Constructive empiricism, the view introduced in The Scientific Image, is a view of science, an answer to the question "what is science?" Arthur Fine's and Paul Teller's contributions to this symposium challenge especially two key ideas required to formulate that view, namely the observable/unobservable and acceptance/belief distinctions. I wish to thank them not only for their insightful critique but also for the support they include. For they illuminate and counter some misunderstandings of Constructive Empiricism along the way. That (...) leaves me free to focus on those two main challenges. (shrink)
This paper traces the ancestry of a familiar historiographical narrative, according to which early modern philosophy was marked by the development of empiricism, rationalism, and their synthesis by Immanuel Kant. It is often claimed that this narrative became standard in the nineteenth century, due to the influence of Thomas Reid, Kant and his disciples, or German Hegelians and British Idealists. The paper argues that the narrative became standard only at the turn of the twentieth century. This was not due (...) to the influence of Reid, German Hegelians, or British Idealists as they did not endorse the narrative, although Thomas Hill Green may have facilitated its uptake. The narrative is based on Kant’s historiographical sketches, as corrected and integrated by Karl Leonhard Reinhold. It was first fleshed out into full-fledged histories by two Kantians, Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann and Johann Gottlieb Buhle. Numerous historians, several of whom were not Kantians, spread it in the English-speaking world. They include Kuno Fischer, Friedrich Ueberweg, Richard Falckenberg, and Wilhelm Windelband. However, the wide availability of their works did not suffice to make the narrative standard because, until the 1890s, the Hegelian account was at least as popular as theirs. Among the factors that allowed the narrative to become standard are its aptness to be adopted by philosophers of the most diverse persuasions, its simplicity and suitability for teaching. (shrink)
It is argued that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Bas van Fraassen nowhere uses the argument from underdetermination in his argument for constructive empiricism. It is explained that van Fraassen’s use of the notion of empirical equivalence in The Scientific Image has been widely misunderstood. A reconstruction of the main arguments for constructive empiricism is offered, showing how the passages that have been taken to be part of an appeal to the argument from underdetermination should actually be interpreted.
Modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas. One is a belief in some fundamental cleavage between truths which are analytic, or grounded in meanings independently of matters of fact, and truth which are synthetic, or grounded in fact. The other dogma is reductionism: the belief that each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience. Both dogmas, I shall argue, are ill founded. One effect of abandoning them is, (...) as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. Another effect is a shift toward pragmatism. (shrink)
In artificial intelligence, recent research has demonstrated the remarkable potential of Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs), which seem to exceed state-of-the-art performance in new domains weekly, especially on the sorts of very difficult perceptual discrimination tasks that skeptics thought would remain beyond the reach of artificial intelligence. However, it has proven difficult to explain why DCNNs perform so well. In philosophy of mind, empiricists have long suggested that complex cognition is based on information derived from sensory experience, often appealing to (...) a faculty of abstraction. Rationalists have frequently complained, however, that empiricists never adequately explained how this faculty of abstraction actually works. In this paper, I tie these two questions together, to the mutual benefit of both disciplines. I argue that the architectural features that distinguish DCNNs from earlier neural networks allow them to implement a form of hierarchical processing that I call “transformational abstraction”. Transformational abstraction iteratively converts sensory-based representations of category exemplars into new formats that are increasingly tolerant to “nuisance variation” in input. Reflecting upon the way that DCNNs leverage a combination of linear and non-linear processing to efficiently accomplish this feat allows us to understand how the brain is capable of bi-directional travel between exemplars and abstractions, addressing longstanding problems in empiricist philosophy of mind. I end by considering the prospects for future research on DCNNs, arguing that rather than simply implementing 80s connectionism with more brute-force computation, transformational abstraction counts as a qualitatively distinct form of processing ripe with philosophical and psychological significance, because it is significantly better suited to depict the generic mechanism responsible for this important kind of psychological processing in the brain. (shrink)
Realism and empiricism have always been contradictory tendencies in the philosophy of science. The view I will sketch is a synthesis, which I call Contrastive Empiricism. Realism and empiricism are incompatible, so a synthesis that merely conjoined them would be a contradiction. Rather, I propose to isolate important elements in each and show that they combine harmoniously. I will leave behind what I regard as confusions and excesses. The result, I hope, will be neither contradiction nor mishmash.
