It is argued that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Bas van Fraassen nowhere uses the argument from underdetermination in his argument for constructiveempiricism. It is explained that van Fraassen’s use of the notion of empirical equivalence in The Scientific Image has been widely misunderstood. A reconstruction of the main arguments for constructiveempiricism is offered, showing how the passages that have been taken to be part of an appeal to the argument from underdetermination should actually be (...) interpreted. (shrink)
Constructive empiricists claim to offer a reconstruction of the aim and practice of science without adopting all the metaphysical commitments of scientific realism. Deflationists about truth boast of the ability to offer a full account of the nature of truth without adopting the metaphysical commitments accompanying substantive accounts. Though the two views would form an attractive package, I argue that the pairing is not possible: constructiveempiricism requires a substantive account of truth. I articulate what sort of (...) account of truth and empirical adequacy the constructive empiricist must offer and then show why deflationists cannot uphold such an account. (shrink)
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 ConstructiveEmpiricism (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. (shrink)
This reassessment of the long debate about Friedman's thesis on the pointlessness of testing assumptions in economics shows that Friedman's three famous examples, on which a large part of the credit given to this thesis is based, far from substantiating it, can be used to establish radically opposite conclusions. Furthermore, it is shown that this so-called “instrumentalist” thesis, when applied by Friedman to economics, is of a quite different nature and raises much more serious problems than the standard instrumentalist thesis (...) devised by some methodologists of physics. To disentangle these ambiguities concerning realism and instrumentalism applied to physics or to economics, this paper refers to Van Fraassen's “constructiveempiricism”, which is helpful in reformulating, in a more satisfactory way, the essentials of Friedman's considerations about empiricism and anti-realism. (shrink)
Van Fraassen defines constructiveempiricism as the view that science aims to produce empirically adequate theories. But this account has been misunderstood. Constructiveempiricism in not, as it seems, a description of the intentional features of scientific practice, nor is it a normative prescription for their revision. It is rather a fiction about the practice of science that van Fraassen displays in the interests of a broader empiricism. The paper concludes with a series of arguments (...) designed to show that constructiveempiricism so understood is self-undermining. (shrink)
In this paper I articulate a fictionalist solution to the closure problem that affects constructiveempiricism. Relying on Stephen Yablo’s recent study of closure puzzles, I show how we can partition the content of a theory in terms of its truthmakers and claim that a constructive empiricist can believe that all the observable conditions that are necessary to make a part of her theory true obtain and remain agnostic about whether or not the other truthmakers for the (...) other parts of her theory obtain. This can be done even though she asserts her theory as if it was wholly true. (shrink)
Constructiveempiricism is supposed to offer a positive alternative to scientific realism that dispenses with the need for metaphysics. I first review the terms of the debate before arguing that the standard objections to constructiveempiricism are not decisive. I then explain van Fraassen's views on modality and counterfactuals, and argue that, because constructiveempiricism recommends on epistemological grounds belief in the empirical adequacy rather than the truth of theories, it requires that there be (...) an objective modal distinction between the observable and the unobservable. This conclusion is incompatible with van Fraassen's empiricism. Finally I explain some further problems for constructiveempiricism that arise when we consider modal matters. (shrink)
Bas van Fraassen claims that constructiveempiricism strikes a balance between the empiricist’s commitments to epistemic modesty – that one’s opinion should extend no further beyond the deliverances of experience than is necessary – and to the rationality of science. In “Should the Empiricist be a Constructive Empiricist?” I argued that if the constructive empiricist follows through on her commitment to epistemic modesty she will find herself adopting a much more extreme position than van Fraassen suggests. (...) Van Fraassen and Bradley Monton have recently responded. My purpose here is to contest their response. The goal is not merely the rebuttal of a rebuttal; there is a lesson to learn concerning the realist/anti-realist dialectic generated by van Fraassen’s view. (shrink)
