Empiricism is the doctrine that all knowledge has a strictly observational basis. Rationalism is the doctrine that least some knowledge has non-observational, purely conceptual basis. In the present work, empiricism is carefully considered and found to have four dire shortcomings: -/- (1) Empiricism cannot account for our knowledge of what doesn't exist, let alone what cannot exist. -/- (2) Empiricism cannot account for our knowledge of dependence-relations, given (1), coupled with the fact that 'P depends on (...) Q' is equivalent with 'not-Q either necessitates or is dispositive of not-P.' -/- (3) Empiricism cannot account for our knowledge of the past, the future, or the possible, given (2), coupled with the fact knowledge of any of these domains requires knowledge of conditional truths (truths of the form "if P, then Q") and therefore of dependence-relations. -/- (4) Empiricism cannot by itself apprise us of any truths, given (3), coupled with the fact that knowledge of conditional truths is necessary to recognize the truths implicit in any body of sensory data. -/- The arguments of key empiricists are closely examined. Special attention is paid to George Berkeley's arguments for idealism ('to be is to be perceive/conceived'). It is shown that, although Berkeley's arguments fail, profound insights are embedded in the very sophisms that vitiate those same arguments, the three most important ones being: -/- (i) That data-modelling and truth-identification at least sometimes coalesce, -/- (ii) That scientific theories are at least sometimes capable of being represented as interpreted formal calculi, and -/- (iii) That when theoretical terms are defined contextually, as opposed to directly, otherwise unintelligible assertions acquire scientific significance. -/- Further, it is shown that, even though Berkeley's arguments for idealism fall through, he himself deserves credit for identifying the principle in terms of which the fallacies in those arguments are to be understood, namely: -/- (*) It is not sensory experience alone that yields awareness of the outside world, but sensory experience coupled with awareness on the subject's part of relational invariances holding among the objects of those awareness. -/- Thus, perceptual knowledge is knowledge of invariances. And, to make a point hinted at in Berkeley's work, knowledge of laws is meta-perceptual knowledge, given that laws of nature are invariances holding among the invariances holding among the objects of perception. (shrink)
This book sets the empiricist philosophers in context and examines their various approaches to philosophy. It concentrates primarily on the major figures - Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume - but also discusses the unjustly neglected French philosopher Pierre Gassendi and devotes a chapter to the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, which was founded in the 1660s.
Constructive empiricism is not just a view regarding the aim of science; it is also a view regarding the epistemological framework in which one should debate the aim of science. This is the focus of this book -- not with scientific truth, but with how one should argue about scientific truth.
Constructive empiricism implies that if van Fraassen does not believe that scientific theories and his positive philosophical theories, including his contextual theory of explanation, are empirically adequate, he cannot accept them, and hence he cannot use them for scientific and philosophical purposes. Moreover, his epistemic colleagues, who embrace epistemic reciprocalism, would not believe that his positive philosophical theories are empirically adequate. This epistemic disadvantage comes with practical disadvantages in a social world.
The ten essays in this collection were written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lectures which became Wilfrid Sellars's Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, one of the crowning achievements of 20th-century analytic philosophy. Both appreciative and critical of Sellars's accomplishment, they engage with his treatment of crucial issues in metaphysics and epistemology. The topics include the standing of empiricism, Sellars's complex treatment of perception, his dissatisfaction with both foundationalist and coherentist epistemologies, his commitment to realism, and (...) the status of the normative. The volume shows how vibrant Sellarsian philosophy remains in the 21st century. (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)
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 is the introduction to a collection of essays on 'embodied empiricism' in early modern philosophy and the life sciences - papers on Harvey, Glisson, Locke, Hume, Bonnet, Lamarck, on anatomy and physiology, on medicine and natural history, etc.
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.
Beginning with a group of essays on education, the author shows the constricting and limiting effects of empirical assumptions. In his essays on values, he makes it clear that the ethics of empiricism so pervade modern moral philosophy that it can find no place for the notion of absolute value.
