What's really wrong with Laudan's normative naturalism

Abstract

The article presents a critical discussion of Larry Laudan's naturalistic metamethodological theory known as normative naturalism (NN). I examine the strongest extant objection to NN, and, with reference to ideas in Freedman ( Philosophy of Science , 66 (Proceedings), pp. S526-S537, 1999), show how NN survives it. I then go on to outline two problems that really do compromise NN. The first revolves around Laudan's conception of the relationship between scientific values and the history of science. Laudan argues we can make sense of progress in science without seeing great scientists in the past as having held the cognitive values and methodological rules we hold today as important for science. I argue this is extremely implausible, and moreover that Laudan must see our values today as justified by reference to the values of past scientists if he is to avoid a pernicious form of relativism. The second problem with NN is that its conception of methodological rules--as hypothetical imperatives linking cognitive means to ends--is untenable. Such rules would not be needed in a scientific community; moreover it is doubtful whether they should class as rules at all. I conclude by suggesting that the distinction between cognitive means and ends which undergirds Laudan's view is intuitively not well founded, and in any case does not provide sufficient materials for a viable normative naturalized epistemology.

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References found in this work

Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge.Imre Lakatos & Alan Musgrave (eds.) - 1970 - Cambridge University Press.
Against Method.Paul Feyerabend - 1975 - London: New Left Books.
Against Method.P. Feyerabend - 1975 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 26 (4):331-342.
History of Science and Its Rational Reconstructions.Imre Lakatos - 1970 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1970:91-136.

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Citations of this work

Normative Naturalism and Epistemic Relativism.Karyn L. Freedman - 2006 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 20 (3):309 – 322.
Normative Naturalism and the Relativised a Priori.Dan McArthur - 2005 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 36 (2):331 - 350.
Normative Naturalism and the Relativised A Priori.Dan McArthur - 2005 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 36 (2):331-350.

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