Alan Musgrave, Michael Friedman, Jeffrey Foss, and Richard Creath raised different objections against the Distinction between observables and unobservables when drawn within the confines of Bas C. van Fraassen's ConstructiveEmpiricism (CE), to the effect that the Distinction cannot be drawn there coherently. Van Fraassen has only responded to Musgrave but Musgrave claimed not to understand van Fraassen's succinct response. I argue that van Fraassen's response is not enough. What remains in the end is an unsolved problem which (...) CE cannot afford to leave unsolved, or so I argue; I then strengthen Musgrave's criticism and indicate that an extension of the epistemic policy of CE is mandatory to solve the problem. I also argue that Friedman's and Foss' objection against the Distinction in CE misses the mark on closer inspection. An objection due to Creath does hit the mark but can be taken care of without too much ado. All these objections seem alive and kicking until the present day; I try (and hope) to put them all to rest. (shrink)
Constructiveempiricism, the view introduced in The Scientific Image, is a view of science, an answer to the question "what is science?" Arthur Fine's and Paul Teller's contributions to this symposium challenge especially two key ideas required to formulate that view, namely the observable/unobservable and acceptance/belief distinctions. I wish to thank them not only for their insightful critique but also for the support they include. For they illuminate and counter some misunderstandings of ConstructiveEmpiricism along the (...) way. That leaves me free to focus on those two main challenges. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that, contrary to the constructive empiricist’s position, observability is not an adequate criterion as a guide to ontological commitment in science. My argument has two parts. First, I argue that the constructive empiricist’s choice of observability as a criterion for ontological commitment is based on the assumption that belief in the existence of unobservable entities is unreasonable because belief in the existence of an entity can only be vindicated by its observation. Second, I (...) argue that the kind of ontological commitment that is under consideration when accepting a scientific theory is commitment to what I call theoretical kinds and that observation can vindicate commitment to kinds only in exceptional cases. (shrink)
James Ladyman has argued that constructiveempiricism entails modal realism, and that this renders constructiveempiricism untenable. We maintain that constructiveempiricism is compatible with modal nominalism. Although the central term ‘observable’ has been analyzed in terms of counterfactuals, and in general counterfactuals do not have objective truth conditions, the property of being observable is not a modal property, and hence there are objective, non-modal facts about what is observable. Both modal nominalism and (...) class='Hi'>constructiveempiricism require clarification in the face of Ladyman's argument. But we also argue that, even if Ladyman were right that constructiveempiricism entails modal realism, this would not be a problem for constructiveempiricism. 1 Introduction 2 Concerning (A) ‘The entire view is stated in modal discourse’ 3 Concerning (B) ‘The central term "observable" is a modal term’ 3.1 A devastating argument? 3.2 Critique of the argument 4 The objectivity of ‘observable’ 4.1 A specific empirical question 4.2 Viewing ourselves as our own measuring instruments 5 Concerning (C) ‘Scientific theories involve irreducible modality’ 6 Serious tension at the motivational level? (shrink)
, I argued that Bas van Fraassen's constructiveempiricism was undermined in various ways by his antirealism about modality. Here I offer some comments and responses to the reply to my arguments by Bradley Monton and van Fraassen . In particular, after making some minor points, I argue that Monton and van Fraassen have not done enough to show that the context dependence of counterfactuals renders their truth conditions non-objective, and I also argue that adopting modal realism does (...) after all undermine the motivation for constructiveempiricism. Introduction Underdetermination and epistemic modesty Counterfactual observations Modal realism and constructiveempiricism. (shrink)
By focussing on the intentional character of observation in science, we argue that ConstructiveEmpiricism—B.C. van Fraassen’s much debated and explored view of science—is inconsistent. We then argue there are at least two ways out of our Inconsistency Argument, one of which is more easily to square with ConstructiveEmpiricism than the other.
I develop a concept of observability that pertains to qualities rather than objects: a quality is observable if it can be registered by human sensation (possibly with the aid of instruments) without involving optional interpretations. This concept supports a better description of observations in science and everyday life than the object-based observability concepts presupposing causal information-transfer from the object to the observer. It also allows a rehabilitation of the traditional empiricist distinction between observations and their interpretations, but without a presumption (...) that observations are infallible. Using this concept of observability, I also propose a re-formulation of constructiveempiricism that is easier to defend against realist attacks, while open to reasonable realist intuitions. (shrink)
In this paper I will set out my understanding of Bas van Fraassen’s constructiveempiricism, some of the difficulties which I believe beset the current version, and, very briefly, some valuable lessons I believe are nonetheless to be learned by considering this view.We’ll need to begin with a review of how van Fraassen conceives of this kind of discussion.
