Naturalization: Scientific Theory Appraisal and the Warrant of Physicalism

Dissertation, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey - New Brunswick (1997)

Carl Gillett
Northern Illinois University
My thesis addresses the status of 'naturalizations' of intentionality and the recent debate about their importance. After formulating an account of scientific theory appraisal I argue, contrary to recent critics of naturalization, that there is a place for the use of 'interlevel' properties in assessing scientific theories, but that this takes a more modest form than that assumed by the physicalist proponents of naturalization. Although I argue that we should be agnostic about the truth of the physicalist account of scientific methodology recently used to justify naturalizing theories of intentionality, I show that such accounts are nonetheless important on the more minimal view of theory appraisal that I defend. ;The orthodox philosophical position about scientific theory appraisal is 'methodological physicalism' , which takes scientists to evaluate theories using a 'Physicalist Criterion'. Recent critics of MP have offered an alternative view of scientific theory appraisal which I call 'explanationism' . This position claims that scientific theories are only evaluated by their properties within their own domain of inquiry. Using E, these critics attack the projects pursued by supporters of MP, such as naturalizations, as philosophical impositions upon the sciences. ;To illuminate this debate I examine the relationships that hold between theories in different scientific domains. I outline an 'abstract' framework for theory appraisal using such interlevel properties, which I call 'minimal appraisal'. I argue that minimal appraisal has an obvious a priori justification which provides a straightforward a priori argument against E. After examining a posteriori historical evidence, I conclude that it supports the a priori argument against E and that we should reject explanationism. Using the same historical evidence I then argue that use of the Physicalist Criterion in explanations of historical cases is presently a 'Third Wheel', superfluous to the best explanation of these cases based upon minimal appraisal. I conclude that we should be agnostic about the truth of MP as an account of scientific practice. Finally, I argue that minimal appraisal leaves a methodological role for naturalizing theories of belief content, as a historically common form of vindicatory scientific theory
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