A new perceptual paradigm is emerging that views the universe as a living system that is being regenerated in its totality moment by moment. Scientific evidence for this view is presented as well as complementary insights from the world's spiritual traditions. The implications of this view of reality for our sense of identity, way of living, and evolutionary purpose are considered.
Scientific realism holds that scientific representations are utterly objective. They describe the way the world is, independent of any point of view. In Scientific Representation, van Fraassen argues otherwise. If science is to afford an understanding of nature, it must be grounded in evidence. Since evidence is perspectivai, science cannot vindicate its claims using only utterly objective representations. For science to do its epistemic job, it must involve perspectivai representations. I explicate this argument and show its power.
This paper consists of four parts. Part 1 is an introduction. Part 2 evaluates arguments for the claim that there are no strict empirical laws in biology. I argue that there are two types of arguments for this claim and they are as follows: (1) Biological properties are multiply realized and they require complex processes. For this reason, it is almost impossible to formulate strict empirical laws in biology. (2) Generalizations in biology hold contingently but laws go beyond describing contingencies, (...) so there cannot be strict laws in biology. I argue that both types of arguments fail. Part 3 considers some examples of biological laws in recent biological research and argues that they exemplify strict laws in biology. Part 4 considers the objection that the examples in part 3 may be strict laws but they are not distinctively biological laws. I argue that given a plausible account of what distinctively biological means, such laws are distinctively biological. (shrink)
Nancy Cartwright (1983, 1999) argues that (1) the fundamental laws of physics are true when and only when appropriate ceteris paribus modifiers are attached and that (2) ceteris paribus modifiers describe conditions that are almost never satisfied. She concludes that when the fundamental laws of physics are true, they don't apply in the real world, but only in highly idealized counterfactual situations. In this paper, we argue that (1) and (2) together with an assumption about contraposition entail the opposite conclusion (...) — that the fundamental laws of physics do apply in the real world. Cartwright extracts from her thesis about the inapplicability of fundamental laws the conclusion that they cannot figure in covering-law explanations. We construct a different argument for a related conclusion — that forward-directed idealized dynamical laws cannot provide covering-law explanations that are causal. This argument is neutral on whether the assumption about contraposition is true. We then discuss Cartwright's simulacrum account of explanation, which seeks to describe how idealized laws can be explanatory. (shrink)
In this paper, I investigate the nature of a priori biological laws in connection with the idea that laws must be empirical. I argue that the epistemic functions of a priori biological laws in biology are the same as those of empirical laws in physics. Thus, the requirement that laws be empirical is idle in connection with how laws operate in science. This result presents a choice between sticking with an unmotivated philosophical requirement and taking the functional equivalence of laws (...) seriously and modifying our philosophical account. I favor the latter. (shrink)
Testimony consists in imparting information without supplying evidence or argument to back one's claims. To what extent does testimony convey epistemic warrant? C. J. A. Coady argues, on Davidsonian grounds, that (1) most testimony is true, hence (2) most testimony supplies warrant sufficient for knowledge. I appeal to Grice's maxims to undermine Coady's argument and to show that the matter is more complicated and context-sensitive than is standardly recognized. Informative exchanges take place within networks of shared, tacit assumptions that affect (...) the scope and strength of our claims, and the level of warrant required for their responsible assertion. The maxims explain why different levels of warrant are transferred in different contexts. (shrink)
The arts and the sciences perform many of the same cognitive functions, both serving to advance understanding. This paper explores some of the ways exemplification operates in the two fields. Both scientific experiments and works of art highlight, underscore, display, or convey some of their own features. They thereby focus attention on them, and make them available for examination and projection. Thus, the Michelson-Morley experiment exemplifies the constancy of the speed of light. Jackson Pollock'sNumber One exemplifies the viscosity of paint. (...) Despite their similarities, science and art might seem to differ in their attitude toward facts. Science is said to adhere to facts; art, to be indifferent to them. Such, I urge, is not the case. Science, like art, often scorns fact to advance understanding through fiction. Thought experiments, I contend, are scientific fictions; literary and pictorial fictions, aesthetic thought experiments. (shrink)
If understanding is factive, the propositions that express an understanding are true. I argue that a factive conception of understanding is unduly restrictive. It neither reflects our practices in ascribing understanding nor does justice to contemporary science. For science uses idealizations and models that do not mirror the facts. Strictly speaking, they are false. By appeal to exemplification, I devise a more generous, flexible conception of understanding that accommodates science, reflects our practices, and shows a sufficient but not slavish sensitivity (...) to the facts. (shrink)
