The McNaughton rules for determining whether a person can be successfully defended on the grounds of mental incompetence were determined by a committee of the House of Lords in 1843. They arose as a consequence of the trial of Daniel McNaughton for the killing of Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel’s secretary. In retrospect it is clear that McNaughton suffered from schizophrenia. The successful defence of McNaughton on the grounds of mental incompetence by his advocate Sir Alexander Cockburn involved a profound (...) shift in the criteria for such a defence, and was largely based on the then recently published scientific thesis of the great US psychiatrist Isaac Ray, entitled A Treatise on the Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity. Subsequent discussion of this defence in the House of Lords led to the McNaughton rules, still the basis of the defence of mental incompetence in the courts of much of the English-speaking world. This essay considers one of these rules in the light of the discoveries of cognitive neuroscience made during the 160 years since Ray’s treatise. A major consideration is the relationship between the power of self-control and irresistible impulse as conceived by Cockburn on the one hand, and by cognitive neuroscience on the other. The essay concludes with an analysis of the notion of free will and of the extent to which a subject can exert restraint in the absence of particular synaptic connections in the brain. (shrink)
The context for these interviews was a seminar [Peter Gratton] conducted on speculative realism in the Spring 2010. There has been great interest in speculative realism and one reason Gratton surmise[s] is not just the arguments offered, though [Gratton doesn't] want to take away from them; each of these scholars are vivid writers and great pedagogues, many of whom are in constant contact with their readers via their weblogs. Thus these interviews provided an opportunity to forward student questions about their (...) respective works. Though each were conducted on different occasions, the interviews stand as a collected work, tying together the most classical questions about “realism” to ancillary movements about the non-human in politics, ecology, aesthetics, and video gaming—all to point to future movements in this philosophical area. (shrink)
We are in a state of impending crisis. And the fault lies in part with academia. For two centuries or so, academia has been devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how. This has enormously increased our power to act which has, in turn, brought us both all the great benefits of the modern world and the crises we now face. Modern science and technology have made possible modern industry and agriculture, the explosive growth of the world’s population, global (...) warming, modern armaments and the lethal character of modern warfare, destruction of natural habitats and rapid extinction of species, immense inequalities of wealth and power across the globe, pollution of earth, sea and air, even the aids epidemic (aids being spread by modern travel). All these global problems have arisen because some of us have acquired unprecedented powers to act, via science and technology, without also acquiring the capacity to act wisely. (shrink)
The Enlightenment, Popper and Einstein Abstract Nicholas Maxwell Email: firstname.lastname@example.org In this paper I discuss four versions of the basic idea of the French Enlightenment of the 18th century, namely: To learn from scientific progress how to achieve social progress towards an enlightened world. These four versions are: 1. The Traditional Enlightenment Programme. 2. The Popperian Version of the Enlightenment Programme. 3. The Improved Popperian Enlightenment Programme. 4. The New Enlightenment Programme. The Traditional Enlightenment Programme is the version (...) of the idea upheld by the philosophes of the French Enlightenment. It was developed throughout the 19th century and put into practice in the early 20th century with the creation of departments of social science in universities all over the world. It is however damagingly defective. The Popperian Version of the Enlightenment Programme is an improvement, but still defective. As we go down the list, from 1 and 2 to 3 and 4, each Programme improves on its predecessor, until with The New Enlightenment, which can in some respects be associated with Einstein, we arrive at a version of the idea which can genuinely help humanity make social progress towards an enlightened world. (shrink)
