What is a philosophical stance? Paradigms, policies and perspectives

Synthese 191 (10):2315-2332 (2014)
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Abstract

Since van Fraassen first put forward the suggestive idea that many philosophical positions should be construed as ‘stances’ rather than factual beliefs, there have been various attempts to spell out precisely what a philosophical stance might be, and on what basis one should be adopted. In this paper I defend a particular account of stances, the view that they are pragmatically justified perspectives or ways of seeing the world, and compare it to some other accounts that have been offered. In Sect. 2 I consider van Fraassen’s argument for construing empiricism as a stance, and look at some responses to it. In Sect. 3 I outline my conception of stances as perspectives or ways of seeing, and explain how stances so understood may be justified. I illustrate this conception by way of a discussion of the model pluralist position with respect to the units of selection debate in biology, and suggest that on the model pluralist view different perspectives on the units of selection, such as the gene’s eye view, are in fact van Fraassian stances. In Sect. 4 I discuss the view put forward by Teller and Chakravartty among others that stances should be understood as epistemic policies, and argue that it is consistent with the conception of stances as perspectives. In the final section I criticise Rowbottom’s attempt to assimilate stances to Kuhnian paradigms. I argue that he has overlooked some important disanalogies between stances and paradigms, so that the comparison obscures more than it reveals.

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Sandy C. Boucher
University of New England (Australia)

References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Edited by Ian Hacking.
Criticism and the growth of knowledge.Imre Lakatos & Alan Musgrave (eds.) - 1970 - Cambridge [Eng.]: Cambridge University Press.
Verbal Disputes.David J. Chalmers - 2011 - Philosophical Review 120 (4):515-566.

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