David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Ezio Di Nucci
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Philosophical Topics 36 (1):129-166 (2008)
ABSTRACT. May scientists rely on substantive, a priori presuppositions? Quinean naturalists say "no," but Michael Friedman and others claim that such a view cannot be squared with the actual history of science. To make his case, Friedman offers Newton's universal law of gravitation and Einstein's theory of relativity as examples of admired theories that both employ presuppositions (usually of a mathematical nature), presuppositions that do not face empirical evidence directly. In fact, Friedman claims that the use of such presuppositions is a hallmark of "science as we know it." But what should we say about the special sciences, which typically do not rely on the abstruse formalisms one finds in the exact sciences? I identify a type of a priori presupposition that plays an especially striking role in the development of empirical psychology. These are ontological presuppositions about the type of object a given science purports to study. I show how such presuppositions can be both a priori and rational by investigating their role in an early flap over psychology's contested status as a natural science. The flap focused on one of the field's earliest textbooks, William James's Principles of Psychology. The work was attacked precisely for its reliance on a priori presuppositions about what James had called the "mental state," psychology's (alleged) proper object. I argue that the specific presuppositions James packed into his definition of the "mental state" were not directly responsible to empirical evidence, and so in that sense were a priori; but the presuppositions were rational in that they were crafted to help overcome philosophical objections (championed by neo-Hegelians) to the very idea that there can be a genuine science of mind. Thus, my case study gives an example of substantive, a priori presuppositions being put to use—to rational use—in the special sciences. In addition to evaluating James's use of presuppositions, my paper also offers historical reflections on two different strands of pragmatist philosophy of science. One strand, tracing back through Quine to C. S. Peirce, is more naturalistic, eschewing the use of a priori elements in science. The other strand, tracing back through Kuhn and C. I. Lewis to James, is more friendly to such presuppositions, and to that extent bears affinity with the positivist tradition Friedman occupies.
|Keywords||Presuppositions William James Philosophy of Science Psychology Michael Friedman|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
|Through your library|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Jeremy Dunham (2015). Idealism, Pragmatism, and the Will to Believe: Charles Renouvier and William James. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 23 (4):1-23.
Similar books and articles
Sophie R. Allen (2004). Disorder at the Border. Philo 7 (2):176-202.
Nate Charlow (2013). Presupposition and the a Priori. Philosophical Studies 165 (2):509-526.
Alexander Klein (2007). The Rise of Empiricism: William James, Thomas Hill Green, and the Struggle Over Psychology. Dissertation, Indiana University, Bloomington
Dan McArthur (2008). Theory Change, Structural Realism, and the Relativised a Priori. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (1):5 – 20.
James A. Marcum (2005). Metaphysical Presuppositions and Scientific Practices: Reductionism and Organicism in Cancer Research. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 19 (1):31 – 45.
Jonathan Y. Tsou (2003). A Role for Reason in Science. Dialogue 42 (3):573-598.
Dan McArthur (2007). Laudan, Friedman and the Role of the A Priori in Science. Journal of Philosophical Research 32:169-190.
Friederike Moltmann (2006). Presuppositions and Quantifier Domains. Synthese 149 (1):179 - 224.
Jaime Nubiola (2000). Ludwig Wittgenstein and William James. Streams of William James 2 (3):2-4.
Joseph Agassi (1982). Presuppositions for Logic. The Monist 65 (4):465-480.
Mikkel Gerken (2012). Univocal Reasoning and Inferential Presuppositions. Erkenntnis 76 (3):373-394.
Jack Barbalet (2004). Hypothesis, Faith, and Commitment: William James' Critique of Science. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 34 (3):213–230.
Sami Pihlström & Arto Siitonen (2005). The Transcendental Method and (Post-)Empiricist Philosophy of Science. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 36 (1):81 - 106.
Michael Blome-Tillmann (2012). Presuppositional Epistemic Contextualism and the Problem of Known Presuppositions. In Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.), New Essays on Knowledge Ascriptions. OUP 104-119.
Added to index2011-01-09
Total downloads177 ( #18,203 of 1,790,506 )
Recent downloads (6 months)70 ( #13,973 of 1,790,506 )
How can I increase my downloads?