Stances and Epistemology: Values, Pragmatics, and Rationality

Metaphilosophy 49 (4):521-547 (2018)
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Van Fraassen has argued that many philosophical positions should be understood as stances rather than factual beliefs. In this paper I discuss the vexed question of whether and how such stances can be rationally justified. Until this question has been satisfactorily answered, the otherwise promising stance approach cannot be considered a viable metaphilosophical option. One can find hints, and the beginnings of an answer to this question, in van Fraassen’s (and others’) writings, but no general, fully clear and convincing account has been offered. I aim to provide such an account. In the first section I introduce the concept of a stance. In the second section I argue that stances may be justified pragmatically, in terms of both their epistemic fruits, and their coherence with values. In the third section I further consider the relationship between stances and values, arguing that the value-ladenness of a stance does not render it immune to rational scrutiny. In the final section I look at van Fraassen’s version of epistemological voluntarism, which plays a central role in his conception of the basis on which a stance may be rationally adopted. I show that voluntarism provides a theoretical framework, and approach to epistemology, within which the forms of justification appropriate to stance choice I outline in sections 2 and 3 find a natural home.



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Sandy C. Boucher
University of New England (Australia)

Citations of this work

Stance Pluralism, Scientology and the Problem of Relativism.Ragnar van der Merwe - forthcoming - Foundations of Science: DOI: 10.1007/s10699-022-09882-w.

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References found in this work

Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized.James Ladyman & Don Ross - 2007 - In James Ladyman, Don Ross, David Spurrett & John Collier (eds.), Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized. Oxford University Press.
The Empirical Stance.Bas C. Van Fraassen - 2004 - New York: Yale University Press.
Belief and the Will.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (5):235-256.
Punctuated Equilibria: An Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism.Niles Eldredge & Stephen Jay Gould - 1972 - In Thomas J. M. Schopf (ed.), Models in Paleobiology. Freeman Cooper. pp. 82-115.
Problems of the Self.Bernard Williams - 1973 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 37 (3):551-551.

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