Introduction: The empiricists and their context -- Empiricism and the empiricists -- The intellectual background to the early modern empiricists -- Martin Luther and the Reformation -- Aristotelian cosmology and the scientific revolution -- Aristotelian/scholastic hylomorphism and the rise of mechanism -- The Royal Society of London -- Francis Bacon (1561-1626) -- The natural realm : the idols of the mind -- Idols of the tribe -- Idols of the cave -- Idols of the marketplace -- Idols of the (...) theatre -- Knowledge and experience : induction introduced -- Aristotelian/scholastic syllogisms : deductions dismissed -- Baconian empiricism : induction introduced -- Conclusion: Bacon the empiricist -- Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) -- The natural realm : Hobbes's materialistic mechanism -- The importance of motion -- Sensation and the mind -- Knowledge and experience : definitions and the euclidean method -- Two kinds of knowledge and proper ratiocination -- The method of analysis and the method of synthesis -- Conclusion: Hobbes, the empiricist -- Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) -- The natural realm : Gassendi's atomism -- The basic principles of Gassendi's atomism -- Atomistic sensation -- Knowledge and experience : the middle way to knowledge -- The sceptics are partly correct -- Knowledge regained? -- Conclusion: Gassendi. the empiricist -- Robert Boyle (1627-1691) -- The natural realm : Boyle's mechanism (corpuscularianism) -- The basic principles of Boyle's mechanism (or corpscularianism) -- Sensation and the mind -- Knowledge and experience : mechanism and the cautious experimenter -- The excellency of mechanism -- Experimentation and the status of mechanism -- Conclusion: Boyle, the empiricist -- John Locke (1632-1704) -- The natural realm : Locke's mechanism -- Against innatism -- Ideas and the tabula rasa -- Primary and secondary qualities, and our confused idea of substance -- Locke on power -- Knowledge and experience : Locke's epistemology -- Indirect realism, or the representational theory of perception -- The certainty of knowledge -- The origin of knowledge -- The extent of knowledge -- Conclusion: Locke, the empiricist -- Isaac Newton (1642-1727) -- The natural realm : Newton's principia -- A world of forces : universal gravitation -- What kind of quality is gravity? -- Mechanism and action at a distance -- Knowledge and experience : rules for the study of natural philosophy -- The four rules -- Whither natural philosophy -- Conclusion: Newton, the empiricist -- George Berkeley (1685-1753) -- The natural realm : Berkeley's idealism -- The world contains only souls and ideas -- Esse est percipi : two arguments for idealism/immaterialism -- Against the primary/secondary quality distinction -- Knowledge and experience : Berkeley's common sense epistemology -- Against the representational theory of perception -- Defeating the skeptic, and returning to common sense -- Mechanism, newtonianism, and instrumentalism : Berkeley on the new science -- Responses to popular objections -- Conclusion: Berkeley, the empiricist -- David Hume (1711-1776) -- The natural realm : Hume's psychological approach -- Ideas and impressions -- The principles of association -- Knowledge and experience : Hume's semi-scepticism -- Relations of ideas vs. matters of fact -- From matters of fact to cause and effect : Hume's first question -- Knowledge of cause and effect : Hume's second question -- The problem of induction : Hume's third question -- Hume's positive account of causation : induction regained -- Conclusion: Hume, the empiricist -- Empiricism and the empiricists : summary and conclusion. (shrink)
Having assigned experience this exclusive role in justification, empiricists then have a range of views concerning the character of experience, the semantics of our claims about unobservable entities, the nature of empirical confirmation, and the possibility of non-empirical warrant for some further class of claims, such as those accepted on the basis of linguistic or logical rules. Given the definitive principle of their position, empiricists can allow that we have knowledge independent of experience only where what is known is not (...) some objective fact about the world, but something about our way of conceptualizing or describing things. Some empiricists say we have knowledge of verbal equivalences or trivialities; some argue that any non-empirical tenets are not even properly called knowledge, but should be seen as notions accepted on pragmatic rather than properly epistemic grounds. What no empiricist will allow is substantive a priori knowledge: according to empiricism we have no pure rational insight into real necessities or the inner structure of nature, but must rely on the deliverances of our senses for all of our information about external reality. Some versions of empiricism argue against the very notion of real necessities or metaphysical structure behind the phenomena; other versions take a more agnostic approach, arguing that if there is a metaphysical structure behind the phenomena it is either out of our epistemic reach, or known only to the extent that it can be grasped through experience, rather than through rational reflection. (shrink)
In the last 20 years postmodernism has had a powerful effect on the discipline of history and is now forcing empiricist historians to articulate their methods, and to defend them as both possible and virtuous. In this concise introduction, Stephen Davies explains what historians mean by empiricism, examines the origins, growth and persistence of empirical methods, and shows how students can apply these methods to their own work.
