THE END OR THE PLURALISATION?

Nader Elhefnawy has now replied to my preceding post both in the comments section and on his own blog RARITANIA. I find his book AFTER THE NEW WAVE (first published in 2011, new edition 2015) very interesting, and so I was inspired to search for his earlier article on “The End of Science Fiction”, that is not included in the recent re-edition of this book.It’s a pity that Elhefnawy decided to leave this article out of the new edition of AFTER THE NEW WAVE as it is a very well-written concise synthetic presentation of themes and arguments that can be found in less developped form elsewhere.

So before reviewing his book (which I hope to review eventually along with its companion volume “CYBERPUNK, STEAMPUNK AND WIZARDRY Science Fiction Since 1980”) I wanted to discuss this article on a hypothetical end of science fiction in association with my reading of ANATHEM (which he does not discuss anywhere, as far as I know).

The time may be ripe for such a discussion as John Horgan’s book THE END OF SCIENCE has just been re-edited with a new preface. In his article “The End of Science Fiction” Elhefnawy gives us a nuanced discussion of Horgan’s theses on the state of science today, and relates them to the current state of science fiction.

Elhefnawy seems to endorse my critique of Horgan, but to worry that I may not believe in objective reality. I wish to reassure him that I do believe in reality, so I am not a “postmodernist” in the sense of “all opinions are equally valid” relativism, a view that I have combated on many occasions (for details see my academia.edu page). I am very influenced by my reading of post-structuralist thinkers, and if I had to choose a title for my views it would be “pluralist realism” (or “realist pluralism”).

I think Imre Lakatos’s approach in terms of multiple research programmes provides a good answer to Horgan’s arguments. The premises of Lakatos’s views can be found in Popper’s ideas on “metaphysical research programmes”. Horgan remains positivist in that he seems to think that the turn to metaphysical speculation in science is a recent phenomenon and that it constitutes a sign of exhaustion. Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, and Feyerabend show that the metaphysical component has always been present in science, and that it is not a bad thing but essential to its functioning. They argue on both abstract grounds and in terms of concrete examples from the history of science that sometimes increased accuracy in our knowledge about the world can only be obtained by a speculative leap or paradigm change.

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