In this paper we suggest a revisionist perspective on two significant figures in early modern life science and philosophy: William Harvey and John Locke. Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, is often named as one of the rare representatives of the ‘life sciences’ who was a major figure in the Scientific Revolution. While this status itself is problematic, we would like to call attention to a different kind of problem: Harvey dislikes abstraction and controlled experiments (aside from (...) the ligature experiment in De Motu Cordis), tends to dismiss the value of instruments such as the microscope, and emphasizes instead the privileged status of ‘observed experience’. To use a contemporary term, Harvey appears to rely on, and chiefly value, ‘tacit knowledge’. Secondly, Locke’s project is often explained with reference to the image he uses in the Epistle to the Reader of his Essay, that he was an “underlabourer” of the sciences. In fact, despite the significant medical phase of his career, Locke’s ‘empiricism’ turns out to be above all a practical (i.e. ‘moral’) project, which focuses on the delimitation of our powers in order to achieve happiness, and rejects the possibility of naturalizing knowledge. When combined, these two cases suggest a different view of some canonical moments in early modern natural philosophy. (shrink)
Concepts are the constituents of thoughts. Therefore, concepts are vital to any theory of cognition. However, despite their widely accepted importance, there is little consensus about the nature and origin of concepts. Thanks to the work of Lawrence Barsalou, Jesse Prinz and others concept empiricism has been gaining momentum within the philosophy and psychology literature. Concept empiricism maintains that all concepts are copies, or combinations of copies, of perceptual representations—that is, all concepts are couched in the codes of (...) perceptual representation systems. It is widely agreed that any satisfactory theory of concepts must account for how concepts semantically compose (the compositionality requirement) and explain how their intentional content is determined (the content determination requirement). In this paper, I argue that concept empiricism has serious problems satisfying these two requirements. Therefore, although stored perceptual representations may facilitate some traditionally conceptual tasks, concepts should not be identified with copies of perceptual representations. (shrink)
Concept empiricists are committed to the claim that the vehicles of thought are re-activated perceptual representations. Evidence for empiricism comes from a range of neuroscientific studies showing that perceptual regions of the brain are employed during cognitive tasks such as categorization and inference. I examine the extant neuroscientific evidence and argue that it falls short of establishing this core empiricist claim. During conceptual tasks, the causal structure of the brain produces widespread activity in both perceptual and non-perceptual systems. I (...) lay out several conditions on what is required for a neural state to be a realizer of the functional role played by concepts, and argue that no subset of this activity can be singled out as the unique neural vehicle of conceptual thought. Finally, I suggest that, while the strongest form of empiricism is probably false, the evidence is consistent with several weaker forms of empiricism. (shrink)
This book offers a novel account of the relationship of experience to knowledge. The account builds on the intuitive idea that our ordinary perceptual judgments are not autonomous, that an interdependence obtains between our view of the world and our perceptual judgments. Anil Gupta shows in this important study that this interdependence is the key to a satisfactory account of experience. He uses tools from logic and the philosophy of language to argue that his account of experience makes available an (...) attractive and feasible empiricism. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Constructive Empiricism (CE) is ambiguous between two interpretations: CE as a normative epistemology of science and CE as a descriptive philosophy of science. When they present CE, constructive empiricists write as if CE is supposed to be more than a normative epistemology of science and that it is meant to be responsible to actual scientific practices. However, when they respond to objections, constructive empiricists fall back on a strictly normative interpretation of CE. This (...) ambiguity seems to make CE immune to objections in a rather ad hoc fashion. (shrink)