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.
This volume includes the major works of the British Empiricists, philosophers who sought to derive all knowledge from experience. All essays are complete except that of Locke, which Professor Richard Taylor of Brown University has skillfully abridged.
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)
Intended for philosophically minded psychologists and psychologically minded philosophers, this book identifies the ways that psychology has hobbled itself by adhering too strictly to empiricism, this being the doctrine that all knowledge is observation-based. In the first part of this two-part work, it is shown that empiricism is false. In the second part, the psychology-relevant consequences of this fact are identified. Five of these are of special importance. First, whereas some psychopathologies (e.g. obsessive-compulsive disorder) corrupt the activity mediated (...) by one’s psychological architecture, others (e.g. sociopathy) corrupt that architecture itself. Second, the basic tenets of psychoanalysis are coherent. Third, all propositional attitudes are beliefs. Fourth, selves are minds that self-evaluate. Fifth, it is by giving our thoughts a perceptible form that we enable ourselves to evaluate them, and it is by expressing ourselves in language and art that we give our thoughts a perceptible form. (shrink)
This book proposes a novel position in the debate on scientific realism: Modal Empiricism. Modal empiricism is the view that the aim of science is to provide theories that correctly delimit, in a unified way, the range of experiences that are naturally possible given our position in the world. The view is associated with a pragmatic account of scientific representation and an original notion of situated modalities, together with an inductive epistemology for modalities. It purports to provide a (...) faithful account of scientific practice and of its impressive achievements, and defuses the main motivations for scientific realism. More generally, Modal Empiricism purports to be the precise articulation of a pragmatist stance towards science. This book is of interest to any philosopher involved in the debate on scientific realism, or interested in how to properly understand the content, aim and achievements of science. (shrink)
Twenty-first-century philosophy has been drawn into a false opposition between speculation and critique. Nathan Brown shows that the key to overcoming this antinomy is a re-engagement with the relation between rationalism and empiricism. If Kant’s transcendental philosophy attempted to displace the opposing priorities of those orientations, any speculative critique of Kant will have to re-open and consider anew the conflict and complementarity of reason and experience. Rationalist Empiricism shows that the capacity of reason and experience to extend and (...) yet delimit each other has always been at the core of philosophy and science. Coordinating their discrepant powers, Brown argues, is what enables speculation to move forward in concert with critique. Sweeping across ancient, modern, and contemporary philosophy, as well as political theory, science, and art, Brown engages with such major thinkers as Plato, Descartes, Hume, Hegel, Marx, Heidegger, Bachelard, Althusser, Badiou, and Meillassoux. He also shows how the concepts he develops illuminate recent projects in the science of measurement and experimental digital photography. With conceptual originality and argumentative precision, Rationalist Empiricism reconfigures the history and the future of philosophy, politics, and aesthetics. (shrink)
This book presents a thoroughly empiricist account of physics. By providing an overview of the development of empiricism from Ockham to van Fraassen the book lays the foundation for its own version of empiricism. Empiricism for the author consists of three ideas: nominalism, i.e. dismissing second order quantification as unnecessary, epistemological naturalism, and viewing classification of things in natural kinds as a human habit not in need for any justification. The book offers views on the realism-antirealism debate (...) as well as on the individuation of theories as a thoroughly neglected aspect of underdetermination. The book next discusses a broad range of topics, including the predicates body, spatial distance and time interval, the ontology of electromagnetism, propensities, the measurement problem and other philosophical issues in quantum theory. Discussions about the direction of time and about string theory make up the final part of the book. (shrink)
At last available in paperback, this book anticipates and explains the post-structuralist turn to empiricism. Presenting a challenging reading of David Hume's philosophy, the work is invaluable for understanding the progress of Deleuze's thought.
