OST is closed for business but its spirit survives on my blog.
“I’m trying to find the right words and ideas for recognizing that, while humans can create social realities, and while even science is a practiced inside a culture governed by at-times arbitrary norms, there is a reality that exists independently of human awareness or society, or even of human existence. E.g., I think it’s possible, based on the evidence they left behind, that dinosaurs really did dominate the earth and go extinct long before humans ever arrived on the scene to discover and name them.”
To be clear, I’m not claiming that dinosaurs didn’t roam the earth. I just don’t need the rhetorical flourish of “really” to make my point. It is widely agreed (which is very different than claiming it is the Truth) upon that dinosaurs roamed the earth.
What I want to insist on is that these bones are meaningful to us not because they have some intrinsic meaning or value residing in them that imposes itself on us. Rather, the bones are significant because we have attached specific meanings to the bones. So, yes, there are bones—they meant something very different to the ancient Romans and Greeks that found them compared to the Paleontologist today.
This is the difference between a critical realist and pragmatist. You want to talk about ‘what is’ and I want to talk about ‘what it means’ or ‘how it is composed’ by people.