One important debate between scientific realists and constructive empiricists concerns whether we observe things using instruments. This paper offers a new perspective on the debate over instruments by looking to recent discussion in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Realists often speak of instruments as ‘extensions’ to our senses. I ask whether the realist may strengthen her view by drawing on the extended mind thesis. Proponents of the extended mind thesis claim that cognitive processes can sometimes extend beyond our brains (...) and bodies into the environment. I suggest that the extended mind thesis offers a way to make sense of realists’ talk of instruments as extensions to the senses and that it provides the realist with a new argument against the constructive empiricist view of instruments. (shrink)
Vitalism, from its early modern to its Enlightenment forms (from Glisson and Willis to La Caze and Barthez), is notoriously opposed to intervention into the living sphere. Experiment, quantification, measurement are all ‘vivisectionist’, morally suspect and worse, they alter and warp the ‘life’ of the subject. They are good for studying corpses, not living individuals. This much is well known, and it has disqualified vitalist medicine from having a place in standard histories of medicine, until recent, post-Foucauldian maneuvers have sought (...) to change the situation (but for unrelated, contextualist reasons). What is perhaps more suprising is that if we consider the emergence of medical ‘theory’ as a whole, from Harvey through to Locke and Sydenham, is the presence of a sustained anti-experimentalist line of argument, and this from the ‘empiricist’ (not Cartesian or Boerhaavian rationalist) side. It would seem then that ‘empiricks’, medical empiricists and other protagonists of an ‘embodied empiricism’ are not Boylean experimentalists who seek to map out Nature in its transparency, but deliberately archaic, Hippocratic observers of living bodies. (shrink)
Logical Empiricism is commonly regarded as uninterested in, if not hostile to sociological investigations of science. This paper reconstructs the views of Otto Neurath and Philipp Frank on the legitimacy and relevance of sociological investigations of theory choice. It is argued that while there obtains a surprising degree of convergence between their programmatic pronouncements and the Strong Programme, the two types of project nevertheless remain distinct. The key to this differences lies in the different assessment of a supposed dilemma (...) facing post-Mertonian sociologists of science. (shrink)
Two aspects of Peirce’s mature philosophy seem to me not to have been sufficiently appreciated. They are its empiricist method and its continuity with his scientific research. The research led to and justified the method.1Ground must be cleared before we can proceed. Simplistic ideas of the empirical must be swept aside and Peirce’s empiricism accurately identified. We must also distinguish two theories of meaning that have been associated with empiricist philosophies and show that Peirce combined them ; this will (...) be essential to Section 6. Only then can we get down to work. Peirce’s experimental and other studies of observation showed that a science of.. (shrink)
: A central claim of Longino's contextual empiricism is that scientific inquiry, even when "properly conducted", lacks the capacity to screen out the influence of contextual values on its results. I'll show first that Longino's attack against the epistemic integrity of science suffers from fatal empirical weaknesses. Second I'll explain why Longino's practical proposition for suppressing biases in science, drawn from her contextual empiricism, is too demanding and, therefore, unable to serve its purpose. Finally, drawing on Bourdieu's sociological (...) analysis of scientific communities, I'll sketch an alternative view of scientific practice reconciling a thoroughly social view of science (such as Longino's) with a defense of its epistemic integrity. (shrink)
This paper considers future directions of empirical research in business ethics and presents a series of recommendations. Greater emphasis should be placed on the normative basis of empirical studies, behavior (rather than attitudes) should be established as the key dependent variable, theoretical models of ethical decision making should be tested, and empirical studies need to focus on theory-building. Extensions of methodology and the unit of analysis are proposed together with recommendations concerning the need for replication and validity, and building links (...) to managerial and public policy applications. (shrink)
Einstein acknowledged that his reading of Hume influenced the development of his special theory of relativity. In this article, I juxtapose Hume’s philosophy with Einstein’s philosophical analysis related to his special relativity. I argue that there are two common points to be found in their writings, namely an empiricist theory of ideas and concepts, and a relationist ontology regarding space and time. The main thesis of this article is that these two points are intertwined in Hume and Einstein.