This collection of essays on themes in the work of John Locke , George Berkeley , and David Hume , provides a deepened understanding of major issues raised in the Empiricist tradition. In exploring their shared belief in the experiential nature of mental constructs, The Empiricists illuminates the different methodologies of these great Enlightenment philosophers and introduces students to important metaphysical and epistemological issues including the theory of ideas, personal identity, and skepticism. It will be especially useful in courses devoted (...) to the history of modern philosophy. (shrink)
In this work, I discuss the role of Husserl’s phenomenology in Paolo Parrini’s positive philosophy. In the first section, I highlight the presence of both empiricist and constructivist elements in Parrini’s anti-foundationalist and anti-absolutist conception of knowledge. In the second section, I stress Parrini’s acknowledgement of the crucial role of phenomenology in investigating the empirical basis of knowledge, thanks to its analysis of the relationship between form and matter of cognition. In the third section, I point out some lines of (...) development of the phenomenological form of empirical realism as revealed in Parrini’s reflection, through a comparison of Husserl’s genetic phenomenology, Mary Hesse’s network model and the tradition of neutral monism. (shrink)
Constructive empiricists claim to offer a reconstruction of the aim and practice of science without adopting all the metaphysical commitments of scientific realism. Deflationists about truth boast of the ability to offer a full account of the nature of truth without adopting the metaphysical commitments accompanying substantive accounts. Though the two views would form an attractive package, I argue that the pairing is not possible: constructive empiricism requires a substantive account of truth. I articulate what sort of account of (...) truth and empirical adequacy the constructive empiricist must offer and then show why deflationists cannot uphold such an account. (shrink)
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 formu- late that view, namely the observable/unobservable and accept- ance/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. The three of us share a good deal of common history. So it is perhaps only remarkable, and not astonishing, that we now share a common leaning to Pragmatism in philosophy. Of us three I am clearly themost conservative in this respect, especially as pertaining to truth, reference, and belief.2 Arthur Fine showed very nicely how Constructive Empiricism could have been conceived under the canopy of Dewey’s Instrumentalism. Much of it could appear as a Corollary to that sort of Instrumentalism, I agree. But in fact Iwould not be happy to land in that general Pragmatist position. (shrink)
Accounting for our knowledge of de re modalities is probably the main reason why the proponents of modal empiricism think that their view should be preferred to modal rationalism. In this paper, I address Sonia Roca-Royes' account, which is taken to be a representative modal empiricist view, in order to show that modal empiricism faces serious problems even in explaining our knowledge of possibility de re, something which seems to be the easiest thing to explain on this view. (...) I argue that Roca-Royes' account does not prove what she claims it does, that it can hardly be articulated in a non-redundant way, and that her account of our knowledge of possibility de re can hardly be reconciled with the essentiality of origin principle, to which modal empiricists sometimes appeal while criticizing the modal rationalist account. (shrink)
Over the last two decades, environmental theorists have repeatedly pronounced the “end” of nature, arguing that the idea of nature is neither plausible nor desirable. This chapter offers an environmental reappraisal of romanticism, in light of these critiques. Its goals are historical and systematic. First, the chapter assesses the validity of the environmentalist critique of the romantic conception of nature by distinguishing different strands within romanticism, and locating an empiricist strand in the natural-scientific work of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Second, (...) the chapter considers the systematic significance of Goethe’s “romantic empiricism,” and argues that while an abstract notion of nature is problematic, a concrete conception achieved through the mutually supportive work of observation and reflection is essential for environmental thought. (shrink)
We sley Salmon, in his influential and detailed book, Four Decades of Scientific Explanation, argues that the pragmatic approach to scientific explanation, “construed as the claim that scientific explanation can be explicated entirely in pragmatic terms” (1989, 185) is inadequate. The specific inadequacy ascribed to a pragmatic account is that objective relevance relations cannot be incorporated into such an account. Salmon relies on the arguments given in Kitcher and Salmon (1987) to ground this objection. He also suggests that Peter Railton’s (...) concepts of the ideal explanatory text and explanatory information (Railton 1981) can provide what the pragmatic approach lacks. This suggestion is not a conclusion of course; we read it as the promotion of part of a research program aimed at forging a greater consensus on scientific explanation-an admirable goal. However, we do not see the pragmatic approach as inadequate. We will show that a synthetic account inspired by Salmon’s adaptation of Railton would be equivalent to van Fraassen’s pragmatic account in three respects: accepting or rejecting requests for explanation; the practice of giving scientific explanations; and the evaluation of the goodness of explanations. We include all three under the general rubric of explanatory “practice.” Admittedly these are not the only three features by which an account of explanation might be evaluated. Roughly, we mean to show that a synthetic account cannot do a better job of accounting for the scientific practices which are of importance to the constructive empiricist, and therefore no argument can be presented to the constructive empiricist to convince her that by her own standards the synthetic account is superior. (shrink)
