Victor: Well, it really depends on how you look. In most common usage, it is indeed a more updated version of materialism, in that it includes, as physical things, entities which aren't "physical" in the common parlance, like for example, "force-fields" or "mathematical structures". But for me, what is interesting is the methodology, which underlies the physical, both epistemic and rational methodology. The idea here being that physicalism, if you dig down deep enough, you find as physical those things which interact with other physical entities. And ultimately, the atomic, physical entity is the self. So, basically, physicalism is defining the physical - the world and the physical phenomena - in terms of the relationship between those phenomena and the self. As such, you could actually draw a parallel between physicalism and idealism as well Physicalism really transcends idealism and materialism, in that it does not take an ontological stance per se. Physicalism discards some of those ontological superficialities that both materialism and idealism historically have been burdened with. When I say "pragmatic physicalism", what I mean is basically pragmatism in the canonical and philosophical sense. That is, the position that truth is defined not as some sort of ontic veracity, but simply "usefulness". Usefulness in making predictions. So, we can speak about truth theories in science, for example, in terms of those theories having predictive power, in as much as, if a theory delivers the goods, [then] it's true, and when it fails to deliver the goods, it's false.
Dan: David, do you have a thought about this idea, that truths can at one point be true, and at another point not?
David: Well, it depends on your definition of truth. I would define truth as something that's necessarily true in all worlds, so---
Victor: That's circular.
David: Well, it might be circular, but it's a definition that I think is useful to me as a philosopher. So, I'm interested in those sorts of truths which can never, ever be false, no matter what the circumstances are. That's something I'd like to touch on later in the program. I'm more interested, at this stage, on your philosophy. I'd like to sort of translate your philosophy into simpler, more "layman" terms. Is it true to say that, when it comes to knowledge, that the only valid means
of gaining knowledge is through the scientific method? So in other words, that could be scientific knowledge, or it could be philosophic knowledge, but the prime, or the only, means of gaining this knowledge, is through the scientific method?
Victor: Well, I wouldn't actually go this far. I generally regard knowledge as predictive power. But there are different sorts of predictions to be made and not all of them are amenable, for example, to interpersonal verification, which is really the quintessence of the scientific method. I think that the more accurate way to describe it would be to say that the scientific method is the best epistemic methodology we know for learning truths about the world, the interpersonal truths, the kind of stuff that exists outside one's head, as in, if I say that I feel afraid, it is the truth, but it's not the sort of truth that is amenable to interpersonal validation. I'm not a "science is everything" guy. I am a "science is everything....in as much as any other epistemic method can deliver the goods, science can deliver them as well or better, provided the goods are of the interpersonal kind" [guy].
David: So, beyond science... Are you dividing "gaining knowledge" into two categories there, in a way? You've got
there the scientific method and then you've have the more introspective method of realising that you're experiencing fear. What about the role of---
Victor: I'm not sure that would even be proper knowledge. This would be a silly terminology debate.
David: Alright. What about reasoning outside of science? So, this is kind of metaphysical reasoning. I'm using the term "metaphysical" in the sense of "beyond science". I'm not necessarily talking about reasoning about supernatural things, or anything like that. I'm just talking about reasoning outside of the scientific endeavour, altogether. Do you acknowledge that type of activity, and participate in it?
Victor: I'm not sure that there is such a thing. If you're talking about what I think you're talking about, then I'm assuming you're talking about analytic a priori? Willard van Orman Quine has demonstrated that, basically, there is no such thing, that everything is experiential [------------------] and interpreted, that there is no such thing as purely analytic reasoning.