Empiricists claim that in accepting a scientific theory one should not commit oneself to claims about things that are not observable in the sense of registering on human perceptual systems (according to Van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism) or experimental equipment (according to what I call liberal empiricism ). They also claim scientific theories should be accepted or rejected on the basis of how well they save the phenomena in the sense delivering unified descriptions of natural regularities among things that meet their (...) conditions for observability. I argue that empiricism is both unfaithful to real world scientific practice, and epistemically imprudent, if not incoherent. To illuminate scientific practice and save regularity phenomena one must commit oneself to claims about causal mechanisms that can be detected from data, but do not register directly on human perceptual systems or experimental equipment. I conclude by suggesting that empiricists should relax their standards for acceptable beliefs. (shrink)
Some biological processes (our examples are DNA expression and a reflex response in the leech) move from step to step in a way that cannot be completely understood solely in terms of causes and correlations. This paper develops a notion of mechanistic information that can be used to explain the continuities of such processes. We compare them to processes (including the Krebs cycle) that do not involve information. We compare our conception of mechanistic information to some familiar notions including Crick’s (...) idea of genetic information, Shannon-Weaver information, and Millikan’s biosemantic information. (shrink)
This paper suggests and discusses an answer to the question what distinguishes causal from non-causal or coincidental co-occurrences based on Elizabeth Anscombe’s idea that causality is a highly abstract concept whose meaning derives from our understanding of specific causally productive activities (e.g., pulling, scraping, burning), and her rejection of the assumption that causality can be informatively understood in terms of general regularities of some sort.
I claim that the Hodgkin‐Huxley (HH) current equations owe a great deal of their importance to their role in bringing results from experiments on squid giant action preparations to bear on the study of the action potential in other neurons in other in vitro and in vivo environments. I consider ideas from Weber and Craver about the role of Coulomb’s and other fundamental equations in explaining the action potential and in HH’s development of their equations. Also, I offer an embellishment (...) to Schaffner’s emergent unifier conception of the HH model. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of HPS, University of Pittsburgh, 1017 Cathedral of Learning, Pittsburgh, PA 15260; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. (shrink)
'IRS' is our term for the logical empiricist idea that the best way to understand the epistemic bearing of observational evidence on scientific theories is to model it in terms of Inferential Relations among Sentences representing the evidence, and sentences representing hypotheses the evidence is used to evaluate. Developing ideas from our earlier work, including 'Saving the Phenomena'(Phil Review 97, 1988, p.303-52 )we argue that the bearing of observational evidence on theory depends upon causal connections and error characteristics of the (...) processes by which data is produced and used to detect features of phenomena. Neither of these depends upon, or is greatly illuminated by a consideration of, formal relations among observation and theoretical sentences or propositions. By taking causal structures and error characteristics, you too can evade the IRS. In doing so, you can gain insight into Hempel’s raven paradox, theory loading, and other issues from the standard philosophical literature on confirmation theory. (shrink)
Machamer, Darden, and Craver argue (Mechanism) that causal explanations explain effects by describing the operations of the mechanisms (systems of entities engaging in productive activities) which produce them. One of this paper’s aims is to take advantage of neglected resources of Mechanism to rethink the traditional idea (Regularism) that actual or counterfactual natural regularities are essential to the distinction between causal and non-causal co-occurrences, and that generalizations describing natural regularities are essential components of causal explanations. I think that causal productivity (...) and regularity are by no means the same thing, and that the Regularists are mistaken about the roles generalizations play in causal explanation. Humean, logical empiricist, and other Regularist accounts of causal explanation have had the unfortunate effect of distracting philosophers’ from important non-explanatory scientific uses of laws and lesser generalizations which purport to describe natural regularities. My second aim is to characterize some of these uses, illustrating them with examples from neuroscientific research. (shrink)
Using Jim Woodward's Counterfactual Dependency account as an example, I argue that causal claims about indeterministic systems cannot be satisfactorily analysed as including counterfactual conditionals among their truth conditions because the counterfactuals such accounts must appeal to need not have truth values. Where this happens, counterfactual analyses transform true causal claims into expressions which are not true.
Wegner vacillates between considering the experience of will as a directly-sensed feeling and as a cognitive construct. Most of his book is devoted to examples of erroneous cognition. The brain basis of will as an immediately-sensed emotion receives minimal attention.
This paper compares the relative merits of two alternatives to traditional accounts of causal explanation: Jim Woodward's counterfactual invariance account, and the Mechanistic account of Machamer, Darden, and Craver. Mechanism wins (a) because we have good causal explanations for chaotic effects whose production does not exhibit the counterfactual regularities Woodward requires, and (b)because arguments suggested by Belnap's and Green's discussion of prediction (in'Facing the Future' chpt 6)show that the relevant counterfactuals about ideal interventions on non-deterministic and deterministic systems lack truth (...) value. (shrink)
According to a received doctrine, espoused, by Karl Popper and Harry Collins, and taken for granted by many others, poorly replicated evidence should be epistemically defective and incapable of persuading scientists to accept the views it is used to argue for. But John Hughlings Jackson used poorly replicated clinical and post-mortem evidence to mount rationally compelling and influential arguments for a highly progressive theory of the organization of the brain and its functions. This paper sets out a number of Jackson's (...) arguments from his evidence and argues that they constitute a counter example against the received doctrine. (shrink)
Standard philosophical discussions of theory-ladeness assume that observational evidence consists of perceptual outputs (or reports of such outputs) that are sentential or propositional in structure. Theory-ladeness is conceptualized as having to do with logical or semantical relationships between such outputs or reports and background theories held by observers. Using the recent debate between Fodor and Churchland as a point of departure, we propose an alternative picture in which much of what serves as evidence in science is not perceptual outputs or (...) reports of such outputs and is not sentential in structure. (shrink)
This paper offers a detailed account of arguments in De Caelo I by which Aristotle tried to demonstrate the necessity of the perpetual existence and the perpetual rotation of the cosmos. On our interpretation, Aristotle’s arguments are naturalistic. Instead of being based (as many have thought) on rules of logic and language, they depend, we argue, on natural science theories about abilities (δυνάμεις), e.g., to move and to change, which things have by nature and about the conditions under which these (...) abilities can be exercised. Our interpretation locates the De Caelo arguments in the context of some central doctrines of the Organon, the Metaphysics, the Physics, and other texts. The De Caelo arguments fit a number of views developed in these texts. Aristotle’s treatments of local motion, of natural motion and change, of necessity and possibility, and of abilities and their exercises are examples. But, as we interpret them, the De Caelo arguments raise serious questions about the role of (and the need for) Metaphysics A’s soulful Unmoved Mover in Aristotle’s overall natural-scientific picture. (shrink)
Certain remarks in the Tractatus, taken together with a passage in a letter Wittgenstein wrote to Russell, suggest that at one time Wittgenstein inclined toward a psychologistic theory of language. But textual considerations with regard to the former and a special interpretation of the latter allow us to interpret these statements in a way that is consistent with Wittgenstein's later views.
This article discusses the claim made by Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling that the story of Abraham involves a ?teleological suspension of the ethical?. It tries to show that this claim is intelligible and plausible when considered within the context of a philosophical position which views morality as a system of duties.