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Profile: Robert Kowalenko (University of Witwatersrand)
  1.  54
    Robert Kowalenko (forthcoming). Thabo Mbeki, Postmodernism, and the Consequences. South African Journal of Philosophy.
    Explanations of former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s public and private views on the aetiology of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country remain partial at best without the recognition that the latter presuppose and imply a postmodernist/postcolonialist philosophy of science that erases the line separating the political from the scientific. Evidence from Mbeki’s public speeches, interviews, and private and anonymous writings suggests that it was postmodernist/postcolonialist theory that inspired him to doubt the “Western” scientific consensus on HIV/AIDS and to implement (...)
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  2. Robert Kowalenko (2012). Reply to Israel on the New Riddle of Induction. Philosophia 40 (3):549-552.
    Israel 2004 claims that numerous philosophers have misinterpreted Goodman’s original ‘New Riddle of Induction’, and weakened it in the process, because they do not define ‘grue’ as referring to past observations. Both claims are false: Goodman clearly took the riddle to concern the maximally general problem of “projecting” any type of characteristic from a given realm of objects into another, and since this problem subsumes Israel’s, Goodman formulated a stronger philosophical challenge than the latter surmises.
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  3. Robert Kowalenko (2011). The Epistemology of Hedged Laws. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 42 (3):445-452.
    Standard objections to the notion of a hedged, or ceteris paribus, law of nature usually boil down to the claim that such laws would be either 1) irredeemably vague, 2) untestable, 3) vacuous, 4) false, or a combination thereof. Using epidemiological studies in nutrition science as an example, I show that this is not true of the hedged law-like generalizations derived from data models used to interpret large and varied sets of empirical observations. Although it may be ‘in principle impossible’ (...)
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  4.  98
    Robert Kowalenko (2014). Ceteris Paribus Laws: A Naturalistic Account. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (2):133-155.
    An otherwise lawlike generalisation hedged by a ceteris paribus (CP) clause qualifies as a law of nature, if the CP clause can be substituted with a set of conditions derived from the multivariate regression model used to interpret the empirical data in support of the gen- eralisation. Three studies in human biology that use regression analysis are surveyed, showing that standard objections to cashing out CP clauses in this way—based on alleged vagueness, vacuity, or lack of testability—do not apply. CP (...)
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  5.  73
    Robert Kowalenko (2009). How (Not) to Think About Idealisation and Ceteris Paribus -Laws. Synthese 167 (1):183 - 201.
    Semantic dispositionalism is the theory that a speaker’s meaning something by a given linguistic symbol is determined by her dispositions to use the symbol in a certain way. According to an objection by Saul Kripke, further elaborated in Kusch (2005), semantic dispositionalism involves ceteris paribus-clauses and idealisations, such as unbounded memory, that deviate from standard scientific methodology. I argue that Kusch misrepresents both ceteris paribus-laws and idealisation, neither of which factually approximate the behaviour of agents or the course of events, (...)
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  6.  21
    Robert Kowalenko (2015). Nkandla and Affirmative Action. Business Day:13.
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  7. Robert Kowalenko (2009). How to Think About Idealisation and Ceteris Paribus-Laws. Synthese 167 (1):183-201.
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  8. Robert Kowalenko (2011). The Epistemology of Hedged Laws. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (3):445-452.
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  9. Robert Kowalenko (2003). The Goodman-Kripke Paradox. Dissertation, King's College London
    The Kripke/Wittgenstein paradox and Goodman’s riddle of induction can be construed as problems of multiple redescription, where the relevant sceptical challenge is to provide factual grounds justifying the description we favour. A choice of description or predicate, in turn, is tantamount to the choice of a curve over a set of data, a choice apparently governed by implicitly operating constraints on the relevant space of possibilities. Armed with this analysis of the two paradoxes, several realist solutions of Kripke’s (...) are examined that appeal to dispositions or other non-occurrent properties. It is found that all neglect crucial epistemological issues: the entities typically appealed to are not observational and must be inferred on the basis of observed entities or events; yet, the relevant sceptical challenge concerns precisely the factual basis on which this inference is made and the constraints operating on it. All disposition ascriptions, the thesis goes on to argue, contain elements of idealization. To ward off the danger of vacuity resulting from the fact that any disposition ascription is true under just the right ideal conditions, dispositional theories need to specify limits on legitimate forms of idealization. This is best done by construing disposition ascriptions as forms of (implicit) curve-fitting, I argue, where the “data” is not necessarily numeric, and the “curve” fitted not necessarily graphic. This brings us full circle: Goodman’s and Kripke’s problems are problems concerning curve-fitting, and the solutions for it appeal to entities the postulation of which is the result of curve-fitting. The way to break the circle must come from a methodology governing the idealizations, or inferences to the best idealization, that are a part of curve-fitting. The thesis closes with an argument for why natural science cannot be expected to be of much help in this domain, given the ubiquity of idealization. (shrink)
     
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