Discussion:
  1. Ronald N. Giere (2006). Scientific Perspectivism. University of Chicago Press.
    Many people assume that the claims of scientists are objective truths. But historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science have long argued that scientific claims reflect the particular historical, cultural, and social context in which those claims were made. The nature of scientific knowledge is not absolute because it is influenced by the practice and perspective of human agents. Scientific Perspectivism argues that the acts of observing and theorizing are both perspectival, and this nature makes scientific knowledge contingent, as Thomas Kuhn (...)
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2011-04-18
Some facts in perspective
Recently I started reading Ronald Giere's Scientific perspectivism but it turned out to be a demanding task: I became bogged in Chapter 2 and havent been able to go much farther. In a philosophy book one expects down to earth examples to bring some clarity about but here, rather the obverse, they turn out to be the problem.

Chapter 2 is entirely devoted to Color vision, which is presented in the first sentence (p.17) as "the best exemplar I know for the kind of perspectivism that characterizes modern science." And on the next page (18) we are told: "The fact that hues have a circular rather than linear structure means that there is no simple linear relationship between wavelength and color".

As I get it "circular structure" means that we percieve colors in a limited range and anything beyond is black.But should we say that  a sound dissolving in low frequency rumble is at the same time an inaudible piercing screech? Our field of vision is also limited, so  it might be said to be circular and  perhaps we should expect things that disappearing on the right side to reappear at the left? Rather, we admit that not all light is visible ('colored') and conveniently distinguish 'infrared' from 'ultraviolet', allowing Wavelength to have values from 0 to infinity.
There is no color, Giere claims on p.33, that something "is really, that is objectively". But he could have spared us the trouble of pondering this by starting with the the example mentioned briefly in the last paragraph of the chapter: getting to the proverbial tree-falling-in-the-forest he states that
p40 "Sounds, however, are produced by the[se] pressure waves only if there is the right kind of perceiver in the vicinity." Of course this is a different perspective, even if it easily appears as a twist on the word meanings.
Meanwhile he has managed to introduced another misunderstanding. According to modern physics textbooks light is emitted from atoms when electrons jump from one orbit to another and its wavelength depends solely on the energy difference between these electronic states. Giere however avoids mentioning this and claims that light depends on molecular structure of surfaces and so a rose and its color photograph should be of the same substance if they are to have the 'same' color. There is not a word that the same energy difference can occur in different kinds of atoms which would emit light with the same color.

As far as I have read it Giere is not puzzled that different perspectives can be combined in a non contradictory whole but rather by the fact of their plurality. Emphsising his own exotic view on things he discusses cartography and claims that "Every projection gives a different perspective on the Earth’s surface. But these projections are all incompatible." The common usage being that if a such procedure leads to an incompatible result we would not call it a projection. Apparently his bizzare claim rests on the fact that no mapping of a higher dimensional continuum to a lower dimensional one can be both smooth and univoque. However what he manages  to say (p.80) is something about "projecting the surfaceof a three-dimensional sphere onto two dimensions", ignoring the usage to describe a surface (his word) as twodimensional.

If one could accept such views on trivial matters perhaps the theorizing would look impressive, but it is certainly not the case for me .

2011-05-03
Some facts in perspective
The "circular structure" may refer to various color "wheels" or "circles" under different systems of color classification, such as HSL/HSB. However, this has nothing at all to do with non-linearity of hue perception. That's determined by the physiology of cone cells. Response curves are different for each cone type and they do not evenly overlap each other. Likewise, the S cone has assymetrical sensitivity. The perceptual non-linearity of hue vs. wavelength is an "artifact" of biology, not a result of the "structure" of the hues. Likewise, variation exists among cone sensitivities among different individuals--and then there's the question of the "tetrachromat" (who has four distinct cones instead of the normal S/M/L triad), who might or might not exist.