Last week was a two-day conference on Theoryladenness of Experience (10-11 March 2011) at Dusseldorf, Germany, oganised by a.o. Ioannis Votsis (whose front teeth obtain information about the kind of dentists that populate the island of Cyprus). Philosophers of science, cognitive scientists and philosophers of mind and perception gathered. The phrase cognitive impenetrability is the thing nowadays, that much is certain and I have taken home. The very early stages of visual perception seem to be cognitive impenetrable, from which we may conclude that they are not theoryladen. Since in science we are only interested in observation reports, describing at best the propositional content of a perceptual mental state of a creature that has mastered a language at the end of the visual process, the mentioned finding seems to me irrelevant for philosophy of science.
Frequently the philosopher of science is presented with findings in cognitive science with the message that these findings surely are relevant for philosophy of science. But how? How precisely does which result affect which discussion or thesis in philosophy of science? Making that connexion is hard work. No one seems willing to perform it. Who should perform it?
The topic was raised that actual observation plays no major part in current science, which thrives on data gathering and data mining. Looking for the n-th time at the Meyer-Lyner illusion, duck-rabbits, bitch/witch (sorry, young lady/old woman) makes me feel sad. What has that got to do with science? Who cares about observation except zoologists?
Martin Kush gave an excellent talk about the microscope and its role in the strife about reality in the context of constructive empiricism. Bring in the realism debate and passions run high.
There were other informative talks, but see the opening paragraph of this post. Finally I mention Gerhard Schurz's learning an observational predicate, which in the end did not differed that much from my logical analysis of the concept of theory-ladenness. What this analysis results in? You had to be there ...
Charming Alan Franklin was there, who can see elementary particles with his bare eyes. His stories about visiting Karl Popper with Michael Redhead, marrying 4:15 hours in the morning because of his astrological wife, encounters with black bears, and his remark that he is more trusted as a referee than as an author were the crown of an enjoyable conference.