I shall present a problem about accountability, and its solution by Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Some readers of this don’t see it as a profound contribution to moral philosophy, and I want to help them. It may be helpful to follow up Strawson’s gracefully written discussion with a more staccato presentation. My treatment will also be angled somewhat differently from his, so that its lights and shadows will fall with a certain difference, which may make it serviceable even to the (...) converted. Also, I shall point to some disputable things in ‘Freedom and Resentment’, and offer repairs. So I wrote in the first published version of this paper. I wanted not only to be useful to others but also to elicit Strawson’s certificate of approval; and that hope was realized. In his ‘Reply’ Strawson wrote: ‘Bennett in the first eleven sections of his essay sets out and elaborates the essence of my position with such thorough and sympathetic understanding as to leave me little to say.’ I also tried, unsuccessfully, to analyse with more precision Strawson’s concept of reactive attitude, and to explore the extent of and reasons for the incompatibility between reactive attitudes and the objective attitude. I hoped that the display of my failures would induce Strawson to tackle the problems himself, with more success. No such luck! He wrote: ‘Bennett seeks . . . to produce a tighter and more unified organisation of the phenomena . . . than I achieved in “Freedom and Resentment”’, but he did not return to the fray. On the contrary: ‘It does not seem to me to matter if a strict definition [of ‘reactive’] is not to be had’; and he said nothing about reasons for the reactive/objective conflict. In the present version of the paper, I expound ‘Freedom and Resentment’ much as before. Since my attempts to tighten and deepen the theory failed to hook Strawson, and are not of much intrinsic interest, I now omit them. I shall, however, add an application of the doctrines of ‘Freedom and Resentment’ to the most basic philosophical question regarding punishment.. (shrink)
When scientists choose one theory over another, they reject out of hand all those that are not simple, unified or explanatory. Yet the orthodox view of science is that evidence alone should determine what can be accepted. Nicholas Maxwell thinks he has a way out of the dilemma.
A Mug's Game? Solving the Problem of Induction with Metaphysical Presuppositions Nicholas Maxwell Emeritus Reader in Philosophy of Science at University College London Email: email@example.com Website: www.nick-maxwell.demon.co.uk Abstract This paper argues that a view of science, expounded and defended elsewhere, solves the problem of induction. The view holds that we need to see science as accepting a hierarchy of metaphysical theses concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe, these theses asserting less and less as we go (...) up the hierarchy. It may seem that this view must suffer from vicious circularity, in so far as accepting physical theories is justified by an appeal to metaphysical theses in turn justified by the success of science. But this is rebutted. A thesis high up in the hierarchy asserts that the universe is such that the element of circularity, just indicated, is legitimate and justified, and not vicious. Acceptance of the thesis is in turn justified without appeal to the success of science. It may seem that the practical problem of induction can only be solved along these lines if there is a justification of the truth of the metaphysical theses in question. It is argued that this demand must be rejected as it stems from an irrational conception of science. (shrink)
REMARKS ON EVOLUTION AND TIME-SCALES, Graham Cairns-Smith; HODGSON'S BLACK BOX, Thomas Clark; DO HODGSON'S PROPOSITIONS UNIQUELY CHARACTERIZE FREE WILL?, Ravi Gomatam; WHAT SHOULD WE RETAIN FROM A PLAIN PERSON'S CONCEPT OF FREE WILL?, Gilberto Gomes; ISOLATING DISPARATE CHALLENGES TO HODGSON'S ACCOUNT OF FREE WILL, Liberty Jaswal; FREE AGENCY AND LAWS OF NATURE, Robert Kane; SCIENCE VERSUS REALIZATION OF VALUE, NOT DETERMINISM VERSUS CHOICE, Nicholas Maxwell; COMMENTS ON HODGSON, J.J.C. Smart; THE VIEW FROM WITHIN, Sean Spence; COMMENTARY ON HODGSON, Henry (...) Stapp. (shrink)
In this illuminating, highly engaging book, Jonathan Bennett acquaints us with the ideas of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this lucidly written work is an excellent introduction. For those already familiar with the time period, this book offers insight into the great philosophers, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, and teachers.
Nicholas Maxwell argues that the growth in academic work devoted to policy issues could mark the beginning of a shift from ‘knowledge-inquiry’ to ‘wisdom-inquiry’, leading to importance benefits for society.
