Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In a Scientific Mood

Going into a new semester, this time with somewhat more "academic" ambitions than last year, I'm feeling a bit strange. This morning a reason for this feeling occurred to me. I'm feeling "scientific". That is, I'm in a scientific mood.

Heidegger noted that science, even at its most theoretical, also has a certain "mood". This mood is the basis of a distinction between the logical and the existential conceptions of science, between approaching science as "an interconnection of true propositions" on the one hand, and as a "mode of Being-in-the-world" that discovers truths, on the other (H. 357). Notice that the existential focus on mood does not reject the pursuit of truth, it merely shifts our attention onto a particular aspect of that pursuit, namely, what it "feels like" to seek the truth. Heidegger is not rejecting the idea that science involves establishing connections between propositions (and ensuring their truth). Rather, he is saying that this involvement is dependent on a certain kind of mood. We might further say that it depends on a certain posture, or attitude.

Another way of talking about this is through Norman Mailer's (the American novelist) distinction between facts and nuances. A true proposition is a gesture at (or reference to) a fact, namely, that fact which makes it true. But experience does not often present itself to us as a series of unambiguous facts lined up with unequivocal propositions that can then, thus lined up, be taken as "truths". Rather, we face a tangle of nuances, and we must sort through them for clues to what the truth is, and sometimes "compress" them, Mailer argues, into facts themselves.

You might say I feel like thinking these days. I feel like getting a handle on a great many subtleties and nuances in the literature and write them down. I want to get some facts straight.

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