In response to parts I-III of G Rosen's "What is ConstructiveEmpiricism?", "Philosophical Studies", 74, 1994, 143-178, this paper examines several construals of the position of constructiveempiricism. At issue, in part, is the equation of intentional aspects of science with the intentions and opinions of scientists. In addition it is necessary to distinguish the constructive empiricist -- a philosopher holding that acceptance of theories in science need not involve belief that they are true -- (...) from the scientific agnostic' who accepts but does not believe current science. What is at stake for empiricism is a view of science that will admit it as a paradigm for rational inquiry. (shrink)
Van Fraassen does not argue that everyone should be a constructive empiricist. He claims only that constructiveempiricism (CE) is a coherent post-positivist alternative to realism, notwithstanding the realist's charge that CE is arbitrary and irrational. He does argue, however, that the empiricist is obliged to limit belief as CE prescribes. Criticism of CE has been largely directed at van Fraassen's claim that CE is a coherent option. Far less attention has been directed at his claim that (...) empiricists should be constructive empiricists. I consider his various attempts to support this claim, conclude that they are unsuccessful, and suggest that the empiricist who repudiates CE does not thereby abandon contemporary empiricism itself. (shrink)
James Ladyman () argues that constructiveempiricism is untenable because it cannot adequately account for modal statements about observability. In this paper, I attempt to resist Ladyman's conclusion, arguing that the constructive empiricist can grant his modal discourse objective, theory-independent truth-conditions, yet without compromising his empiricism.
According to van Fraassen, constructiveempiricism (CE) makes better sense of scientific activity than scientific realism (SR). I discuss a recent episode in biomedical research - investigations about Helicobacter Pylori and its relation to peptic ulcer. CE's expedient to cope with it is a sort of belief substitution. I argue that replacing realist beliefs by empiricist surrogates (as-if beliefs) could accommodate scientists' expectations and behavior. Nonetheless, theoretical agnosticism could hardly motivate scientists to focus just on the observational consequences (...) derived from the theory at issue. Contrary to van Fraassen, I conclude then that, concerning scientific practice, realist beliefs cannot be considered as a gratuitious surplus which should be rejected. (shrink)
constructiveempiricism asserts that it is not for science to reach a verdict on whether a theory is true or false, if the theory is about unobservable entities; science's only interest here, says Van Fraassen, is to discover whether the theory is ‘empirically adequate’. However, if a theory is soley about observables, empirical adequacy and truth are said to ‘coincide’, here discovering the theory's truth value is an appropriate scientific goal. Constructiveempiricism thus rests an epistemological (...) thesis on a semantical distinction. This paper critically examines the notion of aboutness and its epistemological significance. * I am grateful to members of my philosophy of science seminar during Spring, 1983 for useful discussion and to the two anonymous referees of this journal for providing helpful suggestions. I also thank the University of Wisconsin, Madison Graduate School for support in the form of a Romnes Faculty Fellowship. (shrink)
Constructiveempiricism - as formulated by Bas van Fraassen - makes no epistemological claims about the nature of science. Rather, it is a view about the aim of science, to be situated within van Fraassen's broader voluntarist epistemology. Yet while this epistemically minimalist framework may have various advantages in defending the epistemic relevance of constructiveempiricism, I show how it also has various disadvantages in maintaining its internal coherence.
ConstructiveEmpiricism, the view introduced in The Scientific Image, is a view of science, an answer to the question “what is science?” Arthur Fine’s and Paul Teller’s contributions to this symposium challenge especially two key ideas required to formu- late that view, namely the observable/unobservable and accept- ance/belief distinctions. I wish to thank them not only for their insightful critique but also for the support they include. For they illuminate and counter some misunderstandings of ConstructiveEmpiricism (...) along the way. That leaves me free to focus on those two main challenges. The three of us share a good deal of common history. So it is perhaps only remarkable, and not astonishing, that we now share a common leaning to Pragmatism in philosophy. Of us three I am clearly themost conservative in this respect, especially as pertaining to truth, reference, and belief.2 Arthur Fine showed very nicely how ConstructiveEmpiricism could have been conceived under the canopy of Dewey’s Instrumentalism. Much of it could appear as a Corollary to that sort of Instrumentalism, I agree. But in fact Iwould not be happy to land in that general Pragmatist position. (shrink)
A defence of constructiveempiricism against an attack of N. Maxwell by means of his pet-thesis that science implicitly and permanently accepts a metaphysical thesis about the nature of the universe. We argue that Maxwell's attack can be beaten off; that his arguments do not establish what Maxwell believes they establish; and that we can draw a number of valuable lessons from these attacks about the nature of science and of the libertatian nature of constructiveempiricism.