This paper considers George A. Reisch’s account of the role of Cold War political forces in shaping the apolitical stance that came to dominate philosophy of science in the late 1940s and 1950s. It argues that at least as early as the 1930s, Logical Empiricists such as Rudolf Carnap already held that philosophy of science could not properly have political aims, and further suggests that political forces alone cannot explain this view’s rise to dominance during the Cold War, since political (...) forces cannot explain why a philosophy of science with liberal democratic, anti-communist aims did not flourish. The paper then argues that if professionalization is understood in the right way, it might point toward an explanation of the apolitical stance of Cold War philosophy of science. (shrink)
This volume has two primary aims: to trace the traditions and changes in methods, concepts, and ideas that brought forth the logical empiricists’ philosophy of physics and to present and analyze the logical empiricists’ various and occasionally contrary ideas about the physical sciences and their philosophical relevance. These original chapters discuss these developments in their original contexts and social and institutional environments, thus showing the various fruitful conceptions and philosophies behind the history of 20th-century philosophy of science. Logical Empiricism (...) and the Natural Sciences is divided into three thematic sections. Part I surveys the influences on logical empiricism’s philosophy of science and physics. It features chapters on Maxwell’s role in the worldview of logical empiricism, on Reichenbach’s account of objectivity, on the impact of Poincaré on Neurath’s early views on scientific method, Frank’s exchanges with Einstein about philosophy of physics, and on the forgotten role of Kurt Grelling. Part II focuses on specific physical theories, including Carnap’s and Reichenbach’s positions on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Reichenbach’s critique of unified field theory, and the logical empiricists’ reactions to quantum mechanics. The third and final group of chapters widens the scope to philosophy of science and physics in general. It includes contributions on von Mises’ frequentism; Frank’s account of concept formation and confirmation; and the interrelations between Nagel’s, Feigl’s, and Hempel’s versions of logical empiricism. (shrink)
Empiricists are in general rather suspicious with respect to any kind of abstract entities like properties, classes, relations, numbers, propositions, etc. They usually feel much more in sympathy with nominalists than with realists (in the medieval sense). As far as possible they try to avoid any reference to abstract entities and to restrict themselves to what is sometimes called a nominalistic language, i.e., one not containing such references. However, within certain scientific contexts it seems hardly possible to avoid them. In (...) the case of mathematics some empiricists try to find a way out by treating the whole of mathematics as a mere calculus, a formal system for which no interpretation is given, or can be given. Accordingly, the mathematician is said to speak not about numbers, functions and infinite classes but merely about meaningless symbols and formulas manipulated according to given formal rules. In physics it is more difficult to shun the suspected entities because the language of physics serves for the communication of reports and predictions and hence cannot be taken as a mere calculus. A physicist who is suspicious of abstract entities may perhaps try to declare a certain part of the language of physics as uninterpreted and uninterpretable, that part which refers to real numbers as space-time coordinates or as values of physical magnitudes, to functions, limits, etc. More probably he will just speak about all these things like anybody else but with an uneasy conscience, like a man who in his everyday life does with qualms many things which are not in accord with the high moral principles he professes on Sundays. Recently the problem of abstract entities has arisen again in connection with semantics, the theory of meaning and truth. Some semanticists say that certain expressions designate certain entities, and among these designated entities they include not only concrete material things but also abstract entities e.g., properties as designated by predicates and propositions as designated.... (shrink)
The essay compares Peirce's pragmatist approach to the problem of perceptual experience as a fallible foundation of knowledge to a sophisticated empiricist take on the issue. The comparison suggests that, while empiricism can accommodate the idea of perception as fallible, theoretically laden, and containing conjectural elements, the cardinal difference between pragmatism and empiricism consists in the pragmatist insistence on the intrinsic intelligibility of experience, which also serves as the ultimate source of all forms of intelligibility; whereas empiricism (...) retains a penchant for fitting experiences into abstract conceptual schemes. (shrink)
Originally published in 1986. All students of social science must confront a number of important philosophical issues. This introduction to the philosophy of the social sciences provides coherent answers to questions about empiricism, explanation and rationality. It evaluates contemporary writings on the subject which can be as difficult as they are important to understand. Each chapter has an annotated bibliography to enable students to pursue the issues raised and to assess for themselves the arguments of the authors.