Cognitive advancement is not always a matter of acquiring new information. It often consists in reconfiguration--in reorganizing a domain so that hitherto overlooked or underemphasized features, patterns, opportunities, and resources come to light. Several modes of reconfiguration prominent in the arts--metaphor, fiction, exemplification, and perspective--play important roles in science as well. They do not perform the same roles as literal, descriptive, perspectiveless scientific truths. But to understand how science advances understanding, we need to appreciate the ineliminable cognitive contributions of non-literal, (...) non-descriptive symbols. (shrink)
A challenger of traditions and boundaries A pivotal figure in 20th-century philosophy, Nelson Goodman has made seminal contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and the philosophy of language, with surprising connections that cut across traditional boundaries. In the early 1950s, Goodman, Quine, and White published a series of papers that threatened to torpedo fundamental assumptions of traditional philosophy. They advocated repudiating analyticity, necessity, and prior assumptions. Some philosophers, realizing the seismic effects repudiation would cause, argued that philosophy should retain the (...) familiar framework. Others considered the arguments compelling, but despaired of doing philosophy without the framework. Goodman disagreed with both factions. Rather than regretting the loss of structure, he capitalized on the opportunities that arise when the strictures of tradition are loosened. (shrink)
I show that it follows from both externalist and internalist theories that stupid people may be in a better position to know than smart ones. This untoward consequence results from taking our epistemic goal to be accepting as many truths as possible and rejecting as many falsehoods as possible, combined with a recognition that the standard for acceptability cannot be set too high, else scepticism will prevail. After showing how causal, reliabilist, and coherentist theories devalue intelligence, I suggest that knowledge, (...) as contemporary theories construe it, is not a particularly valuable cognitive achievement, and that we would do well to reopen epistemology to the study of cognitive excellences of all sorts. (shrink)
Some philosophers of physics recently expressed their skepticism about causation (Norton 2003b, 2007). However, this is not new. The view that causation does not refer to any ontological category perhaps can be attributed to Hume, Kant and Russell. On the other hand, some philosophers (Wesley Salmon and Phil Dowe) view causation as a physical process and some others (Cartwright) view causation as making claims about capacities possessed by objects. The issue about the ontological status of causal claims involves issues concerning (...) the ontological status of capacity, modality and dispositional claims. In this paper, my goal is to show that without engaging metaphysical debates about the ontological status of causal claims, it can be shown that we can objectively assign truth values to these statements. I argue that for causal claims to be objective we don't need to postulate the existence of special facts (specific to causal claims) in addition to ordinary physical facts described by physical theories. This, I think, is enough to justify the usefulness of this concept in certain branches (may be all) of science. Once this is achieved, there is no need to engage in unnecessary metaphysical debates. So, even if advanced physical theories don't mention this notion, causal reasoning can still be important in understanding the world not in the sense that science discovers special ontological category called causation but in the sense that we come to know certain facts about the world. (shrink)
To understand a term or other symbol, I argue that it is generally neither necessary nor sufficient to assign it a unique determinate reference. Independent of and prior to investigation, it is frequently indeterminate not only whether a sentence is true, but also what its truth conditions are. Nelson Goodman's discussions of likeness of meaning are deployed to explain how this can be so.
I argue that trustworthiness is an epistemic desideratum. It does not reduce to justified or reliable true belief, but figures in the reason why justified or reliable true beliefs are often valuable. Such beliefs can be precarious. If a belief's being justified requires that the evidence be just as we take it to be, then if we are off even by a little, the belief is unwarranted. Similarly for reliability. Although it satisfies the definition of knowledge, such a belief is (...) not trustworthy. We ought not use it as a basis for inference or action and ought not give others to believe it. The trustworthiness of a belief, I urge, depends on its being backed by reasons—considerations that other members of the appropriate epistemic community cannot reasonably reject. Trustworthiness is intersubjective. It both depends on and contributes to the evolving cognitive values of an epistemic community. (shrink)
A number of debates in philosophy of biology and psychology, as well as in their respective sciences, hinge on particular views about the relationship between genotypes and phenotypes. One such view is that the genotype-phenotype relationship is relatively straightforward, in the sense that a genome contains the ?genes for? the various traits that an organism exhibits. This leads to the assumption that if a particular set of traits is posited to be present in an organism, there must be a corresponding (...) number of genes in that organism's genome to account for those traits. This assumption underlies what can be called the ?counting argument,? in which empirical estimates of the number of genes in a genome are used to support or refute particular hypotheses in philosophical debates about biology and psychology. In this paper, we assess the counting argument as it is used in discussions of the alleged massive modularity of the brain, and conclude that this argument cannot be upheld in light of recent philosophical work on gene concepts and empirical work on genome complexity. In doing so, we illustrate that there are those on both sides of the debate about massive modularity who rely on an incorrect view of gene concepts and the nature of the genotype-phenotype relationship. (shrink)
