted and thus, by implication, uncritically assumed his frame to be the frame, an optimally sufficient one. "Realism" comes to be used as the name for a particular style or system of representation. According as we adopt one particular system of representation, certain paintings, say those characteristic of the Renaissance, furnish the most realist rendition conceivable. Mighty like a photograph! Given a different system, Manet perhaps, (or even a Braque or Picasso), "tells it like it is." But how is it, really? "For a Fifth-Dynasty Egyptian the straightforward way of representing something is not the same as for an eighteenth-century Japanese; and neither way is the same as for an early twentieth-century Englishman. Each would to some extent have to learn how to read a picture in either of the other styles." ([9], p. 37). Goodman cautions us against obscuring this relativity by an all too human tendency "to omit specifying a frame of reference when it is our own." But there are as many worlds, real worlds, as there are "our owns," for reasons already touched on. Rules governing "the real world" vary as we cross language/ epochal/cultural lines. We ought not to ask with the realist, "Does Titian (Braque,



Hokusai, . . .) depict it as it is?" We should rather put the "external" question: "Is the system of representation to which Titian (Braque, Hokusai, . . .) implicitly subscribes a reasonably satisfactory one, gioen such and such aims?" We must be ever open to trade-offs, offsets, to assessil~gsystems probabilistically, relative to ends.

The moral of this brief story of alternative ways of speaking is that the world is emergent. And the key to its emergence is metaphor, a passage from the conventional to the pioneer, according to the earlier distinction. Suppose as a mode of truthsaying that the world is composed of facts, not things. Suppose further that an indicative statement, if true, indicates a fact; or a representative picture, if good, represents a state of affairs. In this idiom, the state of affairs is the summation of = state of affairs = world. '6World" in this equation denotes the facts: IG%ts) literal world, all that we can accurately symbolize. The use of metaphor involves the introduction of a whole set of alternative labels, a whole apparatus of organization takes over new territory. "What occurs is a transfer of a scheme, a migration of concepts, an alienation of categories" ([9], p. 73). Compare Einstein's recommendation to change linguistic usage as regards locutions concerning the temporal relations of phenomena (see [20]). Goodman compares the introduction of metaphor to "a calculated categorymistake-or rather-a happy and revitalizing, even if bigamous, second marriage" ([9], p. 73). To urge a new, metaphorical use is to urge a novel way of taking the world, to recommend a reorganization of the world. The use of metaphor, like theory-building, is part of man's on-going process of concept-formation; and the life of the species, like that of the individual, constitutes a "life-long university." Case: "The womb of the earth." Metaphor or literal truth? The cardinal point is that there is nothing in nature to determine uniquely the right answer. "Mother earth" was once as literally referring as "mother's womb." But then we applied a physiological rather than a chemical account of natural change or growth. Things tended toward maturation, much as we might now say that water seeks its natural level. "Men were faced with the choice between explaining physiological development in terms of structural change, or structural change in terms of physiological development: either program might have paid dividends" ([21], p. 69). At the level of natural language-building, "nature" is suggestive only; language, like theory, is underdeterminate with respect to it.3 Another way to put this is to say that perception and symbolization are bipolar; priority questions concerning them are chicken-egg questions. Believing (i.e. being able to conceptnalize) is seeing. (And vice versa.) In these "external questiotl" domains decisions among equally well evidenced hypotheses or theories are finally based on evaluative or aesthetic considerations: does the candidate view enable you interestingly and effectivelyto pattern experience "Observation and experience can and must drastically restrict the range of admissible but they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief." (1131, scientific belief. P. 4).




in its terms ? The decision resembles deciding whether an expression is literal truth or metaphor. "If we could not readily transfer schemata to make new sortings and orderings, we should have to burden ourselves with unmanageably many different schemata, either by adoption of a vast vocabulary of elementary terms or by prodigious elaboration of composite ones." ([9], p. 80). In making "new sortings and orderings, both artist and scientist thus urge new, metaphorical (read: theoretical) uses, and so recommend a reorganization of the world. The conventions involved in our decisions to adopt

