In defence of constructive empiricism: Maxwell's master argument and aberrant theories [Book Review]

Over the past years, in books and journals (this journal included), N. Maxwell launched a ferocious attack on B. C. van Fraassen’s view of science called Constructive Empiricism (CE). This attack has been totally ignored. Must we conclude from this silence that no defence is possible and that a fortiori Maxwell has buried CE once and for all? Or is the attack too obviously flawed as not to merit exposure? A careful dissection of Maxwell’s reasoning will make it clear that neither is the case. This dissection includes an analysis of Maxwell’s ‘aberrance–argument’ (omnipresent in his many writings) for the claim that science implicitly and permanently accepts a substantial, metaphysical thesis about the universe, which then paves the way for his own metaphysical-realist hierarchy-view of science. This aberrance-claim, which Maxwell directs against a widely shared and harmful ideology of science called ‘Standard Empiricism’, generally has been ignored too, for more than a quarter of a century. Our conclusions will be that (i) Maxwell’s attacks on CE can be beaten off, and (ii) his ‘aberrance–arguments’ do not establish what Maxwell believes they establish, but (iii) we can draw a number of valuable lessons from these attacks about the nature of science and of the libertarian nature of CE.
Keywords Constructive empiricism  Metaphysics  Science  Aberrant theories  Standard empiricism  Heraclitism  N. Maxwell  B. C. Van Fraassen
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,280
External links
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

View all 11 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Moti Mizrahi (2012). Why the Ultimate Argument for Scientific Realism Ultimately Fails. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (1):132-138.
Nicholas Maxwell (2009). Muller's Critique of the Argument for Aim-Oriented Empiricism. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 40 (1):103-114.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

45 ( #106,063 of 1,932,522 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #271,972 of 1,932,522 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.