In Defence of Constructive Empiricism: Maxwell’s Master Argument and Aberrant Theories

F. A. Muller
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Over the past years, in books and journals , N. Maxwell launched a ferocious attack on B. C. van Fraassen's view of science called Constructive Empiricism . This attack has been totally ignored. Must we conclude from this silence that no defence is possible and that a fortiori Maxwell has buried CE once and for all? Or is the attack too obviously flawed as not to merit exposure? A careful dissection of Maxwell's reasoning will make it clear that neither is the case. This dissection includes an analysis of Maxwell's 'aberrance-argument' for the claim that science implicitly and permanently accepts a substantial, metaphysical thesis about the universe, which then paves the way for his own metaphysical-realist hierarchyview of science. This aberrance-claim, which Maxwell directs against a widely shared and harmful ideology of science called 'Standard Empiricism', generally has been ignored too, for more than a quarter of a century. Our conclusions will be that Maxwell's attacks on CE can be beaten off, and his 'aberrance-arguments' do not establish what Maxwell believes they establish, but we can draw a number of valuable lessons from these attacks about the nature of science and of the libertarian nature of CE
Keywords Constructive empiricism  Metaphysics  Science  Aberrant theories  Standard empiricism  Heraclitism  N. Maxwell  B. C. Van Fraassen
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DOI 10.1007/s10838-008-9065-x
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References found in this work BETA

Laws and Symmetry.Bas C. van Fraassen - 1989 - Oxford University Press.
The Scientific Image.C. Van Fraassen Bas - 1980 - Oxford University Press.
An Essay on Belief and Acceptance.L. Jonathan Cohen - 1992 - New York: Clarendon Press.
The Need for a Revolution in the Philosophy of Science.Nicholas Maxwell - 2002 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 33 (2):381-408.

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Citations of this work BETA

Why the Ultimate Argument for Scientific Realism Ultimately Fails.Moti Mizrahi - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (1):132-138.
The Problem of Unconceived Objections.Moti Mizrahi - 2014 - Argumentation 28 (4):425-436.
The “Positive Argument” for Constructive Empiricism and Inference to the Best Explanation.Moti Mizrahi - 2018 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 49 (3):461–466.

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Muller’s Critique of the Argument for Aim-Oriented Empiricism.Nicholas Maxwell - 2009 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 40 (1):103-114.
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