(based on an American Indian representation of a canoe, giving flat, 2-dimensional drawings of top, sides, front, back and bottom successively) as the visual, twodimensional representation of the cube illustrate, however trivially, how the artist might do so. Picasso's remark, quoted earlier, illustrates in a nontrivial way how the artist does in fact do so. Both illustrations reinforce Goodman's observation (with which we started) that "a representation or description, by virtue of how it classifies and is classified, may make or mark connections, analyze objects, and organize the world." To see how this might apply to scientific description, consider a timeworn illustration, the Ptolemaic versus the Copernican theory of astronomy. Often it is said that we might make do with a Rube Goldbergian Ptolemaic picture of our solar (terrestrial?) system and that ultimately it was for aesthetic reasons (simplicity, elegance, etc.) that we chose not to (see, e.g., [ l l ] and [14], p. 171). Part of the beauty of the Copernican theory lay in the fact that it raised more problems than it solved, though it held promise for solving more problems in different ways. Calcification of concepts was thought of as an aesthetically inferior state of affairs. The suggestion is that even empirical confirmation is a framework dependent concept and does not finally enable us to decide between competing overviews. Different theories prescribe somewhat different facts. This is a proposition to which we will return in the next-to-last section. Considerations to date indicate that the claim of the scientific realist that science is, in principle, the measure of all things (e.g. [IS], p. 97 and [19], pp. 49-50, 173) is inadequate. The world is not as science says (or will in the indefinite long run say) it is. It is rather as science, the arts, natural languages, etc. say (or in the indefinite long run will say) it is or represent it: symbolic realism. Not science, but the totality of our symbol systems, of which science is but one, is the measure of all things. This is the counterclaim of symbolic realist.


We have been speaking of similarities between science and art. It is equally important to notice differences. Our present point of view is that of seeing each as utilizing different symbol systems for organizing or recommending reorganizations



of the world. From this viewpoint, what principally differentiates the two is the sort of symbolism through which the recommendations are made. Whereas the scientist uses a linguistic symbolism, a sub-language system, the artist uses a nonlinguistic symbolism. Goodman formally distinguishes the two in terms of the syntactic and semantic properties of articulation, attenuation and denotativerzess of the one, and density, repleteness and exempliJicationality of the other. Rather than elaborate these property differences, important as they are, given present interests the reader may simply be referred to the careful distinctions drawn by Goodman in chapter four and applied in chapter five of Languages of Art. Granting, ex hypotlzesi, that such distinctions can be established, what we have been calling "rules of projection" become nonverbal analogues of the syntactic and semantic rules of language. Hereupon we may speak analogously of the artist as "using language well," the good conventional artist. Of the pioneer artist, we may say instead that, although having a command of the 1a.nguag-e and its rules, he chooses to break or stretch them unrecognizably for world-reorganization purposes. Observe Picasso's interesting reexamination of the problems of art in his 1940-50 set of variations on some of thc great masters, Poussin, Cranach, Courbet, Velasquez, etc. In Velasquez' Las Meninas (1656) artistic elements are deployed in one way; in Picasso's variant Las Meninas (1957) artistic elements are deployed differently. The contrast is illuminating. Different "languages" (projection conventions) are used to express (or represent) roughly the same thing; consider different ways of expressing the notion of distance. Whereas Velasquez had achieved the illusion of the vast room by representing distance "as it was done in his time, by the use of chiaroscuro and ever-diminishing objects,. . . Picasso achieved as great an effect of distance by the Cubist technique of overlapping planes, some of them lit and others shaded, and all of them making a pattern of forms that seem to recede from the pictured plane ([22], p. 152). Symbols are deployed in unprecedented ways to say new things or to say old things with new perspicacity. The notion of metaphor is apt: " . . . a matter of teaching an old word [read: symbol] new tricks [read: rules]-of applying an old label in a new way . . . an affair between a predicate with a past and an object that yields while protesting" ([9], p. 69). "Reality lies in how you see things," says Picasso. "A painter who copies a tree blinds himself to the real tree. I see things otherwise." As does every user of fresh metaphor (or theory), it may be added; and as do the rest of us, accordingly, in time.

v This analogy between theory construction in the sciences, the use of metaphor in language and breakthroughs of style in the arts, coupled with a critique of the distinction made between representation~land nonrepresentational art, underlines the fundamentally cognitive character of the aesthetic experience. This is a mode of speaking that I want to promote. Besides loosening the questionable beauty-truth distinction, it helps account both for the traditional esteem of the artist as seer, and the contemporary phenomena of what we may call the environmentalization of art.


