We talk as if there are natural kinds and in particular we quantify over them. We can count the number of elements discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy, or the number of kinds of particle in the standard model. Consequently, it looks at first sight at least, that natural kinds are entities of a sort. In the light of this we may ask certain questions: is the apparent existence of natural kinds real or an illusion? And if real, what sort of (...) entity are natural kinds? Are they sui generis? Or can they be identified with or reduced to some other kind of entity? In this essay I shall look at possible reasons for asserting that either kinds are no sort of entity, or, if they are entities, their existence is equivalent to some fact not involving kinds. Richard Boyd seems to take the view that the apparent existence of natural kinds is an illusion. (shrink)
This book is part of the Fundamentals in Philosophy series, edited by John Shand, offering introductions to core areas of philosophy which are “not mere bland expositions, and as such are original pieces of philosophy in their own right”. Alexander Bird’s book meets this remit admirably. In my review I shall concentrate on the philosophical argument of the work and set aside its merits as a student text though they compare well with rivals currently on offer.
In this article I take a loose, functional approach to defining induction: Inductive forms of reasoning include those prima facie reasonable inference patterns that one finds in science and elsewhere that are not clearly deductive. Inductive inference is often taken to be reasoning from the observed to the unobserved. But that is incorrect, since the premises of inductive inferences may themselves be the results of prior inductions. A broader conception of inductive inference regards any ampliative inference as inductive, where an (...) ampliative inference is one where the conclusion ‘goes beyond’ the premises. ‘Goes beyond’ may mean (i) ‘not deducible from’ or (ii) ‘not entailed by’. Both of these are problematic. Regarding (i), some forms of reasoning might have a claim to be called ‘inductive’ because of their role in science, yet turn out to be deductive after all—for example eliminative induction (see below) or Aristotle’s ‘perfect induction’ which is an inference to a generalization from knowledge of every one of its instances. Interpretation (ii) requires that the conclusions of scientific reasoning are always contingent propositions, since necessary propositions are entailed by any premises. But there are good reasons from metaphysics for thinking that many general propositions of scientific interest and known by inductive inference (e.g. “all water is H2O”) are necessarily true. Finally, both (i) and (ii) fail to take account of the fact that there are many ampliative forms of inference one would not want to call inductive, such as counter-induction (exemplified by the ‘gambler’s fallacy’ that the longer a roulette wheel has come up red the more likely it is to come up black on the next roll). Brian Skyrms (1999) provides a useful survey of the issues involved in defining what is meant by ‘inductive argument’. Inductive knowledge will be the outcome of a successful inductive inference. But much discussion of induction concerns the theory of confirmation, which seeks to answer the question, “when and to what degree does evidence support an hypothesis?” Usually, this is understood in an incremental sense and in a way that relates to the rational credibility of a hypothesis: “when and by how much does e add to the credibility of h?”, although ‘confirms’ is sometimes used in an absolute sense to indicate total support that exceeds some suitably high threshold.. (shrink)
Thomas Kuhn was undoubtedly the strongest influence on the philosophy of science in the last third of the twentieth century. Yet today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century it is unclear what his legacy really is. In the philosophy of science there is no characteristically Kuhnian school. This could be because we are all Kuhnians now. But it might also be because Kuhn’s thought, although revolutionary in its time, has since been superseded. In a sense both may be true. (...) We are all Copernicans—yet almost everything Copernicus believed we now disbelieve. In this paper I shall examine the development of Kuhn’s thought in connection with changes in the philosophy of science during the second half of the twentieth century. Now that philosophy in general, philosophy of science in particular, is in a post-positivist era, we all share Kuhn’s rejection of positivism. But we do not, for the most part, share Kuhn’s belief in incommensurability, or his scepticism about truth and objective knowledge. Just as in Copernicus’ case, Kuhn initiated a revolution that went far beyond what he himself envisaged or even properly understood. (shrink)
Natural kind terms appear to behave like singular terms. If they were genuine singular terms, appearing in true sentences, that would be some reason to believe that there are entities to which the terms refer, the natural kinds. Paul Needham has attacked my arguments that natural kind terms are singular, referring expressions. While conceding the correctness of some of his criticisms, I defend and expand on the underlying view in this paper. I also briefly sketch an account of what natural (...) kinds in fact are?natural complexes of sparse (natural) universals. (shrink)
Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions is notable for the readiness with which it drew on the results of cognitive psychology. These naturalistic elements were not well received and Kuhn did not subsequently develop them in his published work. Nonetheless, in a philosophical climate more receptive to naturalism, we are able to give a more positive evaluation of Kuhn’s proposals. Recently, philosophers such as Nersessian, Nickles, Andersen, Barker, and Chen have used the results of work on case-based reasoning, analogical thinking, dynamic (...) frames, and the like to illuminate and develop various aspects of Kuhn’s thought in Structure. In particular this work aims to give depth to the Kuhnian concepts of a paradigm and incommensurability. I review this work and identify two broad strands of research. One emphasizes work on concepts; the other focusses on cognitive habits. Contrasting these, I argue that the conceptual strand fails to be a complete account of scientific revolutions. We need a broad approach that draws on a variety of resources in psychology and cognitive science.La estructura de las revoluciones científicas de Kuhn es destacable por la facilidad con que aprovecha los resultados de la psicología cognitiva. Estos elementos naturalistas no tuvieron una buena acogida y Kuhn no los desarrolló posteriormente en su trabajo publicado. No obstante, desde un ambiente filosófico más receptivo hacia el naturalismo podemos ofrecer una evaluación más positiva de las propuestas de Kuhn. Recientemente, algunos filósofos como Nersessian, Nickles, Andersen, Barker y Chen han utilizado los resultados del trabajo sobre el razonamiento basado en casos, el pensamiento analógico, los marcos dinámicos, etc., para iluminar y desarrollar varios aspectos del pensamiento de Kuhn en La estructura. En particular, este trabajo intenta dar profundidad a los conceptos kuhnianos de paradigma e inconmensurabilidad. En este artículo examino dicho trabajo e identifico dos principales corrientes de investigación. Una de ellas subraya el trabajo sobre conceptos y la otra se centra en los hábitos cognitivos. Después de contrastar ambas, sostengo que la corriente conceptual no logra ser una explicación completa de las revoluciones científicas. Necesitamos una perspectiva amplia que aproveche una variedad de recursos de la psicología y la ciencia cognitiva. (shrink)
While the phrase "metaphysics of science" has been used from time to time, it has only recently begun to denote a specific research area where metaphysics meets philosophy of science—and the sciences themselves. The essays in this volume demonstrate that metaphysics of science is an innovative field of research in its own right. The principal areas covered are: (1) The modal metaphysics of properties: What is the essential nature of natural properties? Are all properties essentially categorical? Are they all essentially (...) dispositions, or are some categorical and others dispositional? (2) Realism in mathematics and its relation to science: What does a naturalistic commitment of scientific realism tell us about our commitments to mathematical entities? Can this question be framed in something other than a Quinean philosophy? (3) Dispositions and their relation to causation: Can we generate an account of causation that takes dispositionality as fundamental? And if we take dispositions as fundamental (and hence not having a categorical causal basis), what is the ontological ground of dispositions? (4) Pandispositionalism: Could all properties be dispositional in nature? (5) Natural kinds: Are there natural kinds, and if so what account of their nature should we give? For example, do they have essences? Here we consider how these issues may be illuminated by considering examples from reals science, in particular biochemistry and neurobiology. (shrink)
In this paper I examine and question Marc Lange’s account of laws, and his claim that the law delineating the range of natural kinds of fundamental particle has a lesser grade of necessity that the laws connecting the fundamental properties of those kinds with their derived properties.
It is widely agreed that many causal relations can be regarded as dependent upon causal relations that are in some way more basic. For example, knocking down the first domino in a row of one hundred dominoes will be the cause of the hundredth domino falling. But this causal relation exists in virtue of the knocking of the first domino causing the falling of the second domino, and so forth. In such a case, A causes B in virtue of there (...) being intermediate events I1 . . . In such that A causes I1, I1 causes I2, . . . , In−1 causes In, and In causes B. Cases of this sort include my putting my foot on the brake causing the car to slow, the smoke from a fire causing the fire brigade to be alerted, and so forth. In other cases the more basic causal relations may not be intermediate (or at least it is controversial that they are). My seeing that it is raining may cause me to want to stay inside, and this causal relation depends upon more basic causal relations among various components of my brain. But it does not seem possible to analyze this in terms of my perception causing certain brain events, which cause other brain events, which eventually cause my desire. Rather it seems as if the principle causal relation, between perception and desire, is constituted, rather than mediated, by the more basic causal relations in the brain. The same is true of the operation of the dynamo causing the current to flow. Again there are not intermediate events, but rather the causal relation between them is constituted by the motion of the charged particles in the wires moving though a magnetic field, which causes an electric field, which causes the charges to move in the wire. There are thus at least two kinds of complex causal relation: the chain kind and the constitution kind. If we wish to understand causation, we need to understand the basic causal relations, at least as found in the chain kind. That is, to understand what it is for A to cause B when the latter is a causal relation of the chain kind, requires understanding what it is for the intermediate, basic causal relations to hold. In the case of a complex causal relation of the constitution kind, it is may be that understanding what it is for A and B to be causally related does not require understanding what it is for the constituting causal relations to hold.. (shrink)
Peter Lipton argues that inference to the best explanation involves the selection of a hypothesis on the basis of its loveliness. I argue that in optimal cases, a form of eliminative induction takes place, which I call ‘Holmesian inference’. I illustrate Holmesian inference by reference to examples from the history of medicine.
