“My theory is that the troll is simply the predictable excrescence or repellent underside of an era of philosophy that values critique far too highly. Even university administrators praise philosophy mostly because it teaches “critical thinking” skills. In short, it is believed that philosophy teaches us to be less gullible, to believe in quantitatively fewer things, to stand at a transcendent distance from any particular personal commitment. The mission of philosophy is to debunk and tear down and to say: “no, I don’t believe it.” Against this attitude, I agree with Latour’s maxim that the point of thinking is to make things more real, not less.”
I resonate strongly with Graham’s creative Gulliver who finds himself continuously pestered and held down by the swarm of little Negative Nancies. The question is this: do I claim to be discovering something about already-existing reality, or am I trying “to make things more real”? I certainly get bogged down while drafting fiction if I have to worry about continuity and consistency of details: that’s what editing is for. If I’m designing a new artifact or service, I work on the general architecture first before getting into the detailed engineering and construction and debugging. On the other hand, if I’m doing science, the details of the real don’t just constrain me; they shape the discipline. My job as scientific realist is to anticipate “the critique from nowhere,” aka “the Null Hypothesis,” in order to demonstrate empirically the critique’s inadequacy in accounting for the way things really are. Scientists aren’t trying to make things “less real;” they’re trying to get a view of reality that’s less distorted by error and illusion and bias.