24 1

"Art today," says Susan Sontag, "is an instrument for modifying conscio~~sness."~ It has, of course, always been, the difference is that the artist has become more self-conscious of his role as rearranger of perceptions-and, I would add, of his larger role as rearranger of priorities: the artist as comprehensive world designer ([OI, P. ix). The damaging feature of the myth of realism is that it promotes the illusion of something specific "out there" (e.g. forms), about which we can be more or less clear, depending on how well we imitate. Thus it treats aesthetic experience, not as cognitively creative in our "pioneer" sense, a producer of forms, but at best as a means to a perceptive observation, a discoverer of forms. This confusion encourages a misconception of the artist's role. What has to be seen is that there is nothing specific out there to be receptive towards-except of course as "conventional" thinkers, where our aim is to get clear, as it were, about the forms of the regnant paradigm. Now we correctly see the artist, like the scientist, as a maker of our world in the profound sense not only of carving it at its joints but of prescribing where its joints lie, establishing paradigm-induced expectations for the rest of us. "I do not search, I find" says Picasso the paradigm-maker. They said, " You haae a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are." The man replied, "Things as they are Are changed upon the blue guitar." W. Stevens The blue guitar is a figure for the symbolic activity of pioneer artist, scientist or natural language-builder. This is the sense in which the dichotomy of cognitive and emotive, truth and beauty-at least so far as it is used to measure the difference between the scientific and aesthetic-is wrongheaded. Or, it is so by the margin that we fail to allow for the emotions, if these are what generate the artistic act, as capable of functioning cognitively. What is being said is that different symbolisms, whether artistic or scientific, are deployed to the same end: intelligibility. This is obviously not intended as a statement about the psychological motivations of the individual artist, but rather about the impact of the work of art on our subsequent ways of thinking, feeling, and seeing. It is therefore meant as a descriptive rather than dogmatic claim. Shakespeare, no less than Newton, affects our ways of construing experience. Of the major turning points associated with the names of the Van Eycks, Ucello, Delacroix, Cezanne and Picasso, to stay with the visual arts, we might say without too much distortion what Kuhn says concerning breakthroughs associated with the names of Copernicus, Newton, Lavoisier, and Einstein : "Each produced a consequent shift in the problem available for scientific [read: aesthetic] scrutiny and in the standards by which the profession deterQuoted in "The Cheshire Grin Without the Cheshire Cat," Melvin Maddocks, The Christian

Science Monitor, 3-1 5-69.



mined what should count as an admissible problem or as a legitimate problemsolution. And each transformed the scientific [aesthetic] imagination in ways that we shall ultimately need to describe as a transformation of the world within which scientific [aesthetic] work was done" ([13], p. 4). Breakthroughs in either case constitute "tradition shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science [art]" ([13], p. 4). Of Picasso's Les Demoiselles d'hignon, L. Wertenbaker says it "achieved a basic breakthrough in art, effectively ending the long reign of the Renaissance . . . a revolutionary call for wholly fresh perception^."^ Differences in the impact of the breakthroughs associated with the names of the two groups measure differences in the influence of art and science in our culture. Not much more. Symbolization, then, whether linguistic as in natural languages, science and literature, or nonlinguistic as in the fine arts, is, on the present showing, to be judged by how well it enhances our sensibilities and, finally, our understanding: Does it cause new connections to be made within our nervous system ? Think of our evalution of one or a set of Hskusai's "hypotheses" concerning the real Fujiama. Do any truly depict the famous volcano ? How would we try to answer such a question? Here the aptness of the considerations advanced by G o ~ d m a n for evaluating the impact of art is felt. "Truth and its aesthetic counterpart amount to appropriateness under different names. If we speak of hypotheses but not of works of art as true, that is because we reserve the terms 'true' and 'false' for symbols in sentential form" ( [ 9 ] , p. 264, see also p. 268).6

