Scientific perspectivism in the phenomenological tradition


In current debates, many philosophers of science have sympathies for the project of introducing a new approach to the scientific realism debate that forges a middle way between traditional forms of scientific realism and anti-realism. One promising approach is perspectivism. Although different proponents of perspectivism differ in their respective characterizations of perspectivism, the common idea is that scientific knowledge is necessarily partial and incomplete. Perspectivism is a new position in current debates but it does have its forerunners. Figures that are typically mentioned in this context include Dewey, Feyerabend, Leibniz, Kant, Kuhn, and Putnam. Interestingly, to my knowledge, there exists no work that discusses similarities to the phenomenological tradition. This is surprising because here one can find systematically similar ideas and even a very similar terminology. It is startling because early modern physics was noticeably influenced by phenomenological ideas. And it is unfortunate because the analysis of perspectival approaches in the phenomenological tradition can help us to achieve a more nuanced understanding of different forms of perspectivism. The main objective of this paper is to show that in the phenomenological tradition one finds a well-elaborated philosophy of science that shares important similarities with current versions of perspectivism. Engaging with the phenomenological tradition is also of systematic value since it helps us to gain a better understanding of the distinctive claims of perspectivism and to distinguish various grades of perspectivism.

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Philipp Berghofer
University of Graz

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