Several scholars have criticized the histories of early modern philosophy based on the dichotomy of empiricism and rationalism. They view them as overestimating the importance of epistemological issues for early modern philosophers (epistemological bias), portraying Kant's Critical philosophy as a superior alternative to empiricism and rationalism (Kantian bias), and forcing most or all early modern thinkers prior to Kant into the empiricist or rationalist camps (classificatory bias). Kant is often said to be the source of the three biases. (...) Against this criticism, this paper argues that Kant did not have the three biases. However, he promoted a way of writing histories of philosophy from which those biases would naturally flow. (shrink)
Some versions of empiricism have been accused of being neither empirically confirmable nor analytically true and therefore meaningless or unknowable by their own lights. Carnap, and more recently van Fraassen, have responded to this objection by construing empiricism as a stance containing non-cognitive attitudes. The resulting stance empiricism is not subject to the norms of knowledge, and so does not self-defeat as per the objection. In response to this proposal, several philosophers have argued that if empiricism (...) is a stance, then there can be no distinctively epistemic reasons in favor of adopting it, but only prudential or moral reasons. I defend stance empiricism against this objection by showing that stance empiricism furthers many plausibly epistemic goals, such as false belief avoidance, wisdom, and justification. I respond to three objections to my argument: that I assume a conception of epistemic reason that leads to problematic tradeoffs, that to have epistemic reason is just to be epistemically justified, and that my premise that experience is the only source of information has no empirical content. (shrink)
Hume sought to analyse our propositionally-structured thought in terms of our ultimate awareness of nothing but objects, sensory impressions or their imagistic copies, The ideas of space and time are often regarded as exceptions to his Copy Theory of impressions and ideas. On grounds strictly internal to Humes account of the generality of thought. This ultimately reveals the limits of the Copy Theory and of Concept Empiricism. The key is to recognise how very capacious is our (Humean) imaginative capacity (...) to associate particular perceptions by various fine-grained determinable resemblances. (shrink)
After introducing the empiricist point of view in philosophy of science, and the concepts and methods of the semantic approach to scientific theories, van Fraassen discusses quantum theory in three stages. He first examines the question of whether and how empirical phenomena require a non-classical theory, and what sort of theory they require. He then discusses the mathematical foundations of quantum theory with special reference to developments in the modelling of interaction, composite systems, and measurement. Finally, the author broaches the (...) main questions of interpretation. After offering a critique of earlier interpretations, he develops a new one--the modal interpretation--which attempts to stay close to the original Copenhagen ideas without implying a radical incompleteness in quantum theory. He again gives special attention to the character of composite, many-body systems and especially to the peculiar character of assemblies of identical particles in quantum statistics. (shrink)
constructive empiricism asserts that it is not for science to reach a verdict on whether a theory is true or false, if the theory is about unobservable entities; science's only interest here, says Van Fraassen, is to discover whether the theory is ‘empirically adequate’. However, if a theory is soley about observables, empirical adequacy and truth are said to ‘coincide’, here discovering the theory's truth value is an appropriate scientific goal. Constructive empiricism thus rests an epistemological thesis on (...) a semantical distinction. This paper critically examines the notion of aboutness and its epistemological significance. * I am grateful to members of my philosophy of science seminar during Spring, 1983 for useful discussion and to the two anonymous referees of this journal for providing helpful suggestions. I also thank the University of Wisconsin, Madison Graduate School for support in the form of a Romnes Faculty Fellowship. (shrink)
There is an enduring story about empiricism, which runs as follows: from Locke onwards to Carnap, empiricism is the doctrine in which raw sense-data are received through the passive mechanism of perception; experience is the effect produced by external reality on the mind or ‘receptors’. Empiricism on this view is the ‘handmaiden’ of experimental natural science, seeking to redefine philosophy and its methods in conformity with the results of modern science. Secondly, there is a story about materialism, (...) popularized initially by Marx and Engels and later restated as standard, ‘textbook’ history of philosophy in the English-speaking world. It portrays materialism as explicitly mechanistic, seeking to reduce the world of qualities, sensations, and purposive behaviour to a quantitative, usually deterministic physical scheme. Building on some recent scholarship, I aim to articulate the contrarian view according to which neither of these stories is true. On the contrary, empiricism turns out to be less ‘science-friendly’ and more concerned with moral matters; materialism reveals itself to be, in at least a large number of cases, a ‘vital’, anti-mechanistic doctrine which focuses on the unique properties of organic beings. This revision of two key philosophical episodes should reveal that our history of early modern philosophy is dependent to a great extent on ‘special interests’, whether positivistic or Kantian, and by extension lead us to rethink the relation and distinction between ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ in this period. (shrink)
