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)
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.
My topic is the materialist appropriation of empiricism – as conveyed in the ‘minimal credo’ nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit in sensu (which interestingly is not just a phrase repeated from Hobbes and Locke to Diderot, but is also a medical phrase, used by Harvey, Mandeville and others). That is, canonical empiricists like Locke go out of their way to state that their project to investigate and articulate the ‘logic of ideas’ is not a scientific project: “I (...) shall not at present meddle with the Physical consideration of the Mind” (Essay, I.i.2, in Locke 1975; which Kant gets exactly wrong in his reading of Locke, in the Preface to the A edition of the first Critique). Indeed, I have suggested elsewhere, contrary to a prevalent reading of Locke, that the Essay is not the extension to the study of the mind of the methods of natural philosophy; that he is actually not the “underlabourer” of Newton and Boyle he claims politely to be in the Epistle to the Reader (Wolfe and Salter 2009, Wolfe 2010). Rather, Locke says quite directly if we pay heed to such passages, “Our Business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our Conduct” (Essay, I.i.6). There would be more to say here about what this implies for our understanding of empiricism (see Norton 1981 and Gaukroger 2005), but instead I shall focus on a different aspect of this episode: how a non-naturalistic claim which falls under what we now call epistemology (a claim about the senses as the source of knowledge) becomes an ontology – materialism. That is, how an empiricist claim could shift from being about the sources of knowledge to being about the nature of reality (and/or the mind, in which case it needs, as David Hartley saw and Denis Diderot proclaimed more overtly, an account of the relation between mental processes and the brain). (David Armstrong, for one, denied that there could be an identification between empiricism and materialism on this point: eighteenth-century history of science seems to prove him wrong: see Armstrong 1968 and 1978.) Put differently, I want to examine the shift from the logic of ideas in the seventeenth century (Locke) to an eighteenth-century focus on what kind of ‘world’ the senses give us (Condillac), to an assertion that there is only one substance in the universe (Diderot, giving a materialist cast to Spinozism), and that we need an account of the material substrate of mental life. This is neither a ‘scientific empiricism’ nor a linear developmental process from philosophical empiricism to natural science, but something else again: the unpredictable emergence of an ontology on empiricist grounds. (shrink)
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)
From one end of his philosophical work to the other, Gilles Deleuze consistently described his position as a transcendental empiricism. But just what is transcendental about Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism? And how does his position fit with the traditional empiricism articulated by Hume? In Difference and Givenness , Levi Bryant addresses these long-neglected questions so critical to an understanding of Deleuze’s thinking. Through a close examination of Deleuze’s independent work--focusing especially on Difference and Repetition-- as well as his (...) engagement with thinkers such as Kant, Mai;mon, Bergson, and Simondon, Bryant sets out to unearth Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism and to show how it differs from transcendental idealism, absolute idealism, and traditional empiricism. What emerges from these efforts is a metaphysics that strives to articulate the conditions for real existence, capable of accounting for the individual itself without falling into conceptual or essentialist abstraction. In Bryant’s analysis, Deleuze’s metaphysics articulates an account of being as process or creative individuation based on difference, as well as a challenging critique--and explanation--of essentialist substance ontologies. A clear and powerful discussion of how Deleuze’s project relates to two of the most influential strains in the history of philosophy, this book will prove essential to anyone seeking to understand Deleuze’s thought and its specific contribution to metaphysics and epistemology. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that aim-oriented empiricism (AOE), a conception of natural science that I have defended at some length elsewhere, is a kind of synthesis of the views of Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos, but is also an improvement over the views of all three. Whereas Popper's falsificationism protects metaphysical assumptions implicitly made by science from criticism, AOE exposes all such assumptions to sustained criticism, and furthermore focuses criticism on those assumptions most likely to need revision if science (...) is to make progress. Even though AOE is, in this way, more Popperian than Popper, it is also, in some respects, more like the views of Kuhn and Lakatos than falsificationism is. AOE is able, however, to solve problems which Kuhn's and Lakatos's views cannot solve. [Back to Top]. (shrink)
This paper is a critical response to Hylarie Kochiras’ “Gravity and Newton’s substance counting problem,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 267–280. First, the paper argues that Kochiras conflates substances and beings; it proceeds to show that Newton is a substance monist. The paper argues that on methodological grounds Newton has adequate resources to respond to the metaphysical problems diagnosed by Kochiras. Second, the paper argues against the claim that Newton is committed to two speculative doctrines attributed to (...) him by Kochiras and earlier Andrew Janiak: i) the passivity of matter and ii) the principle of local causation. Third, the paper argues that while Kochiras’ arguments about Newton’s metaphysical commitments are mistaken, it qualifies the characterization of Newton as an extreme empiricist as defended by Howard Stein and Rob DiSalle. In particular, the paper shows that Newton’s empiricism was an intellectual and developmental achievement that built on non trivial speculative commitments about the nature of matter and space.Keywords: Newton; Substance; Action at a distance; Space; Matter; Empiricism. (shrink)
According to Bas van Fraassen, scientific realists and anti-realists disagree about whether accepting a scientific theory involves believing that the theory is true. On van Fraassen’s own anti-realist empiricist position, accepting a theory involves believing only that the theory is correct in its claims about observable aspects of the world. However, a number of philosophers have argued that acceptance and belief cannot be distinguished and thus that the debate is either confused or trivially settled in favor of the realist. In (...) addition, another set of philosophers have argued that van Fraassen’s empiricist position appeals to an unmotivated distinction between observable and unobservable aspects of the world. This paper aims to reconstruct a van Fraassen-style empiricism about scientific acceptance that avoids these two objections – reconstructed empiricism. (shrink)
This article explores Galen's analysis of and response to the Rationalist and Empiricist medical sects. It argues that his interest in their debate concerning the epistemology of medicine and anatomy was key to his advancement of an experimental methodology.