The Structure of Appearance presents a phenomenalist system, constructing enduring visible objects out of qualia. Nevertheless Goodman does not espouse phenomenalism. This is not because he considers his system inadequate. Although details remain to be filled in, he considers his system viable. And he believes his constructional methods could readily yield extensions to other sensory realms. Why isn’t Goodman a phenomenalist? This paper suggests an answer that illuminates Goodman’s views about the nature and functions of constructional systems, the prospects of (...) reductionism, and the character of epistemology. These non-standard views present attractive alternatives to currently popular positions. (shrink)
Much ink has been spent on Popper's falsificationism. Why, then, am I writing another paper on this subject? This paper is neither a new kind of criticism nor a new kind of defense of falsificationism. Recent debate about the legitimacy of adaptationism among biologists centers on the question of whether Popper's falsificationism or Lakatos' methodology of scientific research programs (SRP) is adequate in understanding science. S. Jay Gould and Richard C. Lewontin (1978) argue that adaptationism is unfalsifiable since it easily (...) invites ad hoc adjustments when it makes false predictions. William A. Mitchell and Thomas J. Valone (1990) argue that adaptationism is a research program, and that the charge of falsifiability does not apply to a research program. Although both sides make use of the theories of scientific methodology proposed by Karl R. Popper (1934, 1957, 1963, 1971) and Imre Lakatos (1965, 1974, 1978), the differences and the similarities between these philosophers are overlooked. The purpose of the present paper is to explicate the differences and the similarities between the two philosophies of science. (shrink)
Understanding, as I construe it, is holistic. It is a matter of how commitments mesh to form a mutually supportive, independently supported system of thought. It is advanced by bootstrapping. We start with what we think we know and build from there. This makes education continuous with what goes on at the cutting edge of inquiry. Methods, standards, categories and stances are as important as facts. So something like E. D. Hirsch’s list of facts every fourth grader should know is (...) slightly silly. What makes for a good fourth grade education is not the set of facts the fourth grader knows, but the level of understanding she has achieved and the resources she can deploy to advance that understanding. Facts are part of the story, but so are fictions, methods, standards, and categories. A major part of understanding is recognizing what problems remain to be solved. (shrink)
Although our theories are not precisely true, scientific realists contend that we should admit their objects into our ontology. One justification--offered by Sellars and Putnam--is that current theories belong to series that converge to ideally adequate theories. I consider the way the commitment to convergence reflects on the interpretation of lawlike claims. I argue that the distinction between lawlike and accidental generalizations depends on our cognitive interests and reflects our commitment to the direction of scientific progress. If the sciences disagree (...) about the lawlikeness of some generalization(s), as an argument of Davidson's suggests, it follows from the interest relatively of lawlikeness that the laws of a science do not determine the essences of their objects. I conclude that this form of scientific realism provides no metaphysical support for essentialism. (shrink)
"Williams on Truthfulness" is a review of Bernard Williams's Truth and Truthfulness. It argues that Williams explicates truthfulness as a thick concept that depends on but diverges from a mere propensity to utter truths. Besides conveying an understanding of the complex virtue of truthfulness, it thus shows why thick concepts are not simply descriptive concepts overlaid with expressive glosses.
If the point of argument is to produce conviction, an argument tor a foregone conclusion is pointless. I maintain, however, that an argument makes a variety of cognitive contributions, even when its conclusion is already believed. It exhibits warrant. It affords reasons that we can impart to others. It identifies bases tor agreement among parties who otherwise disagree. It underwrites confidence, by showing how vulnerable warrant is under changes in background assumptions. Multiple arguments for the same conclusion show how our (...) beliefs hang together. (shrink)
Testimony consists in imparting information without supplying evidence or argument to back one’s claims. To what extent does testimony convey epistemic warrant? C. J. A. Coady argues, on Davidsonian grounds, that (1) most testimony is true, hence (2) most testimony supplies warrant sufficient for knowledge. I appeal to Grice’s maxims to undermine Coady’s argument and to show that the matter is more complicated and context-sensitive than is standardly recognized. Informative exchanges take place within networks of shared, tacit assumptions that affect (...) the scope and strength of our claims, and the level of warrant required for their responsible assertion. The maxims explain why different levels of warrant are transferred in different contexts. (shrink)