In his recent book, The Empirical Stance, Bas van Fraassen forcefully raises the question of what a philosophical position can or should be. He mainly discusses this question with regard to empiricism but his discussion makes it clear that he takes his proposed answer to be generalizable: not only empiricism but philosophical positions in general should be understood as stances rather than dogmata. The first part of this essay is devoted to an examination of van Fraassen’s critique of (...) ‘naïve’ or dogmatic empiricism, which represents an integral part of his argument for ‘stance’ empiricism. It will be argued that, contrary to van Fraassen’s view, not all versions of naïve empiricism run into the problems identified by him. In the second part of the paper the case will be made that, contrary to van Fraassen’s thesis, the stance empiricist is in at least as bad a position as the naïve empiricist with regard to the task of providing a radical critique of metaphysics, which van Fraassen takes to be an essential task that any empiricist should be able to accomplish. The third part of this essay concerns van Fraassen’s general proposal, and examines the question whether a philosophical position can possibly consist in a stance. It will be suggested that this is not the case. With regard to empiricism this has the implication that if one wants to be a philosopher and an empiricist at the same time one needs to subscribe to a form of naïve empiricism. Furthermore, it will be proposed that as a philosopher-empiricist one should want, or, at least, allow some form of metaphysical theorizing to be part of the philosophical enterprise after all. (shrink)
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)
Kant contends that necessity is a criterion of the a priori—that is, that all knowledge of necessary propositions is a priori. This contention, together with two others that Kant took to be evident—we know some mathematical propositions and such propositions are necessary—leads directly to the conclusion that some knowledge is a priori. Although many contemporary philosophers endorse Kant’s criterion, supporting arguments are hard to come by. Gordon Barnes provides one of the few examples. My purpose in this chapter is to (...) articulate and examine his argument. I have two goals in doing so. The first is to uncover several significant gaps in the argument. The second is to show that it suffers from a common defect in rationalist arguments. If the argument were successful against empiricist accounts of modal knowledge, it would apply with equal force to extant rationalist accounts of such knowledge. Hence, the cost of refuting modal empiricism is modal scepticism. (shrink)
Sellars’ Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind is a landmark in the history of modern epistemology. It is here that Sellars launches his celebrated and highly influential attack on the ”Myth of the Given”. But based on this attack Sellars also argues in this work for a radical alternative to the orthodox, neo-Cartesian conception of self-knowledge, an alternative that has become the prevalent conception. While it is fairly easy to discern the general contours of Sellars’ conception of self-knowledge, the (...) argument that he offers in its favor is rather obscure. One goal of this paper is to provide a clear reconstruction of Sellars’ argument. A second goal is to provide a diagnosis of crucial weaknesses in the argument, which render it, ultimately, unsuccessful. The final, closely related goal is to defend the orthodox, neo-Cartesian conception of self-knowledge against Sellars’ attack on the Myth of the Given. (shrink)
John McDowell has defended a position called minimal empiricism, that aims to avoid the oscillation between traditional empiricism’s commitment to a set of contents working as external justifiers for our system of beliefs and a coherentist position where our thought receives no constraint from the world. We share McDowell’s dissatisfaction with both options, but find his minimal empiricism committed to the idea of a tribunal of experience where isolated contents are infused into our network of inferences. This (...) commitment is prone to sceptical attacks and waters down McDowell’s holism. We propose to retain McDowell’s partial re-enchantment of nature—without appealing to McDowell’s Kantian conception of experience—, and argue that it is sufficient to avoid the oscillation and to make sense of the objectivity of thought. (shrink)
