Graduate studies at Western
|Abstract||Willard van Orman Quine once said that he had a preference for a desert ontology. This was in an earlier day when concerns with logical structure and ontological simplicity reigned supreme. Ontological genocide was practiced upon whole classes of upper-level or "derivative" entities in the name of elegance, and we were secure in the belief that one strayed irremediably into the realm of conceptual confusion and possible error the further one got from ontic fundamentalism. In those days, one paid more attention to generic worries about possible errors (motivated by our common training in philosophical scepticism) than to actual errors derived from distancing oneself too far from the nitty-gritty details of actual theory, actual inferences from actual data, the actual conditions under which we posited and detected entities, calibrated and "burned in" instruments, identified and rejected artifacts, debugged programs and procedures, explained the mechanisms behind regularities, judged correlations to be spurious, and in general, the real complexities and richness of actual scientific practice. The belief that logic and philosophy were prior to any possible science has had a number of distorting effects on philosophy of science. One of these was that for ontology, we seemed never to be able to reject the null hypothesis: "Don't multiply entities beyond necessity.".|
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