The central remarks of the Tractatus are without substantial content or consequence, remarks at the boundaries of sense that dissolve into truth. While they say nothing, they encapsulate logical features of the language and the world. Unasserted, they express thoughts, the truth of which Wittgenstein takes to be unassailable and definitive. Asserted, they are out-and-out nonsense. What is manifest in linguistic practice is no more sayable – and no less significant – than what is manifest in logical truths, mathematical equations (...) and the principles of mechanics. (shrink)
§§1–7 of the Investigations should be taken at face value and not read against the grain. Wittgenstein is best understood as saying what he means and meaning what he says, and it is a mistake to suppose the examples of the shopkeeper and builders in §§1–2 cannot be read straightforwardly. The seven sections function as a prologue alerting the reader to the type of problem he intends to tackle and the type of approach he intends to pursue.
Philosophical Investigations §§19–20 have received little critical attention and their importance has mostly gone unappreciated. In this paper these sections are examined a few sentences at a time in the order they were written with an eye to determining what Wittgenstein does and does not say and how he has been and can be misinterpreted. In addition it is suggested that the material deserves careful consideration because it sheds light on Wittgenstein’s way of tackling philosophical problems, illuminates his pronouncements about (...) philosophy later in the Investigations, and serves as a valuable antidote to the widely-held view that whenever he discusses a philosophical problem he ends up advancing a philosophical thesis. (shrink)
I respond to two criticisms levelled by A. A. Derksen in a recent issue of this journal against characterizing pseudoscience as structurally flawed practice: I argue that he surreptitiously invokes this conception, his official view that we should concentrate on pseudoscientists' pretensions rather than their practices notwithstanding; and I critically examine his contention that judgements of scientificity (and pseudoscientificity) cannot properly be made independently of a consideration of whether the relevant theories and practices are empirically well-confirmed.
Philosophers concerned with the character of scientific disputes tend to divide into two camps. On the one side there are those who hold that scientists can always settle their differences by appealing to shared assumptions; on the other side there are those who maintain that in many cases scientists must resort to (nonrational ) persuasion to establish their views. The trouble is that for all their strong points both approaches labour under enormous difficulties. Scientific disagreement is often much deeper than (...) the first conception allows while persuasion, propaganda and the like are far less prevalent than the second one requires. On examining scientific practice is becomes clear that philosophers on both sides err in supposing that scientists can resolve their differences in a purely scientific fashion just to the extent that they can single out one of their views on the basis of assumptions that they hold in common. For one thing scientists make progress even though they rarely employ the strategy of reversion to neutral territory. And for another the strategy of reversion to neutral territory is at odds with the important methodological requirement that all relevant information be taken into account. Instead of thinking of scientists as resolving their differences by reviewing their respective positions in the light of their shared assumptions, we should think of them as fashioning positions on which they can agree, as arguing to shared conclusions rather than from shared premises. The relevant picture is one of scientists gradually narrowing the distance that separates them, of their converging on a mutually acceptable viewpoint. Far from being prerequisites for scientists' resolving their disputes, shared assumptions are what result from their managing to resolve them. How scientists who disagree deeply make progress is thus much less of a problem than is usually supposed. What determines whether scientists' conclusions constitute advances is not wether they were obtained by the expedient of reversion to neutral territory but whether each of the available options was fully ventilated. When scientists take into account all the relevant considerations (including those introduced into the discussion by their opponents and those that they can reasonably be expected to know), the question of whether they can be said to have made progress no longer arises. More generally, we misconstrue the manner in which scientists resolve their differences because we allow ourselves to be guided by our philosophical preconceptions about scientific knowledge and we devote insufficient attention to what happens in practice. Instead of exploring how scientists reason to mutually acceptable conclusions, we wrongly assume that they cannot but proceed by reverting to neutral territory. What is needed is not a general account of consensus formation but rather a fresh look at the multitude of ways in which scientists make progress by dint of argument and debate. Considered as a phenomenon in its own right scientific disagreement poses no special problem; it is puzzling only when it is considered within the framework of traditional epistemology. (shrink)
Duhem's discussion of physical theories as natural classifications is neither antithetical nor incidental to the main thrust of his philosophy of science. Contrary to what is often supposed, Duhem does not argue that theories are better thought of as economically organizing empirical laws than as providing information concerning the nature of the world. What he is primarily concerned with is the character and justification of the scientific method, not the logical status of theoretical entities. The crucial point to notice is (...) that he took the principle of the autonomy of physics to be of paramount importance and he developed the conception of natural classification in opposition to accounts of physical theories that contravened it. (shrink)
The main argument of this paper is that philosophical difficulties regarding scientific discovery arise mainly because philosophers base their arguments on a flawed picture of scientific research. Careful examination of N. R. Hanson's treatment of Kepler's discovery not only puts the rationality of this discovery beyond question, it also reveals what its rationality consists in. We can retrieve the point stressed by Hanson concerning the rational character of discoveries such as Kepler's even as we reject the type of "logical" analysis (...) he proposes. (shrink)
The object of this paper is twofold: to show that resistance to scientific change on the part of scientists need signal neither irrationality nor the presence of extra-scientific influences; and to show how such resistance can be accommodated within a theory of rational choice. After considerations have been outlined suggesting that scientists cannot rationally resist new scientific theories unless theory choice is subjectivistic (section I), evidence is adduced favoring the contrary view (section II). In section III, a non-subjectivistic, non-relativistic conception (...) of rational choice is proposed which recognizes the possibility of scientists' rationally resisting new scientific developments. Finally, in section IV, some minor misunderstandings concerning resistance are discussed. (shrink)
Summary The argument of this paper is (1) that, contrary to what is often thought, there are cases of disagreement among scientists concerning the relative acceptability of theories which do not turn on nonrational or extra-scientific considerations, (2) that agreement cannot be secured without adversely affecting the scientific enterprise as we know it, and (3) that disagreement can be accommodated within a theory of scientific rationality and progress based on the idea that the relative acceptability of scientific theories is a (...) function of their relative problem-solving effectiveness.The diversity of our opinions does not proceed from some men being more rational than others but solely from the fact that our thoughts pass through diverse channels and the same objects are not considered by all.â Descartes, Discourse on Method. (shrink)