Philosophers at scientists

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Philosophers often dismiss scientists with the word instrumentalism. The idea is that scientists get too practical, agnostic, and skeptical; they sell out the idea that they are gaining any access to Truth, and make the less ambitious claim that they are gaining access to numbers, from tools, that enable predictions. This all becomes relevant when you start trying to measure things that you can't see, Wikipedia's example is redness of litmus paper (observable) vs. acidity (not).

Philosophers often make strong dichotomous claims. You get more attention (and, to be fair, explanatory power) if you peddle in switches rather than scales, if you make the blacks and the whites of your subject matter the important parts, and you either ignore the greys or squint them into one extreme or the other. If there is a person who recognizes that reality is complicated, and who recognizes that it would be irresponsible to make a truth claim from an observable, that person denies the presence of a reality beyond their experience. If you hear a philosopher scoff at the idea of instrumentalism or instrumentalists, they are operating under a definition that entirely denies the existence of things that can't be seen.

But the thing about being reasonable is that it is pretty reasonable. All kinds of things can exist at the same time, and they are all too tricky for us to keep in mind at the same time. I deny the existence of instrumentalists that deny the existence of all unobservables. Any instrumentalist that thinks is instrumentalist about instrumentalism. Instrumentalism is useful, and responsible for this or that observation when a person is doing good thinking. Coercing it from its role as a thought instrument, into something that makes a bunch of existential claims is boring and useless.

Taking that perspective gives me the luxury to make existential and universal claims in that previous paragraph. Oh, another thing that is boring and useless are people who pounce on contradictions as errors, and offer no benefit of the doubt that they might have been intended. Another things is that I do that all the time: salivate to catch someone in a contradiction when they finish talking, and miss their otherwise clear signals that they were being ironic and great. Isn't reality complicated?