There are certain explanations that scientists do not accept, even though such explanations do not conflict with observation, logic, or other scientific theories. I argue that a common version of the no-miracles argument (NMA) for scientific realism relies upon just such an explanation. First, scientists (usually) do not accept explanations whose explanans neither generates novel predictions nor unifies apparently disparate phenomena. Second, scientific realism (as it appears in the NMA) is an explanans that makes no new predictions, and fails to (...) unify disparate phenomena. Third, Psillos, Boyd, and other proponents of the NMA explicitly adopt a naturalism that forbids philosophy of science from using any methods not employed by science itself. Therefore, such naturalistic philosophers of science should not accept the version of scientific realism that appears in the NMA. [Publication note: This text is for a talk at the 2008 PSA convention. An expanded version of the talk was later published as a regular article in Philosophy of Science (2010).]. (shrink)
During the academic year 1940-1941, several giants of analytic philosophy congregated at Harvard, holding regular private meetings, with Carnap, Tarski, and Quine. Carnap, Tarski, and Quine at Harvard allows the reader to act as a fly on the wall for their conversations. Carnap took detailed notes during his year at Harvard. This book includes both a German transcription of these shorthand notes and an English translation in the appendix section. Carnap’s notes cover a wide range of topics, but surprisingly, the (...) most prominent question is: If the number of physical items in the universe is finite, what form should scientific discourse take? This question is closely connected to an abiding philosophical problem: What is the relationship between the logico-mathematical realm and the material realm? Carnap, Tarski, and Quine’s attempts to answer this question involve issues central to philosophy today.This book focuses on three such issues: nominalism, the unity of science, and analyticity. In short, the book reconstructs the lines of argument represented in these Harvard discussions, discusses their historical significance (especially Quine’s break from Carnap), and relates them when possible to contemporary treatments of these issues. (shrink)
Scientific anti-realists who appeal to the pessimistic induction (PI) claim that the theoretical terms of past scientific theories often fail to refer to anything. But on standard views in philosophy of language, such reference failures prima facie lead to certain sentences being neither true nor false. Thus, if these standard views are correct, then the conclusion of the PI should be that significant chunks of current theories are truth-valueless. But that is semantic anti-realism about scientific discourse—a position most philosophers of (...) science, anti-realists included, consider anathema today. Therefore, proponents of the PI confront a dilemma: either accept semantic anti-realism or reject common semantic views. I examine strategies (with particular emphasis on supervaluations) for the PI proponent to either lessen the sting of this argument, or learn to live with it. 1 Introduction2 Designation Failure 2.1 Designation failure leads to truth-valueless sentences2.1.1 Direct reference theory2.1.2 Fregeanism2.1.3 Accounts of reference-fixing: why ‘phlogiston’ fails to designate 2.2 Objection: sentences exhibiting designation failure are false not truth-valueless 2.3 Avoiding truth-valuelessness via controversial semantic positions3 What to do? Closing the Gaps4 Conclusion. (shrink)
The Pessimistic Induction (PI) states: most past scientific theories were radically mistaken; therefore, current theories are probably similarly mistaken. But mistaken in what way? On the usual understanding, such past theories are false. However, on widely held views about reference and presupposition, many theoretical claims of previous scientific theories are neither true nor false. And if substantial portions of past theories are truth-valueless, then the PI leads to semantic antirealism. But most current philosophers of science reject semantic antirealism. So PI (...) proponents face a difficult choice: accept either semantic antirealism or an unorthodox position on reference and presupposition. (shrink)
Putting the ‘empiricism’ in ‘logical empiricism’: the director’s cut Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9444-x Authors Greg Frost-Arnold, Department of Philosophy, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY 14456, USA Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
The underdetermination of theory by data obtains when, inescapably, evidence is insufficient to allow scientists to decide responsibly between rival theories. One response to would-be underdetermination is to deny that the rival theories are distinct theories at all, insisting instead that they are just different formulations of the same underlying theory; we call this the identical rivals response. An argument adapted from John Norton suggests that the response is presumptively always appropriate, while another from Larry Laudan and Jarrett Leplin (...) suggests that the response is never appropriate. Arguments from Einstein for the special and general theories of relativity may fruitfully be seen as instances of the identical rivals response; since Einstein’s arguments are generally accepted, the response is at least sometimes appropriate. But when is it appropriate? We attempt to steer a middle course between Norton’s view and that of Laudan and Leplin: the identical rivals response is appropriate when there is good reason for adopting a parsimonious ontology. Although in simple cases the identical rivals response need not involve any ontological difference between the theories, in actual scientific cases it typically requires treating apparent posits of the various theories as mere verbal ornaments or computational conveniences. Since these would-be posits are not now detectable, there is no perfectly reliable way to decide whether we should eliminate them or not. As such, there is no rule for deciding whether the identical rivals response is appropriate or not. Nevertheless, there are considerations that suggest for and against the response; we conclude by suggesting two of them. (shrink)
This document collects discussion and commentary on issues raised in the workshop by its participants. Contributors are: Greg Frost-Arnold, David Harker, P. D. Magnus, John Manchak, John D. Norton , J. Brian Pitts, Kyle Stanford, Dana Tulodziecki.