No doubt my earlier paper has struck a sensitive nerve among existing and prospective constructive empiricists – hence their united reply.1 I shall, for brevity, introduce an imaginary single author of their critique and call him CE. In this rejoinder, I try to show, first, that CE’s counter-arguments do not refute my original arguments; and second, that a claim of CE’s paper is very close to the conclusion of my original paper. A central point of my original piece was (...) that there is a symmetry between scientific realism and constructiveempiricism vis à vis van Fraassen’s arguments from the bad lot and from indifference. Scholastic charges of an ‘apparent misunderstanding’ of ‘empirical adequacy’ do not cast any light on the issues at stake. (However, the notion of empirical adequacy I employed, p. 41, is the standard one: ‘a theory is empirically adequate if and only if it saves all phenomena, past, present and future, and squares with all actual and possible observations’.) The issue between CE and myself is more substantive: CE relies on the thesis that for any theory there are ‘indefinitely many empirically equivalent rivals’ (p. 307), in order to infer that there are infinitely many empirically adequate theories, and then to argue that if realists.. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question: how should the traditional doxastic attitude of agnosticism be represented in a Bayesian framework? Bas van Fraassen has one proposal: a Bayesian is agnostic about a proposition if her opinion about the proposition is represented by a probability interval with zero as the lower limit. I argue that van Fraassen's proposal is not adequate. Mark Kaplan claims that this leads to a problem with constructiveempiricism; I show that Kaplan's claim is incorrect.
there be an objective modal distinction between the observable and the unobservable.’ My intent is to counter Ladyman's claim that the irreducibly modal character of empirical adequacy is something that is ‘really wrong with constructiveempiricism’. I argue that disposition concepts refer to non-modal properties of types rather than to modal properties of tokens of those types. Solubility, for example, is an ‘occurrent’, though unobservable, property of a type of substance (involving the structure of associated atoms); and observability (...) is, similarly, an ‘occurrent’, though unobservable, property of a type of event (involving the structure of associated physical systems). Empirical adequacy, like truth, is an objective, semantic notion; the empirical adequacy of a theory depends upon all actual tokens of the relevant observable type, not just upon the tokens that have actually been observed. Introduction The typical character of disposition concepts Confirmational versus semantic empirical adequacy Conclusion. (shrink)
Progress in elementary particle physics in recent decades has changed the status of the visible phenomena in the context of scientific research. Empiricist positions in philosophy of science, which put particular emphasis on the pre-eminence of the visible regime, are affected by this development. In spite of its less radical claims, constructiveempiricism turns out to run into more serious problems than straightforward instrumentalism. The constructive empiricist’s emphasis on the scientist’s aims makes it essential for her to (...) provide a satisfactory motivation for scientific inquiry. This, however, seems difficult to achieve on an empiricist basis in the case of elementary particle physics. (shrink)
Van Fraassen's constructiveempiricism is presently the most influential and well-developed alternative to scientific realism. In this paper I argue that a reasonable condition on the distinction between belief and agnosticism prevents van Fraassen from claiming that we can be agnostic about what a theory says about unobservable entities while simultaneously accepting that theory. The upshot is that we must find some other way to do justice both to the argument for constructiveempiricism and to van (...) Fraassen's cogent criticisms of scientific realism. I suggest that a highly attractive alternative is founded upon semantic anti-realism, and that empiricists should develop this alternative. (shrink)
Abstract Kaldor, one of the leading figures of the post?war ?Cambridge School?, has produced a large volume of methodological writings since the mid?1960s, which we will argue represents one of the major critiques of orthodox equilibrium economic theory produced this century. While Kaldor's position represents a fundamental and radical rejection of the methodological basis of equilibrium economics, he did not provide a systematically formulated alternative methodology for economics. Recent attempts at providing such a reconstruction has argued that scientific realism provides (...) the most convincing philosophical interpretation of Kaldor's methodological contributions. In this paper we will argue that van Fraassen's constructiveempiricism represent a more compelling alternative methodological framework to realism for systematizing Kaldor's important contributions. In particular it will be argued that this constructive empiricist reading of Kaldor has the capacity to critically undermine the methodological basis of orthodox equilibrium economics. In addition we explore the potential of this alternative framework to provide a novel and challenging reconstruction of economic methodology. (shrink)
Constructiveempiricism, Bas van fraassen's new variety of anti-Realism, Maintains that science aims at empirically adequate, Rather than true theories and that, In fully accepting a theory, One should believe only that it is empirically adequate. A theory is empirically adequate just in case it has a model in which all observable phenomena may be embedded. I challenge van fraassen's main arguments and argue that the observable/unobservable distinction will not bear the weight that van fraassen places on it.