This paper makes three points: First, empiricism as a stance is problematic unless criteria for evaluating the stance are provided. Second, Van Fraassen conceives of the empiricist stance as receiving its content, at least in part, from the rejection of metaphysics. But the rejection of metaphysics seems to presuppose for its justification the very empiricist doctrine Van Fraassen intends to replace with the empiricist stance. Third, while I agree with Van Fraassen’s endorsement of voluntarism, I raise doubts about the (...) possibility of defending voluntarism without engaging in the kind of metaphysics Van Fraassen rejects. (shrink)
Van Fraassen defines constructive empiricism as the view that science aims to produce empirically adequate theories. But this account has been misunderstood. Constructive empiricism in not, as it seems, a description of the intentional features of scientific practice, nor is it a normative prescription for their revision. It is rather a fiction about the practice of science that van Fraassen displays in the interests of a broader empiricism. The paper concludes with a series of arguments designed to (...) show that constructive empiricism so understood is self-undermining. (shrink)
En este breve comentario discuto algunos aspectos de la interpretación de la epistemología de Davidson que sugiere Willian Duica en su reciente libro. Luego de una presentación somera del libro me centro en tres asuntos centrales de la interpretación de Duica. En primer lugar, argumento que su lectura de la crítica de Davidson al dualismo esquema/contenido es muy restrictiva y deja abierta la posibilidad de un realismo directo empirista. En segundo lugar, argumento que en su lectura el propio Duica se (...) compromete inadvertidamente con un empirismo de este tipo y, de este modo, su interpretación entra en tensión con el coherentismo de Davidson. Finalmente, discuto algunos aspectos de la interpretación que hace Duica de la tesis davidsoniana de la triangulación. In this short comment I discuss some aspects of William Duica's interpretation of Davidson's epistemology in a recent book. After a brief review of the book, I focus on three central issues of Duica's interpretation. First, I argue that his reading of Davidson's criticism of the scheme/content dualism is too restrictive and leaves open the possibility of an empiricist direct realism. Second, I argue in his reading Duica inadvertently commits himself to an empiricism of this sort and, as a result, his interpretation is in tension with Davidson's own coherentism. Finally, I discuss some aspects of Duica's interpretation of Davidsonian triangulation. (shrink)
According to modal empiricism, our justification for believing possibility and necessity claims is a posteriori. That is, experience does not merely play an enabling role in modal justification; it isn’t simply that experience explains how, say, we acquire the relevant concepts. Rather, the view is that modal claims answer to the tribunal of experience in roughly the way that claims about quarks and quails answer to it. One serious objection to modal empiricism is the problem of empirical conservativeness: (...) it doesn’t seem that experience can distinguish between modal claims. And if experience can’t manage that, it’s hard to see how it can provide evidence for one claim over the other. So if modal empiricism is true, we ought to be modal skeptics. On the assumption that we shouldn’t be modal skeptics, we should reject modal empiricism. I have two aims here: first, to reply to this objection to modal empiricism; second, to sketch a modal epistemology that fits with the reply I offer. (shrink)
Leading philosophers from both sides of the Atlantic present essays on Wilfrid Sellars's Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, one of the crowning achievements of 20th-century analytic philosophy. They discuss empiricism, perception, epistemology, realism, and normativity, showing how vibrant Sellarsian philosophy remains in the 21st century.
A new direction in philosophy Between 1920 and 1940 logical empiricism reset the direction of philosophy of science and much of the rest of Anglo-American philosophy. It began as a relatively organized movement centered on the Vienna Circle, and like-minded philosophers elsewhere, especially in Berlin. As Europe drifted into the Nazi era, several important figures, especially Carnap and Neurath, also found common ground in their liberal politics and radical social agenda. Together, the logical empiricists set out to reform traditional (...) philosophy with a new set of doctrines more firmly grounded in logic and science. Criticism and decline Because of Nazi persecution, most of the European adherents of logical empiricism moved to the United States in the late 1930s. During the 1940s, many of their most cherished tenets became targets of criticism from outsiders as well as from within their own ranks. Philosophers of science in the late 1950s and 1960s rejected logical empiricism and, starting in the 1970s, presented such alternative programs such as scientific realism with evolutionary epistemology. A resurgence of interest During the early 1980s, philosophers and historians of philosophy began to study logical empiricism as an important movement. Unlike their predecessors in the 1960s-for whom the debate over logical empiricism now seems to have been largely motivated by professional politics-these philosopher no longer have to take positions for or against logical empiricism. The result has been a more balanced view of that movement, its achievements, its failures, and its influence. Hard-to-find core writings now available This collection makes available a selection of the most influential and representative writings of the logical empiricists, important contemporary criticisms of their doctrines, their responses, as well as the recent reappraisals. Introductions to each volume examine the articles in historical context and provide importantbackground information that is vital to a full understanding of the issues discussed. They outline prevalent trends, identifying leading figures and summarize their positions and reasoning, as well as those of opposing thinkers. (shrink)