In section two the myth of realism was criticized for promoting the illusion of something specific "out there" of which we might become more or less clear. Yet indispensable to a correspondence theory of truth is the category of symbolized; true to what? It is correlative to that of symbol. These apparently incompatible views can be reconciled by focussing on the word 'specific'. There does indeed have to be something "out there" in order that we talk sensibly of appropriateness: appropriate to what? This is a logical point. However, on the ground that any number of alternative hypotheses can logically fit (be appropriate to) an assemblage of data-presumably what's "out therev-we cannot speak in detail of what is symbolized, excepting, of course, the detail as respresented or described by available symbols. In other words, we cannot speak of any syn~bol(representation, description) as a necessary as well as sufficient condition for the symbolized. Good symbols are just sufficient descriptively. This is a telltale point and one that the classical The viewer is asked "to abandon his preconceived ideas of form, to forget natural appearance its altogether, to look at the fragments that make up his nudes as pure forms in themselves distortions of face and figure and placement force the viewer to look everywhere at once" ([22], pp. 53, 55). It is possibly true, and worth emphasizing, that a successful "pioneer" in some (but not all) types of art alters peoples' modes of perception. Just to this extent the category of "pioneer art" represents an over-simplification. And in [lo] : "Much else besides-and sometimes even rather than-truth is asked of science. Moreover, when we examine our tests for truth in science we find them far from alien to tests for quality in art."

.. .



realist, as well as the phenomenologist and ordinary language philosopher, may be accused of insufficiently registering. There are, however, two reasons why we speak of discovering instead of creatilzg the world. One of these reasons is good, the other bad. First the bad. Frequently when we say "Wow you've got it" or "Yes, that's right" or "True enough'' or "Right on," we mean that our correspoildent has now gotten the hang of the prevailing conventions. According to the normal view (often not overtly acknowledged as such), the performance conforms to reality. Thus snow is white, Norman Rockwell once represents a cube, etc. This sense of accurately depicted the American scene, realism-as-a-matter-of-habit was sufficiently scouted. It characterizes a reprehensible practice only insofar as it generates an uncritical view of our reality. Call it the Ugly American view. It regards good symbols as sufficient and necessary descriptively. This is a logical mistake. The other reason responsible for perpetrating the myth of realism-in-detail is both more interesting and defensible. "Not only do we discover the world through our symbols but we understand and reappraise our symbols progressively in the light of our growing experience" ([9], p. 260). In the very effort to understand the world and hence ourselves we have first to deal with existing symbol systems, i.e. the world itself in the only way we have of addressing it. Hereupon we discover what is already out there. Precisely this functions as the point of departure for our creative understanding. Still, the effort itself involves a progressive reappraisal of these symbols, this world. In this dialetical moment we transform, transvaluate the world; but, notice, it is the detailed world, in as good a sense as we have at that given time. "What a Manet or Monet or Cezanne does to our subsequent seeing of the world is as pertinent to their appraisal as is any direct confrontation. How our looking at pictures . . . informs what we encounter later and elsewhere is integral to them as cognitive" ([9], p. 260). The same of course could be said, mutatis mutandis, substituting "Aristotle," "Galileo," etc. for "Manet." We begin with Manet's, etc. world. Or, by means of the symbol systems bequeathed us by Manet and Cezanne, Aristotle and Galileo, or their prehistoric predecessors, we articulate the world, our world. This world, in turn, constitutes the basis for our own imaginative and intellectual disciplined fancies, the construction of our own symbol systems, which shore up and sometimes supercede the earlier, inherited ones: metaphor requires deference to, as well as departure from, precedent. And precedent articulates a detailed world. It is this world that is susceptible of [email protected] . ' It is of this world as transformed that we speak of creation. In our pioneer moments we create the world; the rest of the time we discover it. In section I, world, and world, were distinguished. Insofar as the world constrains our choice of categories (it was said), we discover the world (world,); I n Fred Hoyle's 1121 it is interesting that in order to apprize the Cloud of their world, earth people transmitted their language (English) and books written in their language, the Encyclopedia Britannica, etc.; (pp. 145 f). The Cloud then conversed intelligently with them about their world. He (it) had discovered their world.