Do We Need a Scientific Revolution? (Published in the Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry, vol. 8, no. 3, September 2008) Nicholas Maxwell (Emeritus Reader in Philosophy of Science at University College London) www.nick-maxwell.demon.co.uk Abstract Many see modern science as having serious defects, intellectual, social, moral. Few see this as having anything to do with the philosophy of science. I argue that many diverse ills of modern science are a consequence of the fact that the scientific community has (...) long accepted, and sought to implement, a bad philosophy of science, which I call standard empiricism. This holds that the basic intellectual aim is truth, the basic method being impartial assessment of claims to knowledge with respect to evidence. Standard empiricism is, however, untenable. Furthermore, the attempt to put it into scientific practice has many damaging consequences for science. The scientific community urgently needs to bring about a revolution in both the conception of science, and science itself. It needs to be acknowledged that the actual aims of science make metaphysical, value and political assumptions and are, as a result, deeply problematic. Science needs to try to improve its aims and methods as it proceeds. Standard empiricism needs to be rejected, and the more rigorous philosophy of science of aim-oriented empiricism needs to be adopted and explicitly implemented in scientific practice instead. The outcome would be the emergence of a new kind of science, of greater value in both intellectual and humanitarian terms. (shrink)
Christopher Bennett presents a theory of punishment grounded in the practice of apology, and in particular in reactions such as feeling sorry and making amends. He argues that offenders have a 'right to be punished' - that it is part of taking an offender seriously as a member of a normatively demanding relationship (such as friendship or collegiality or citizenship) that she is subject to retributive attitudes when she violates the demands of that relationship. However, while he claims that (...) punishment and the retributive attitudes are the necessary expression of moral condemnation, his account of these reactions has more in common with restorative justice than traditional retributivism. He argues that the most appropriate way to react to crime is to require the offender to make proportionate amends. His book is a rich and original contribution to the debate over punishment and restorative justice. (shrink)
Conditional sentences are among the most intriguing and puzzling features of language, and analysis of their meaning and function has important implications for, and uses in, many areas of philosophy. Jonathan Bennett, one of the world's leading experts, distils many years' work and teaching into this Philosophical Guide to Conditionals, the fullest and most authoritative treatment of the subject. An ideal introduction for undergraduates with a philosophical grounding, it also offers a rich source of illumination and stimulation for graduate (...) students and professional philosophers. (shrink)
The following document is a very brief summary of a thesis and argument that I have devoted the last 30Â years of my life to trying to get across to my fellow human beings. It was first spelled out in Whatâs Wrong With Science? (Branâs Head Books, 1976) and subsequently in From Knowledge to Wisdom (Blackwell, 1984), Is Science Neurotic? (Imperial College Press, 2004) and numerous articles, references to which can be found on http://www.nick-maxwell.demon.co.uk. Three years ago an international (...) group was formed, called Friends of Wisdom, which seeks to get across to academics and the public the compelling arguments and urgent need to transform academic inquiry so that its basic aim becomes to seek and promote wisdom. The document below is taken from the website of Friends of Wisdom, the URL of which is http://www.knowledgetowisdom.org. It is the mission statement of Friends of Wisdom. You are invited to join. (shrink)
This book puts forth a radically new conception of science. Maxwell argues that the prevailing view of the relation between scientific theory and evidence is untenable; he calls for a new orthodoxy that sees science as making a hierarchy of assumptions about the comprehensibility of the universe. This new conception has significant implications for both philosophy and science, promises to heal the rift between the two, and will be essential reading for people working in both fields.
