Cognitive Values, Theory Choice, and Pluralism: On the Grounds and Implications of Philosophical Diversity

Dissertation, University of Hawai'i (1991)

Guy Axtell
Radford University
This dissertation focuses on the development of a pragmatic account of normative discourse. The approach taken to the subject of study is metaphilosophical. Prevalent contemporary treatments of norm governance and cognitive evaluation, are examined in light of background metaphilosophical views adopted by such schools as logical empiricism, pragmatism, and schools associated with contemporary sociology of scientific knowledge. I examine metaphilosophical assumptions that pre-structure treatment of conceptual issues such as belief-modification, theory choice, and explanation, pursuing these issues across a wide range of disciplines including ethics, jurisprudence, and philosophy of science. The pragmatist account of 'inquiry as essentially normative' is developed, and utilized as grounds for a double-edged criticism of both contemporary objectivist and relativist treatment of these conceptual issues. This pragmatist account differs substantially in its conception of the relationship between facts and values--or the natural and the normative dimensions of meaning--from both logical empiricist and radical historicist accounts. Explicating these significant differences, I argue, leads towards confronting objectivism and relativism on the 'higher level' of values and meanings on which their polarity is motivated. The pragmatic conception of normative discourse that I develop as grounds for reconciliation, accounts for philosophical diversity by way of the possible variability in valuative orientations taken towards explanation of human decisions and discourse. Yet the methodological pluralism of the pragmatist school, I conclude, instantiates a philosophy of explanation in the human sciences that differs substantially from those that noted recent proponents of objectivism and radical historicism have embraced
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