insofar as we choose the categories we employ (from an open class of such category sets), we make the world (world,). All we ever get is one among the many ways the world is: [world?, world?, . . . 1. In the present terminology we may say that in the beginning (when Ur-man emerged as a symbol-making animal) there is world,, the undetailed world. As symbol systems evolve (however that is) any speciJic thing we say (symbolize) about it (e.g. world;;) may be false in the sense that it may be superseded by an alternative, more acceptable incompatible formulation ( ~ o r l d ? ; ) . ~ The only incontestable thing we can say about it (world,) is that it exists. Its existence is the condition for our making specific claims, i.e. for articulating world, -or rather an unending series of world,'^. World, is thus discoverable as the ground we walk on is discoverable. World, is constructible as are huts out of this ground. Anything we say (symbolize) about the latter is contestable-though this doesn't rule out the possibility that some symbols are better than others for "making it out"; we may have different aims in view. This is the detailed world as we know it. Nothing we say about world,, the undetailed world, is contestable; though, absolutely, we can say only one thing about it. Compare Kant's distinction between "space" and space^.^ Of course, relatively speaking any given world that serves as launching pad for some new world organization (world,) is, apropos this world, a world,. But this goes without saying; it is that to which metaphor (or theory) owes deference. In short, to detail is to forge categories, conventions, concepts, to erect paradigms, to make ("poet") the world. In science we call it theorizing, in art symbolizing. In cosmology, the construction of natural languages, we don't have a handy name for it, this activity having taken place phylogenetically and in the mists of prehistory. Those responsible for our original overviews, whether built into semantical and syntactic categories of English, Uhru or Nootka or cave drawings or hummings or dancings . . ., are our Ur-scientists, Ur-artists, Ur-cosmologists. And this is the claim of the symbolic realist.

VHI We have seen how the symbolic realist, by claiming cognitive parity for nonscientific symbolisms, vindicates the claim to have "gone beyond" the scientific realist who, in turn, "went beyond" the classical realist. Can this leap-frogging be carried a step further; is symbolic realism a way station? The suspicion is that it is; for one thing it is too irenic. How do scientific and artistic frameworks for picturing the world mesh; which particular frameworks among available ones? Surely the notion of a set of consensuses among appropriate disciplinarians in each domain is too elastic: the scientific-artistic Establishment. But the problem doesn't stop here. Examine the proposition, expressed earlier, that lies so close to the heart of scientific realism: "Different theories prescribe somewhat different facts." Call this the Quine-Feyerabend-Kuhn thesis. Its legitimation would seem to constitute a point against classical realism and in favor of scientific realism. The determination of facts is contingent on regnant, presumably successive (scientific) paradigms. See [3], pp. 55-56, where I try to give credence to how this might occur.

V e e m y [ 6 ] , section 4.



But the case is more ramified than the thesis usually implies. Theory is itself a nzultiply concept. Not only do different scientific theories vie with one another for oar allegience but-according to the claim of the symbolic realist-different nonscientific "theories," or artistic rules of projection, likewise vie with one another. These latter are, by the claim, on a cognitive parity with scientific frameworks. Moreover, some of these theories and some of these projection rules, or sets of combinations of either, may have mutually incompatible consequences. But the difficulty does not stop here; the field is not limited to art and science. There are other descriptive frameworks about which judgments have to be made. Thus the early Chinese felt no need to understand the atom, as we feel no need to consult the cryptic wisdom in their prophetic book of changes, the I Clzing. Perhaps later on people will discover that the atom concept was useful for obtaining large amounts of energy, but is non-necessary in a nonaggressive society. The inference is that an evaluative judgment is required as regards optimum frameworks, or sets of frameworks, for measuring, describing or picturing the world. Science, art, magic, religion . . .; all project descriptive frameworks. Which are to be honored? This judgment itself presumes a theory, a value system or goal orientation. 111 sum, the choice of a descriptive framework or set of them, is logically dependent on the choice of an evaluative framework. We cannot judge the relative adequacy of a framework for picturing the world without first determining "the uses to which it is to be put or the needs it is supposed to serve." "It is therefore incorrect to construe as incompatible the correspondence and pragmatic theories about descriptive frameworks; the former elucidates the nature of descriptive frameworks (i.e. the kinds of rules governing the assertability of factual statements) while the latter specifies the sorts of reasons which are relevant to the assessment of descriptive frameworks."1° And these reasons are as variable and problematic as are species survival needs. In other words, they change with changing environmental demands. Unless we can anticipate the course of evolution, we cannot anticipate these demands, the continuing adaptiveness or maladaptiveness of survival values. (Consider the contemporary fate of such time-tested values as fertility or war.) The conclusion seems to be that we cannot terminally assess descriptive frameworks; or, better, their assessment is finally not so much a matter of rational as of prudential judgment. And prudence is a practical virtue, an action concept.ll This


lo [8], p. 148; and in a subsequent passage, " there are as many valid types of reasons as there are admissible types of larger objectives or needs; a system for picturing the world which in one set of ends proves adequate may be found t o be inadequate when another group of ends is brought into play. Though they both exhibit the tendency to generate pictures of the world, the arts and sciences may thus be construed as radically different types of games, governed by markedly different objectives, and hence subject to different sorts of criteria for achieving success. They have each their own canons for settling disputes about emerging pictorial systems" (pp. 149-150). There seems to be no reason why the same point cannot be made concerning other frameworks which in the Western tradition qualify as neither science nor art. 11 c' . . there are serious difficulties in making sense of the concept of rationality when applied t o inter- or extra-framework discourse" ([8], p. 151).