In earlier work we have described how computer algebra may be used to derive composite rate laws for complete systems of equations, using the mathematical technique of Gröbner Bases (Bennett, Davenport and Sauro, 1988). Such composite rate laws may then be fitted to experimental data to yield estimates of kinetic parameters.Recently we have been investigating the practical application of this methodology to the estimation of kinetic parameters for the closed two enzyme system of aspartate aminotransferase (AAT) and malate dehydrogenase (...) (MDH) (Fisher 1990a; Fisher 1990b; Bennett and Fisher, 1990). (shrink)
In this essay, Bruce Maxwell, David Waddington, Kevin McDonough, Andrée-Anne Cormier, and Marina Schwimmer compare two competing approaches to social integration policy, Multiculturalism and Interculturalism, from the perspective of the issue of the state funding and regulation of conservative religious schools. After identifying the key differences between Interculturalism and Multiculturalism, as well as their many similarities, the authors present an explanatory analysis of this intractable policy challenge. Conservative religious schooling, they argue, tests a conceptual tension inherent in Multiculturalism between (...) respect for group diversity and autonomy, on the one hand, and the ideal of intercultural citizenship, on the other. Taking as a case study Québec's education system and, in particular, recent curricular innovations aimed at helping young people acquire the capabilities of intercultural citizenship, the authors illustrate how Interculturalism signals a compelling way forward in the effort to overcome the political dilemma of conservative religious schooling. (shrink)
I reply to critical discussion of my work by Copthorne Macdonald, Steve Fuller, John Stewart, Joseph Agassi, Margaret Boden, Donald Gillies, Mathew Iredale, David Hodgson, Karl Rogers, and Leemon McHenry.
Machine generated contents note: 1. Introduction - when criminal law encounters bioethics: a case of tensions and incompatibilities or an apt forum for resolving ethical conflict? Amel Alghrani, Rebecca Bennett and Suzanne Ost; Part I. Death, Dying, and the Criminal Law: 2. Euthanasia and assisted suicide should, when properly performed by a doctor in an appropriate case, be decriminalised John Griffiths; 3. Five flawed arguments for decriminalising euthanasia John Keown; 4. Euthanasia excused: between prohibition and permission Richard Huxtable; Part (...) II. Freedom and Autonomy: When Consent Is Not Enough: 5. Body integrity identity disorder - a problem of perception? Robert Smith; 6. Risky sex and 'manly diversions': the contours of consent in criminal law - transmission and rough horseplay cases David Gurnham; 7. 'Consensual' sexual activity between doctors and patients: a matter for the criminal law? Suzanne Ost and Hazel Biggs; Part III. Criminalising Biomedical Science: 8. 'Scientists in the dock': regulating science Amel Alghrani and Sarah Chan; 9. Bioethical conflict and developing biotechnologies: is protecting individual and public health from the risks of xenotransplantation a matter for the (criminal) law? Sara Fovargue; 10. The criminal law and enhancement - none of the law's business? Nishat Hyder and John Harris; 11. Dignity as a socially constructed value Stephen Smith; Part IV. Bioethics and Criminal Law in the Dock: 12. Can English law accommodate moral controversy in medicine? The case of abortion Margaret Brazier; 13. The case for decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland Marie Fox; 14. The impact of the loss of deference towards the medical profession Jose; Miola; 15. Criminalising medical negligence David Archard; 16. All to the good? Criminality, politics, and public health John Coggon; 17. Moral controversy, human rights and the common law judge Brenda Hale. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: 1. Introduction - when criminal law encounters bioethics: a case of tensions and incompatibilities or an apt forum for resolving ethical conflict? Amel Alghrani, Rebecca Bennett and Suzanne Ost; Part I. Death, Dying, and the Criminal Law: 2. Euthanasia and assisted suicide should, when properly performed by a doctor in an appropriate case, be decriminalised John Griffiths; 3. Five flawed arguments for decriminalising euthanasia John Keown; 4. Euthanasia excused: between prohibition and permission Richard Huxtable; Part (...) II. Freedom and Autonomy: When Consent Is Not Enough: 5. Body integrity identity disorder - a problem of perception? Robert Smith; 6. Risky sex and 'manly diversions': the contours of consent in HIV transmission and rough horseplay cases David Gurnham; 7. 'Consensual' sexual activity between doctors and patients: a matter for the criminal law? Suzanne Ost and Hazel Biggs; Part III. Criminalising Biomedical Science: 8. 'Scientists in the dock': regulating science Amel Alghrani and Sarah Chan; 9. Bioethical conflict and developing biotechnologies: is protecting individual and public health from the risks of xenotransplantation a matter for the (criminal) law? Sara Fovargue; 10. The criminal law and enhancement - none of the law's business? Nishat Hyder and John Harris; 11. Dignity as a socially constructed value Stephen Smith; Part IV. Bioethics and Criminal Law in the Dock: 12. Can English law accommodate moral controversy in medicine? Lessons from abortion Margaret Brazier; 13. The case for decriminalising abortion in Northern Ireland Marie Fox; 14. The impact of the loss of deference towards the medical profession Jose; Miola; 15. Criminalising medical negligence David Archard; 16. All to the good? Criminality, politics, and public health John Coggon; 17. Moral controversy, human rights and the common law judge Brenda Hale. (shrink)