In this paper I outline my conception of the epistemology of science, by reference to my published papers, showing how the ideas presented there fit together. In particular I discuss the aim of science, scientific progress, the nature of scientific evidence, the failings of empiricism, inference to the best (or only) explanation, and Kuhnian psychology of discovery. Throughout, I emphasize the significance of the concept of scientific knowledge.
Essentialism as applied to individuals is the claim that for at least some individuals there are properties that those individuals possess essentially. What it is to possess a property essentially is a matter of debate. To possess a property essentially is often taken to be akin to possessing a property necessarily, but stronger, although this is not a feature of Aristotle’s essentialism, according to which essential properties are those thing could not lose without ceasing to exist. Kit Fine (1994) takes (...) essential properties to be those that an object has in virtue of its identity, while other essentialists refer (as Fine also does) to the nature of an object as the source of its essential properties. It is sometimes important to distinguish the essential properties of a thing and the ‘full’ essence of a thing. The latter is the set of the essential properties of a thing, when that set necessarily suffices to determine the thing’s identity. One might hold that something has essential properties without agreeing that it has an identity-determining essence. Essentialism was largely in abeyance during the first two thirds of the twentieth century thanks to the domination of analytic philosophy by anti-metaphysical logical empiricism and the linguistic turn. The rehabilitation of essentialism owes much to the development of a formal apparatus for the understanding of modality more generally, thanks to C. I. Lewis, Ruth Barcan Marcus, and Saul Kripke. Kripke’s discussion of essentialism both about individuals and also about about natural kinds brought essentialism to wider philosophical prominence. Natural kind essentialism, which finds its modern genesis also in the work of Hilary Putnam, claims that natural kinds have essential properties: to say that possession of property P is is part of the essence of the kind K implies that, necessarily, every member or sample of the kind K possesses P. Essentialism about individuals has been linked to thinking about natural kinds by the contentious claim that one of the essential properties of any entity is that it belongs to the natural kind (or kinds) it actually belongs to. In this chapter I shall first outline certain claims and arguments concerning essentialism concerning individuals (Section 2).. (shrink)
The first obstacle that confronts the student of induction is that of defining the subject matter. One initial point is to note that much of the relevant subject matter goes under the description ‘the theory of confirmation’. The distinction is primarily that the study of induction concerns inference, i.e. cases where one takes the conclusion to be established by the evidence, whereas confirmation concerns the weight of evidence, which one may take to be something like the credibility of a hypothesis (...) in the light of the evidence. Discussions of confirmation often concern incremental confirmation, i.e. cases where the evidence is taken to increase the credibility of some hypothesis, even if not sufficiently to warrant inferring the truth of that hypothesis. However, some uses of ‘confirmation’ clearly refer to absolute confirmation, cases where the credibility of the hypothesis in the light of the evidence exceeds some (high) threshold. One may ask whether inductive inference corresponds to the case of absolute confirmation for some suitable threshold. I shall discuss inference and confirmation together, though it should be noted that some approaches eschew inference altogether. For example, the Bayesian takes scientific reasoning to be a matter of adjusting credences in propositions in the light of evidence, and says nothing about unqualified belief in a proposition. However, if we are interested in inductive knowledge then we must consider inference, since only then do we have a detached proposition that is the possible content of a mental state of knowing. A more pressing question concerns which inferences (or allegedly confirmatory relations) should be classed as inductive. A natural and straightforward approach is to define induction as encompassing any form of reasoning that extrapolates from one population to another, usually from a sample of a population to the whole population. For example, one might note that all observations of the position of some planet fall on an ellipse that has the Sun at one of its foci; from this one concludes that all the positions that planet takes fall on this ellipse (i.e.. (shrink)
Those who hold that all fundamental sparse properties have dispositional essences face a problem with structural (e.g. geometrical) properties. In this paper I consider a further route for the dispositional monist that is enabled by the requirement that physical theories should be background-free. If this requirement is respected then we can see how spatial displacement can be a causally active relation and hence may be understood dispositionally.