For much of the second half of the 20th Century, the primary role logical empiricism played was that of the argumentative foil. The 'received view' on a given topic (especially in philosophy of science, logic, or language) was frequently identified with some supposedly dogmatic tenet of logical empiricism. However, during the last twenty-five years, scholars have paid serious, sustained attention to what the logical positivists, individually and collectively, actually said. Early scholarship on logical empiricism had to engage in heavy-duty PR (...) work: why should anyone study the now-discarded mixture of blunders and implausibilities collected under the label 'logical empiricism'? However, thanks to the efforts of the pioneers, people studying the logical empiricists today need not articulate an extended apologia for their chosen subject of study -- rather, they can simply get on with their work. Many of the best fruits of these recent labors are on display in The Cambridge Companion to Logical Empiricism (CCLE), edited by Alan Richardson and Thomas Uebel. (shrink)
The logic of singular terms that refer to nothing, such as ‘Santa Claus,’ has been studied extensively under the heading of free logic. The present essay examines expressions whose reference is defective in a different way: they signify more than one entity. The bulk of the effort aims to develop an acceptable formal semantics based upon an intuitive idea introduced informally by Hartry Field and discussed by Joseph Camp; the basic strategy is to use supervaluations. This idea, as it stands, (...) encounters difficulties, but with suitable refinements it can be salvaged. Two other options for a formal semantics of multiply signifying terms are also presented, and I discuss the relative merits of the three semantics briefly. Finally, possible modifications to the standard logical regimentation of the notion of existence are considered. (shrink)
Two central and well-known philosophical goals of the logical empiricists are the unification of science and the elimination of metaphysics. I argue, via textual analysis, that these two apparently distinct planks of the logical empiricist party platform are actually intimately related. From the 1920’s through 1950, one abiding criterion for judging whether an apparently declarative assertion or descriptive term is metaphysical is that that assertion or term cannot be incorporated into a language of unified science. I explore various versions of (...) this criterion throughout the works of Carnap and Neurath. (shrink)
Alexander Rosenberg recently claimed (1997) that developmental biology is currently being reduced to molecular biology. cite several concrete biological examples that are intended to impugn Rosenberg's claim. I first argue that although Laubichler and Wagner's examples would refute a very strong reductionism, a more moderate reductionism would escape their attacks. Next, taking my cue from the antireductionist's perennial stress on the importance of spatial organization, I describe one form an empirical finding that refutes this moderate reductionism would take. Finally, I (...) point out an actual example, anterior-posterior axis determination in the chick, that challenges the reductionist's belief that all developmental regularities can be explained by molecular biology. In short, I argue that Rosenberg's position can be saved from Laubichler and Wagner's criticisms and putative counter-examples, but it would not survive a different kind of counter-example. (shrink)
Many commentators on Alfred Tarski have, following Hartry Field, claimed that Tarski's truth-definition was motivated by physicalism—the doctrine that all facts, including semantic facts, must be reducible to physical facts. I claim, instead, that Tarski did not aim to reduce semantic facts to physical ones. Thus, Field's criticism that Tarski's truth-definition fails to fulfill physicalist ambitions does not reveal Tarski to be inconsistent, since Tarski's goal is not to vindicate physicalism. I argue that Tarski's only published remarks that speak approvingly (...) of physicalism were written in unusual circumstances: Tarski was likely attempting to appease an audience of physicalists that he viewed as hostile to his ideas. In later sections I develop positive accounts of: (1) Tarski's reduction of semantic concepts; (2) Tarski's motivation to develop formal semantics in the particular way he does; and (3) the role physicalism plays in Tarski's thought. (shrink)