Jonathan Bennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can we learn from its success or its failure? These questions reflect Bennett's dedication to engaging with philosophy as philosophy, (...) not as museum exhibit, and they require a close and demanding attention to textual details; these being two features that characterize all Bennett's work on early modern philosophy. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is an excellent introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. -/- Volume 1: In this volume Jonathan Bennett examines the views of Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz on matter and space, the foundations of physics, atomism and alternatives to it, causation, knowledge of necessary truths, how mind relates to body, the nature and significance of human desires, our perception of the material world, and other topics. While exhibiting and celebrating the wonderful breadth, depth, and boldness of the thinking of these philosophers, Bennett also tracks them into the details, where the life is, evaluating their doctrines and arguments on their own merits and in relation to current philosophical problems and interests. (shrink)
Jonathan Bennett engages with the thought of six great thinkers of the early modern period: Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley, Hume. While not neglecting the historical setting of each, his chief focus is on the words they wrote. What problem is being tackled? How exactly is the solution meant to work? Does it succeed? If not, why not? What can we learn from its success or its failure? These questions reflect Bennett's dedication to engaging with philosophy as philosophy, (...) not as museum exhibit, and they require a close and demanding attention to textual details; these being two features that characterize all Bennett's work on early modern philosophy. For newcomers to the early modern scene, this clearly written work is an excellent introduction to it. Those already in the know can learn how to argue with the great philosophers of the past, treating them as colleagues, antagonists, students, teachers. -/- Volume 2: In this volume Jonathan Bennett examines the views of Locke, Berkeley, and Hume on thought and sensation, meaning, language, classification, innate ideas and knowledge, our knowledge of necessary truths (bringing in Descartes and Leibniz as well), the basis for our belief that we live in a world of material things, causation, the fundamental difference between colours and shapes, the passage of time and our ability to live through it. While finding much to criticize, Bennett shows that we can learn much about these and other topics under the guidance and inspiration of the energy, courage, and insight of these three great British philosophers. (shrink)
Principles and the context, by J. C. Bennett.--Love monism, by J. M. Gustafson.--Responsibility in freedom, by E. C. Gardner.--The new morality, by G. Fackre.--When love becomes excarnate, by H. L. Smith.--Situational morality, by R. W. Gleason.--The nature of heresy, by G. Kennedy.--Situation ethics under fire, by J. Fletcher.
In this major new book, the internationally renowned thinker Jonathan Bennett offers a deeper understanding of what is going on in our own moral thoughts about human behavior. The Act Itself presents a conceptual analysis of descriptions of behavior on which we base our moral judgements, and shows that this analysis can be used as a means toward getting more control of our thoughts and thus of our lives.
In order to make progress towards a better world we need to learn how to do it. And for that we need institutions of learning rationally designed and devoted to helping us solve our global problems, make progress towards a better world. It is just this that we lack at present. Our universities pursue knowledge. They are neither designed nor devoted to helping humanity learn how to tackle global problems — problems of living — in more intelligent, humane and effective (...) ways. That, this book argues, is the key disaster of our times, the crisis behind all the others: our failure to have developed our institutions of learning so that they are rationally organized to help us solve our problems of living — above all, our global problems. Having universities devoted almost exclusively to the pursuit of knowledge is a recipe for disaster. Scientific knowledge and technological know-how have unquestionably brought great benefits to humanity. But they have also made possible — even caused — our current global crises, above all the impending crisis of global warming. In this lucid and provocative book, Nicholas Maxwell argues convincingly that we need urgently to bring about a revolution in universities round the world so that their basic aim becomes wisdom, and not just knowledge. (shrink)
Nicholas Maxwell believes that while we have developed an excellent way of learning about the nature of the universe, we have so far failed in our attempts to apply this method to create a civilized world.