raises an interesting question as to the appropriate activity of the philosopher today, if we assume, with Aristotle, Kant and Sellars (to take representative philosophers from widely separated periods), that central to the philosophical enterprise is an inquiry into the nature and justification of descriptive frameworks.12 By our conclusion, the justification of frameworks is a function of shifting environmental demands and the species survival needs to which these give rise. To this conclusion now add two assumptions: (1) through technology we can now convert knowledge of into dominion over; thus for the first time we can crucially affect environmental demands by reference to which species needs have to be adjusted (Technology Postulate) ; (2) through this new found power we incur new responsibilities; at the price of our collective survival we must direct the evolutionary flow intelligently, i.e. successfully (Global Village Postulate).

This latter is a prudential activity. Furthermore the framework by which we successfully direct this flow is, in its descriptive dimension, self-justifying. In other words, it exemplifies that which the philosopher seeks when he seeks truth, an optimum descriptive framework-or set of sub-frameworks. But descriptive has now been attenuated, in a sense to be shown. The presumption is that survival frameworks are truth frameworks. Their premises ("semantical rules") constitute first principles, enshrine species values.13 The test: if we do not survive, the reigning framework was not justified; if we do, eo ipso, it is. As the evolutionary process transfers from biology to technology, controlling the evolutionary flow in all its ramifications may be the supreme test of our species adulthood. As an insight, this may disclose the direction to the fabled philosopher's stone.

I n sum, as philosophers we no longer comprise a reviewing stand before which march contenders for the claim of legitimacy, while we, from an Olympian perspective (i.e. from the perspective of some primacy thesis: "science, art, . . . is the l2 Granted there are many mansions in the kingdom of philosophy. The emphasis here will be on the appropriate way of following in the footsteps of the above named philosophers, given this dimension of their overall aim. l3 In Sellars' terms, this thesis can be put like this. Ontological categories are translated into semantic categories; this was Kant's "epistemological turn" : what there is in the world depends upon what existential statements of the canonical form are classified as true, i.e, as semantically assertable in that conceptual structure which rational human beings find reasonable to accept. At the most general level, what mankind itself (homo sapiens) finds reasonable to accept. Thus semantic categories are translated, in turn, into social categories: ontological -. semantical -+ social. Very roughly, in present terms: what there is ++ what is reasonably assertable+ technology ++ what is reasonably constructible++ what ministers to species survival (compare Sellars' "impartial benevolence" as a categorical imperative: [19], ch. 7). As a proper scientific realist, Sellars goes on to say that it is the conceptual structure of science which it is, ultimately, reasonable to accept and whose entities therefore replace Kant's Dinge an sich as standing behind the phenomenal world (the manifest image). But this particular primacy claim is a detachable part of his metaphysics and is, as we have seen, questionable on several counts.