This is the first volume in the Vienna Circle collection. The editorial committee plans to publish a series of about thirty volumes between 1973 and 1980. This gigantic task should render immense service to both historians and contemporary philosophers. The basic aim is to present in English anthologies of "the most important work of single members, which should contain besides a detailed essay on the man a complete bibliography of his work." The present large anthology of the writings of Neurath (...) presents a valuable collection of memories, in lieu of a biographical essay, revealing Neurath’s manysided interests and activities. Of more strictly philosophical interest are the short essays that deal with the history of optics, the problem of pleasure maximum, the scientific conception of the world; and a long selection from the book Empirical Sociology: The Scientific Content of History and Political Economy. (shrink)
Why would an empiricist look at a poem? And if he did, what could he find? This paper begins with Hume's programmatic statement for literary renewal based on the empirical principles set forth in the first Enquiry, and raises the question about the worth of poetry according to those principles. There is little "abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number, or experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence" in poetry and so "commit it to the flames." The second Enquiry allows (...) that since disputation among men is based on the passions, poetry might have a place as a means to speak to the affections, to inforce particular sophistries close to our hearts. The second half of the paper defends poetry on grounds opposed to the premises of empirical science. Specifically, whereas in science knowledge is power, in the arts knowledge is suffering, or,where science aims at mastery and ownership, poetry relates us to that in being which is not ours. This view is explicated by use of King Lear. (shrink)
Professor Monro presents an original view of ethics based on empiricism, which leads him to a subjectivist position about moral values. He starts by examining the central problem in moral philosophy: are moral statements objectively true, or are they expressions of preference? The first view conflicts with the empiricist beliefs current in modern thought; the opposing naturalistic theory seems to lead to moral scepticism. After discussing both views, the author presents a detailed defence of the subjectivist position. In the (...) course of his argument he gives a detailed analysis and criticism of the 'universalisability thesis', the theory that moral aspirations differ from others in being applicable to all men, and that it is this that makes them moral. He then offers an alternative account of the nature of moral attitudes. The author illustrates his explanations with straightforward analogies and examples. His clear exposition of the fundamental concepts arising in his argument makes this a book for students as well as for professional moral philosophers. (shrink)
This paper examines the settlement movement (a social reform movement during the Progressive Era, roughly 1890–1920) in order to illustrate what pragmatism is and is not. In 1906, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch proposed an analysis of settlement house methods. Because of her emphasis on interpretation and action, and because of the nature of the settlement movement as a social reform effort with vitally important consequences for everyone involved, it might be thought that her analysis would be pragmatist in character. This paper (...) shows that her analysis is empiricist, not pragmatist, and offers an alternative pragmatist sketch of settlement house methodology. (shrink)
How do concepts of topology such as that of a boundary apply to the empirical world? Take the example of a chess board, represented here with black squares in black and red squares in white. We see by looking at the board that the squares of any one color have common boundaries only with squares of the opposite color, but each square has corners in common with other squares of the same color, which are points at which their common boundaries (...) intersect. For example, the white square labelled ‘A’ has common boundaries with the black squares that surround it, and common corners with the white squares like square B that are diagonally adjacent to it. (shrink)
Familiar versions of empiricism overemphasize and misconstrue the importance of perceptual experience. I discuss their main shortcomings and sketch an alternative framework for thinking about how human sensory systems contribute to scientific knowledge.
What do the biology and psychology of morality have to do with normative ethics? Our answer is, a great deal.We argue that normative ethics is an ongoing, ever-evolving research program in what is best conceived as human ecology.