At present the basic intellectual aim of academic inquiry is to improve knowledge. Much of the structure, the whole character, of academic inquiry, in universities all over the world, is shaped by the adoption of this as the basic intellectual aim. But, judged from the standpoint of making a contribution to human welfare, academic inquiry of this type is damagingly irrational. Three of four of the most elementary rules of rational problem-solving are violated. A revolution in the aims and methods (...) of academic inquiry is needed so that the basic aim becomes to promote wisdom, conceived of as the capacity to realize what is of value, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides. This urgently needed revolution would affect every branch and aspect of the academic enterprise. (shrink)
In this article I reply to comments made by Agustin Vicente and Giridhari Lal Pandit on Science and the Pursuit of Wisdom (McHenry 2009 ). I criticize analytic philosophy, go on to expound the argument for the need for a revolution in academic inquiry so that the basic aim becomes wisdom and not just knowledge, defend aim-oriented empiricism, outline my solution to the human world/physical universe problem, and defend the thesis that free will is compatible with physicalism.
In this paper I argue for a priori conjectural scientific knowledge about the world. Physics persistently only accepts unified theories, even though endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available. This persistent preference for unified theories, against empirical considerations, means that physics makes a substantial, persistent metaphysical assumption, to the effect that the universe has a (more or less) unified dynamic structure. In order to clarify what this assumption amounts to, I solve the problem of what it means (...) to say of a theory that it is unified. There are, I argue, eight different kinds of unity important in theoretical physics, all varieties of one basic idea. This provides us with a precise way of partially ordering physical theories with respect to their degree of unity. It also leads to a hierarchical view of physics, according to which physics makes a number of increasingly insubstantial metaphysical assumptions concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. Two of these are identified as constituting a priori conjectures. I conclude by arguing that the view developed in the paper resolves the traditional clash between empiricism and rationalism in the philosophy of science, and has important implications for science, and for academic inquiry more generally. (shrink)
This paper considers objections to Popper's views on scientific method. It is argued that criticism of Popper's views, developed by Kuhn, Feyerabend, and Lakatos, are not too damaging, although they do require that Popper's views be modified somewhat. It is argued that a much more serious criticism is that Popper has failed to provide us with any reason for holding that the methodological rules he advocates give us a better hope of realizing the aims of science than any other set (...) of rules. Consequently, Popper cannot adequately explain why we should value scientific theories more than other sorts of theories ; which in turn means that Popper fails to solve adequately his fundamental problem, namely the problem of demarcation. It is suggested that in order to get around this difficulty we need to take the search for explanations as a fundamental aim of science. (shrink)
Dualists think that not all the facts are physical facts. They think that there are facts about phenomenal consciousness that cannot be explained in purely physical terms—facts about what it’s like to see red, what it’s like to feel sandpaper, what it’s like to run 10 miles when it’s 15° F out, and so on. These phenomenal facts are genuine ‘extras’, not fixed by the physical facts and the physical laws. To use the standard metaphor: even after God settled the (...) physical facts and laws, he had more work to do to put the phenomenal facts in place. Some dualists think that the additional work involves the creation of a special kind of nonphysical substance. More common these days are dualists who think that the additional work merely involves the creation and positioning of special nonphysical properties, and that is the only form of dualism that I will be explicitly concerned with here. The property dualist’s claim is that phenomenal properties, or at least protophenomenal properties, are among the basic furniture of the world. (shrink)
The basic form of the exclusion problem is by now very, very familiar. 2 Start with the claim that the physical realm is causally complete: every physical thing that happens has a sufficient physical cause. Add in the claim that the mental and the physical are distinct. Toss in some claims about overdetermination, give it a stir, and voilá—suddenly it looks as though the mental never causes anything, at least nothing physical. As it is often put, the physical does all (...) the work, and there is nothing left for the mental to do. (shrink)