James Ladyman has argued that constructiveempiricism entails modal realism, and that this renders constructiveempiricism untenable. We maintain that constructiveempiricism is compatible with modal nominalism. Although the central term 'observable' has been analyzed in terms of counterfactuals, and in general counterfactuals do not have objective truth conditions, the property of being observable is not a modal property, and hence there are objective, non-modal facts about what is observable. Both modal nominalism and (...) class='Hi'>constructiveempiricism require clarification in the face of Ladyman's argument. But we also argue that, even if Ladyman were right that constructiveempiricism entails modal realism, this would not be a problem for constructiveempiricism. (shrink)
For over 30 years I have argued that we need to construe science as accepting a metaphysical proposition concerning the comprehensibility of the universe. In a recent paper, Fred Muller criticizes this argument, and its implication that Bas van Fraassen’s constructiveempiricism is untenable. In the present paper I argue that Muller’s criticisms are not valid. The issue is of some importance, for my argument that science accepts a metaphysical proposition is the first step in a broader argument (...) intended to demonstrate that we need to bring about a revolution in science, and ultimately in academic inquiry as a whole so that the basic aim becomes wisdom and not just knowledge. (shrink)
I show that van Fraassen's empiricism leads to mutually incompatible claims with regard to empirical theories. He is committed to the claim that reasons for accepting a theory and believing it are always identical, insofar as the theory in question is an empirical theory. He also makes a general claim that reasons for accepting a theory are not always reasons for believing it irrespective of whether the theory is an empirical theory.
The question of the role of theory in the determination of reference of theoretical terms continues to be a controversial one. In the present paper I assess a number of responses to this question (including variations on David Lewis’s appeal to Ramsification), before describing an alternative, epistemically oriented account of the reference-determination of such terms. The paper concludes by discussing some implications of the account for our understanding of both realism and such competitors of realism as constructiveempiricism.
In this paper I offer an appraisal of James Bogen and James Woodward’s distinction between data and phenomena which pursues two objectives. First, I aim to clarify the notion of a scientific phenomenon. Such a clarification is required because despite its intuitive plausibility it is not exactly clear how Bogen and Woodward’s distinction has to be understood. I reject one common interpretation of the distinction, endorsed for example by James McAllister and Bruce Glymour, which identifies phenomena with patterns in data (...) sets. Furthermore, I point out that other interpretations of Bogen and Woodward’s distinction do not specify the relationship between phenomena and theories in a satisfying manner. In order to avoid this problem I propose a contextual understanding of scientific phenomena according to which phenomena are states of affairs which play specific roles in scientific practice and to which we adopt a special epistemic attitude. Second, I evaluate the epistemological significance of Bogen and Woodward’s distinction with respect to the debate between scientific realists and constructive empiricists. Contrary to what Bogen and Woodward claim, I argue that the distinction does not provide a convincing argument against constructiveempiricism. (shrink)
Based on a formalization of constructiveempiricism’s core concept of empirical adequacy, I show that some previous discussions rest on misunderstandings of empirical adequacy. Using one of the inspirations for constructiveempiricism, I generalize the concept of a theory to avoid implausible presumptions about the relations of theoretical concepts and observations, and generalize empirical adequacy to allow for lack of knowledge, approximations, and successive gain of knowledge and precision. As a test case, I provide an application (...) of the concepts to a simple interference phenomenon. (shrink)
I show that the central notion of ConstructiveEmpiricism, empirical adequacy, can be expressed syntactically and specifically in the Received View of the logical empiricists. The formalization shows that the Received View is superior to ConstructiveEmpiricism in the treatment of theories involving unobservable objects or functions from observable to unobserv- able objects. It also suggests a formalization of ‘full empirical informative- ness’ in ConstructiveEmpiricism.