measure of all things"), pass judgment. Rather contenders (frameworks) are tested in the process of their realization. Of necessity, feedback mechanisms are built into them by means of which they can be corrected for error in "real" time (a "feedforward" mechanism); since errors in controlling frameworks are, in our era, rapidly convertible into ecological evils-at the extreme, into ecocide. Philosophy in the defined sense, that is the justification problem, no longer consists in intellectual analysis alone (inquiry into, understanding of). This characterizes the pretechnological period in which man proposes, the gods dispose : Period 1 (Plato's Postulate).14 It now consists additionally in the ability to realize the results of the analysis (control over). This characterizes the "technotronic" period in which man both proposes and disposes: Period 2 (the Technology and Global Village Postulates).l"ntelligence is now a global resource, a component of the action, i.e. of the realized solution. In other words, in Period 1 the justification problem is one of trying to understand structural features of a world formed independently of this understanding-given certain agreed upon ends for understanding. The notion of measure gains relevance as that which relates the world as understood (via symbol systems) to the independently and already formed world (symbolized). I11 Period 2 the justification problem is rather one of trying to determine which of a number of possible worlds has optimum survival chances and then forming such a world. The older notion of measure as that which relates symbol to (putative) symbolized thus ioses its cutting edge. "Symbols7' become instruments for change, tools for the construction of new worlds. The relevant notion of measure becomes that of measuring the relative survival potential of alternate possible worlds, measuring their "world livingry."16 This is a different matter, involving doing and understanding in a dialectical relationship; it involves model building, probability analysis, decision theory, ongoing testing in ''feedforward" fashion, remodelling, etc. It is what Buckminster Fuller calls design science, comprehensive world design. Compare (1) Science, art, . . . is the measure of all things. (2) The survival value of a world system is the measure of all things. In (2) the notion of symbol systems (world,) as in some way measures of nonsymbol systems (world,) has disappeared and, with it, the need for the foregoing distinction between the two worlds. The assumption embedded in the Technology Postulate is that we are engaged in remaking the world in the sense that the existing world is now crucially a product of our action. That the world exists independently of our l4 In the Timaeus, Plato speaks of diurnal and seasonal cycles as having " .. . created numgiven us a conception of time and the power of inquiring into the nature of the universe." ber From this source derives philosophy "than which no greater good ever was or will be given by the gods to mortal man." But there is a greater good, the power of controlling the nature of the universe. l5 M. McLuhan calls the transferral of the evolutionary process from biology to technology the "second stage of creation," "the age of hominization" ([17], pp. 35, 85). l6 This phrase is Buckminster Fuller's, see [7].

.. .



doing or knowing is implicit to Plato's Postulate; worldl-or a succession of worlds, -was our attempt to analyze, describe, i.e. take the measure of, this world. Symbol systems or descriptive frameworks world,'^), e.g. languages, like intelligence itself, in Period 2 come to be seen as tools which, along with other tools (e.g. bulldozers, computers) enable us to construct adaptive-or maladaptiveworlds. By the degree that "the world is our oyster" and, therefore, the degree to which the Technology and Global Village Postulates have replaced Plato's Postulate, the need for the distinction between world, and world, evaporates, and with it the notion of descriptive framework itself. This is the stronger form of the thesis. The weaker form is that rather than remaking the world, the Technology Postulate implies only that we are now empowered to crucially reshape an already given world: is the ship of Theseus, rebuilt plank by plank while at sea, the same or a different ship from the original ? The analogy limps at our conception of the marine state of affairs prior to the rebuilding process. In the beginning, is Theseus' "ship" of like kind to the later version or does it comprise unformulated ship potential in a primordial sea of scum ? lnasmuch as truth rested on the notion of measure as used in (I), where an implied primacy thesis guaranteed one term of the measure, the notion of truth also needs to be reworked. The use of "measure" in (2) commends truth as an action concept, doing-right-by-survival-needs. In a relative sense, of course, it still has its older correspondence use. Just as a ship may be said to be true to its blueprint or the blueprint true of the ship, so a language may still be said to be true of its corresponding world system and the world system true to it. But this mapping sense of truth is trivial. Only with the introduction of a primacy thesis, implied or otherwise, is this notion of truth nontrivialized.

Corzclusion. By the margin that there are not, except in this trivial sense, descriptive frameworks, there is nothing to assess them relative to (the old justification problem).There is only the construction of tools for survival; assessment is of adaptive or maladaptive tools (the new justification problem). Of course, insofar as one believes this distinction to rest on an evaluative judgment, and so to involve the surreptitious introduction of a primacy thesis after all, we are back to the earlier position, if in somewhat updated clothes. A possible retort is to raise the question of how a carpenter (say) determines whether a tool is adaptive or not; is there a need for a philosophy of carpentry, or simply for carpenters making ongoing use of feedback to build livable homes, usable chairs, etc. ? In other words, is the present "primacy thesis," unlike its predecessors, self-justifying in that it constitutes, in part, an explication of the meaning of "evaluative framework"? Is the motor principle of evaluation, at the evolutionary level, "If it works it can't be all bad, but if it doesn't it can and is"? Truth and falsity, rather than an academic, or measure, question (Plato's Postulate), becomes a survival question; and the older distinction between intellectual analysis and practical action-between theoria and praxis, between thinker (philosopher) and doer-is altered accordingly. The thinker is now the thinker-