Cosmological speculation about the ultimate nature of the universe, being necessary for science to be possible at all, must be regarded as a part of scientific knowledge itself, however epistemologically unsound it may be in other respects. The best such speculation available is that the universe is comprehensible in some way or other and, more specifically, in the light of the immense apparent success of modern natural science, that it is physically comprehensible. But both these speculations may be false; in (...) order to take this possibility into account, we need to adopt an hierarchy of increasingly contentless cosmological conjectures until we arrive at the conjecture that the universe is such that it is possible for us to acquire some knowledge of something, a conjecture which we are justified in accepting as knowledge since doing so cannot harm the pursuit of knowledge in any circumstances whatsoever. As a result of adopting such an hierarchy of increasingly contentless cosmological conjectures in this way, we maximize our chances of adopting conjectures that promote the growth of knowledge, and minimize our chances of taking some cosmological assumption for granted that is false and impedes the growth of knowledge. The hope is that as we increase our knowledge about the world we improve (lower level) cosmological assumptions implicit in our methods, and thus in turn improve our methods. As a result of improving our knowledge we improve our knowledge about how to improve knowledge. Science adapts its own nature to what it learns about the nature of the universe, thus increasing its capacity to make progress in knowledge about the world. This aim-oriented empiricist conception of science solves outstanding problems in the philosophy of science such as the problems of induction, simplicity and verisimilitude. (shrink)
Much of my working life has been devoted to trying to get across the point that we urgently need to bring about a revolution in the aims and methods of academic inquiry, so that the basic aim becomes to seek and promote wisdom rather than just acquire knowledge.
In this paper I outline my propensiton version of quantum theory (PQT). PQT is a fully micro-realistic version of quantum theory that provides us with a very natural possible solution to the fundamental wave/particle problem, and is free of the severe defects of orthodox quantum theory (OQT) as a result. PQT makes sense of the quantum world. PQT recovers all the empirical success of OQT and is, furthermore, empirically testable (although not as yet tested). I argue that Einstein almost put (...) forward this version of quantum theory in 1916/17 in his papers on spontaneous and induced radiative transitions, but retreated from doing so because he disliked the probabilistic character of the idea. Subsequently, the idea was overlooked because debates about quantum theory polarised into the Bohr/Heisenberg camp, which argued for the abandonment of realism and determinism, and the Einstein/Schrödinger camp, which argued for the retention of realism and determinism, no one, as a result, pursuing the most obvious option of retaining realism but abandoning determinism. It is this third, overlooked option that leads to PQT. PQT has implications for quantum field theory, the standard model, string theory, and cosmology. The really important point, however, is that it is experimentally testable. I indicate two experiments in principle capable of deciding between PQT and OQT. (shrink)
THE aim of this paper is to refute Hume's contention that there cannot be logically necessary connections between successive events. I intend to establish, in other words, not 'Logically necessary connections do exist between successive events', but instead the rather more modest proposition: 'It may be, it is possible, as far as we can ever know for certain, that logically necessary connections do exist between successive events.' Towards the end of the paper I shall say something about the implications of (...) rejecting Hume's contention. (shrink)
In this three-part paper, my concern is to expound and defend a conception of science, close to Einstein's, which I call aim-oriented empiricism. I argue that aim-oriented empiricsim has the following virtues. (i) It solve the problem of induction; (ii) it provides decisive reasons for rejecting van Fraassen's brilliantly defended but intuitively implausible constructive empiricism; (iii) it solves the problem of verisimilitude, the problem of explicating what it can mean to speak of scientific progress given that science advances from one (...) false theory to another; (iv) it enables us to hold that appropriate scientific theories, even though false, can nevertheless legitimately be interpreted realistically, as providing us with genuine , even if only approximate, knowledge of unobservable physical entities; (v) it provies science with a rational, even though fallible and non-mechanical, method for the discovery of fundamental new theories in physics. In the third part of the paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years. (shrink)