"Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science studies?"
He answers “yes” and goes home. No no, he writes many pages that are, compared to pre-2004-Latour, relatively insightful.
He has this in common with Hilary Whitehall Putnam (*1926), who is also in the field of “philosophy of science”, which is officially my own field now, however, I am far from identifying. In [“A philosopher looks at quantum mechanics (again).” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 56, 615-634 (2005)], this guy also admits to a pretty bad mistake, basically that he did not understand some basic quantum mechanics (QM) – something simple in QM that people who actually worked on it tried to explain to him without success. However, you won’t read “Sorry, my bad, I abdicate to smarter people who did not waste your time.” Instead he treats us to yet another paper telling us more rubbish about QM, a topic that he just doesn’t get and is too silly to ever grasp.
Naturally, all this never stops a high impact factor journal from publishing yet another salvo, just to ensure that those who actually could write something interesting have yet one chance less to publish and maybe get careers going that may even be deserved for a refreshing change.
In philosophy of language, Putnam stands for “semantic externalism”, a ridiculous position entertaining thought experiments like “Twin Earth” and Donald Davidson's “Swamp Man” – all worthwhile thought experiments that however support the exact opposite conclusions. Putnam argued against brains in a vat because if any brain stated "I am a brain in a vat", it would always be stating a falsehood. It is stupid beyond description because we have all been brains in vats all along anyways. Putnam, our heads ARE vats for our brains, you dummy!
Above: Hilarious Putnam, your usual Harvard humanities twat
Straw-man: “You misunderstood, it is more profound, about semiotic semantics! You need to understand his perspective from a pre-post-modern meta-epistemic point of view with a slight angle towards neo-Buddhist ontological commitment in a semi-Kantian sense, but not too much!”
Sock-puppet: “Congratulations, Straw-man, you may join the club and jump on the train to nowhere full of mediocre idiots in academia who let big farts get away with having their position make them immune against reason and criticism, because that is their only way to also have their own careers. Everybody else not already semi-famous would be asked to go attend a freshman
writing class first before squeezing out semi solids that apparently never mean what they meant to say. He said that we cannot be brains in vats! Yes he did! We are brains in vats! Conclusion: He is a moron! Court is closed!”
Thank you Sock-puppet. Now don’t get me wrong: It is highly recommendable and very seldom that people admit flaws and change their positions, especially at an advanced age. So I applaud them. But one thing you won’t see: taking the consequences and Shutting Up!
No no, they go on and on and on and on. If you realize that realism is naïve, you may learn to be less vocal about stuff: more read, less write. However, if a Latour or Putnam has an insight I had when going through puberty, then they make up new words like “internal realism” (read: the very exact opposite of realism, also called harebrained idealism, so you did not actually need a new word), and publish book number thirty something.
But this is my blog, and here I allow myself to say a little bit of the truth (not much of it of course, it is not a free world). And today it is especially directed towards the oh-so must-be-respected big name Putnam and all morons who look up to him, because I cited him in a grant proposal, just to suck somebody’s extension, as you must if you want to get ahead in academia (or anywhere else in this world (e.g. blogs?)):
Please, old man, you are only producing sphincter talk for many years now, just finally take the consequences of constantly changing your mind, realize that tomorrow you would just find again
that what you thought today was also crap, and Shut Up!