doer, the design scientist, the model builder; and the philosophical enterprise is correspondingly action oriented. Another way of putting this is to say that formerly -in Period 1-philosophy consisted of (important) intellectual games. The system builder (metaphysician) constructed model worlds and the critic (analytic philosopher) checked them, both internally for logical soundness and, on occasion, externally against a putative reality-nature. This was analogous to playing war games during peacetime; reality corresponded to what battle situations would be like. In Period 2, the war is on, to extend the metaphor. Today's "metaphysician," the comprehensive world designer (doubtless a philosophical Bourbaki), has to live with the consequences of the step by step realization of his design. Checks on it are in "real" time. Both critic and system builder are in the front lines, so to speak, or better at the command posts. From the ivory tower they have moved to the control tower of society. Both the nature of the test procedures and the stakes are qualitatively different. The problematic has been recast (see below), and with it the nature of the philosophical enterprise. The latter is now action oriented in a specifiable way. Roughly, the old problem was: the world is here, let's understand it; the new problem is: materials are at hand, let's make a viable world. The new problematic: Earth is a very small spaceship. We are all astronauts. All the fundamental problems are world problems. Only two alternatives-Utopia or Oblivion. Greatest fact of century: we can make life on earth general success for all people. Coping with the totality of spaceship earth and universe is ahead for all of us. (Man was designed with legs-not roots.) Man can do anything he wants. World's prime vital problem: How to triple swiftly, safely, satisfyingly, overall performance realizations per pounds kilowatts manhours of world's comprehensive resources, rendering those resources capable of supporting one hundred percent of humanity's increasing population at ever higher standards of living than any human minority single individual has known or dreamed of (171).


[0] Cage, J., A Year fuom Monday, Wesleyan University Press, 1967. [I] Feyerabend, P. K., "Problems of Empiricism," in Beyond the Edge of Certainty, Vol. 2 of University of Pittsburgh series in the Philosophy of Science (ed. B. Baumrin), Prentice-Hall, 1965. [2] Feyerabend, P. K., "Reply to a Criticism," in Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 11, (ed. M. Wartofsky). [3] Foss, L., "The Myth of the Given," Review of Metaphysics, vol. 22 (1968), no. 1. -141- Foss, L., "Language, Perception, and Fact," International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 8 (1968), no. 4. [5] Foss, L., "A Probabilistic Account of Truth," Monist, vol. 53 (1969), no. 2. [ 6 ] Foss, L., "Modern Geometries and the Transcendental Aesthetic," Philosophia Mathernatica, vol. 4. 1-2 (June 1967).



[7] Fuller, B., I Seem to be a Verb, Bantam, New York, 1970. [8] Gendron, B., "The Foundations of Scientific Realism: A Critical Review of W. Sellars' Science and Metaphysics," International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 10, no. 1. 191 Goodman, N., The Language of Art, Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1968. [lo] Goodman, N., "Some Notes on Languages of Art," Journal ofPhilosophy, vol. 67, no. 16. [ l l ] Hanson, N. R., "The Mathematical Power of Epiciclical Astronomy," Zsis, vol. 51 (1960). [12] Hoyle, F., The Black Cloud, Harper and Row, 1967. [13] ICuhn, T. S., The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1962. [I41 Kuhn, T. S., The Copernican Revolution, New York, 1962. [15] Lettvin, J., "What the Frog's Eye Tells the Frog's Brain," Proceedings of the Institute of Radio Engineering, vol. 42 (1959), pp. 1940-57. [16] McLuhan, M., War and Peace in the Global Village, Bantam, New York, 1968. [17] McLuhan, M., Counterblast, Harper's, New York, 1969. [IS] Sellars, W., Science, Perception, and Reality, New York, 1963. [19] Sellars, W., Science and Metaphysics, Humanities, New York, 1968. [20] Shapere, D., "Space, Time and Language," Philosophy of Science: The Delaware Serninar, vol. 11, John Wiley, New York, 1963. [21] Toulmin, S., Foresight and Understanding, Harper's, New York, 1961. [22] Wertenbaker, L., "The World of Picasso," Time, New York, 1957.

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[Footnotes] 6

Some Notes on Languages of Art Nelson Goodman The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 67, No. 16. (Aug. 20, 1970), pp. 563-573. Stable URL:

References 10

Some Notes on Languages of Art Nelson Goodman The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 67, No. 16. (Aug. 20, 1970), pp. 563-573. Stable URL: 11

The Mathematical Power of Epicyclical Astronomy Norwood Russell Hanson Isis, Vol. 51, No. 2. (Jun., 1960), pp. 150-158. Stable URL:

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