Emergent properties are intended to be genuine, natural higher level causally efficacious properties irreducible to physical ones. At the same time they are somehow dependent on or 'emergent from' complexes of physical properties, so that the doctrine of emergent properties is not supposed to be returned to dualism. The doctrine faces two challenges: (i) to explain precisely how it is that such properties emerge - what is emergence; (ii) to explain how they sidestep the exclusion problem - how it is (...) that there is room for these properties to be causally efficacious, given the causal completeness of the physical. In this paper I explain how functional properties can meet both challenges. (shrink)
This is a rewarding book. In terms of area, it has one foot firmly planted in metaphysics and the other just as firmly set in the philosophy of science. Nature's Metaphysics is distinctive for its thorough and detailed defense of fundamental, natural properties as essentially dispositional and for its description of how these dispositional properties are thus suited to sustain the laws of nature as (metaphysically) necessary truths.
Can we have a posteriori knowledge of modal facts? And if so, is that knowledge fundamentally a posteriori, or does a priori intuition provide the modal component of what is known? Though the latter view seems more straightforward, there are also reasons for taking the first option seriously.
I defend my view that scientific progress is constituted by the accumulation of knowledge against a challenge from Rowbottom in favour of the semantic view that it is only truth that is relevant to progress.
I argue for the claim that if Lewis’s regularity theory of laws were true, we could not know any positive law statement to be true. Premise 1: According to that theory, for any law statement true of the actual world, there is always a nearby world where the law statement is false (a world that differs with respect to one matter of particular fact). Premise 2: One cannot know a proposition to be true if it is false in a nearby (...) world (the epistemological safety principle). The conclusion that no law statement can be known to be true follows immediately from the two premises. (shrink)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is one of the most cited academic books of all time. His contribution to the philosophy science marked not only a break with several key positivist doctrines but also inaugurated a new style of philosophy of science that brought it much closer to the history of science. His account of the development of science held that science enjoys periods of stable growth punctuated by revisionary revolutions, to which he added the controversial ‘incommensurability thesis’, that theories (...) from differing periods suffer from certain deep kinds of failure of comparability. (shrink)
This paper discusses the prospects of a dispositional solution to the Kripke–Wittgenstein rule-following puzzle. Recent attempts to employ dispositional approaches to this puzzle have appealed to the ideas of finks and antidotes—interfering dispositions and conditions—to explain why the rule-following disposition is not always manifested. We argue that this approach fails: agents cannot be supposed to have straightforward dispositions to follow a rule which are in some fashion masked by other, contrary dispositions of the agent, because in all cases, at least (...) some of the interfering dispositions are both relatively permanent and intrinsic to the agent. The presence of these intrinsic and relatively permanent states renders the ascription of a rule-following disposition to the agent false. (shrink)
I defend this claim that some natural essences can be known (only) a pos- teriori against two philosophers who accept essentialism but who hold that essences are known a priori: Joseph LaPorte, who argues from the use of kind terms in science, and E. J. Lowe, who argues from general metaphysical and epistemological principles.
In this paper I argue that we can understand incommensurability in a naturalistic, psychological manner. Cognitive habits can be acquired and so differ between individuals. Drawing on psychological work concerning analogical thinking and thinking with schemata, I argue that incommensurability arises between individuals with different cognitive habits and between groups with different shared cognitive habits.
When is a belief or judgment justified? One might be forgiven for thinking the search for single answer to this question to be hopeless. The concept of justification is required to fulfil several tasks: to evaluate beliefs epistemically, to fill in the gap between truth and knowledge, to describe the virtuous organization of one’s beliefs, to describe the relationship between evidence and theory (and thus relate to confirmation and probabilification). While some of these may be held to overlap, the prospects (...) for fulfilling all may well seem poor. Furthermore the internalist requires that justification be an introspectible property of beliefs and a fundamental epistemic concept, while the externalist is often happy to ignore the concept altogether or at best regard it as an embarrassing add-on to their epistemology. In the light of this one might reasonably give up on justification altogether or adopt pluralist approach, denying that justification is any single property of beliefs of judgments. (shrink)
Dispositional monism is the view that natural properties and relations are ‘pure powers’. It is objected that dispositional monism involves some kind of vicious or otherwise unpalatable regress or circularity. I examine ways of making this objection precise. The most pressing interpretation is that is fails to make the identities of powers determinate. I demonstrate that this objection is in error. It does however puts certain constraints on what the structure of fundamental properties is like. I show what a satisfactory (...) structure would be. (shrink)
I present an argument that encapsulates the view that theory is underdetermined by evidence. I show that if we accept Williamson's equation of evidence and knowledge, then this argument is question-begging. I examine ways of defenders of underdetermination may avoid this criticism. I also relate this argument and my critique to van Fraassen's constructive empiricism.
Let us call a property that is essentially dispositional a potency.1 David Armstrong thinks that potencies do not exist. All sparse properties are essentially categorical, where sparse properties are the explanatory properties of the type science seeks to discover. An alternative view, but not the only one, is that all sparse properties are potencies or supervene upon them. In this paper I shall consider the differences between these views, in particular the objections Armstrong raises against potencies.