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)
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)
Classical empiricism leads to notorious problems having to do with the (at least prima facie) lack of an acceptable empiricist justification of empiricism itself. Bas van Fraassen claims that his idea of the “empirical stance” can deal with such problems. I argue, however, that this view entails a very problematic form of voluntarism which comes with the threat of latent irrationality and normative inadequacy. However, there is also a certain element of truth in such a voluntarism. The main (...) difficulty consists in finding an acceptable form of voluntarism. (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)
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. (shrink)
In this paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years.
In this chapter, I argue against empiricist positions which claim that empirical evidence can be sufficient to defeasibly justify aesthetic judgements, or judgements about the adequacy of aesthetic judgements, or sceptical judgements about someone's capacity to form adequate aesthetic judgements. First, empirical evidence provides neither inferential, nor non-inferential justification for aesthetic opinions. Second, while empirical evidence may tell us how we do respond aesthetically to artworks, it cannot tell us how we should respond to them. And, third, empirical insights into (...) the irrationality of many of our aesthetic judgements do not warrant the sceptical conclusion that we ought to refrain from forming aesthetic opinions. As a consequence of these limitations to aesthetic empiricism, we should endorse the rationalist position that aesthetic criticism is largely a matter of reasoning and, moreover, a collective undertaking. (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)
Between World War I and World War II, the students of Columbia University's John Dewey and Frederick J. E. Woodbridge built up a school of philosophical naturalism sharply critical of claims to value-neutrality. In the 1930s and 1940s, the second-generation Columbia naturalists (John Herman Randall Jr, Herbert W. Schneider, Irwin Edman, Horace L. Friess, and James Gutmann) and their students who later joined the department (Charles Frankel, Joseph L. Blau, Albert Hofstadter, and Justus Buchler) reacted with dismay to the arrival (...) on American shores of logical empiricism and other analytic modes of philosophy. These figures undermined their colleague Ernest Nagel's attempt to build an alliance with the logical empiricists, accusing them of ignoring the scholar's primary role as a public critic. After the war, the prestige of analytic approaches and a tendency to label philosophies either “analytic” or “Continental” eclipsed the Columbia philosophers’ normatively inflected naturalism. Yet in their efforts to resist logical empiricism, the Columbia naturalists helped to construct a sturdy, canonical portrait of “American philosophy” that proponents still hold up as a third way between analytic and Continental approaches. (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.
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)
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)
In Science as Social Knowledge in 1990 and The Fate of Knowledge in 2002, Helen Longino develops an epistemological theory known as Critical Contextual Empiricism (CCE). Knowledge production, she argues, is an active, value-laden practice, evidence is context dependent and relies on background assumptions, and science is a social inquiry that, under certain conditions, produces social knowledge with contextual objectivity. While Longino’s work has been generally well-received, there have been a number of criticisms of CCE raised in the philosophical (...) literature in recent years. In this paper I outline the key elements of Longino’s theory and propose modifications to the four norms offered by the account. The version of CCE I defend, which draws on lessons learned by medical researchers in recent years, gives principles of epistemic diversity a central role and also provides greater specification of three of the four norms. Further, it offers additional resources for defending CCE against Alvin Goldman’s suggestion that there is a need for a “healthy dogmatism” in science, as well as a concern about “manufactured uncertainty” arising out of recent work by David Michaels. Finally, the modified version proposed here is also well positioned to respond (negatively) to a suggestion from Kristen Intemann that CCE needs to be adapted to incorporate a central insight from feminist standpoint theory. In light of the variety of social pressures influencing contemporary scientific research, and the role of science in shaping public policy, I argue that a rigorous social epistemology such as CCE is indispensable for understanding and assessing contemporary scientific practice. (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)
The issue of time-awareness presents a critical challenge for empiricism: if temporal properties are not directly perceived, how do we become aware of them? A unique empiricist account of time-awareness suggested by Hume's comments on time in the Treatise avoids the problems characteristic of other empiricist accounts. Hume's theory, however, has some counter-intuitive consequences. The failure of empiricists to come up with a defensible theory of time-awareness lends prima facie support to a non-empiricist theory of ideas.
Logical empiricism is commonly seen as a counter-position to scientific realism. In the present paper it is shown that there indeed existed a realist faction within the logical empiricist movement. In particular, I shall point out that at least four types of realistic arguments can be distinguished within this faction: Reichenbach’s ‘probabilistic argument,’ Feigl’s ‘pragmatic argument,’ Hempel’s ‘indispensability argument,’ and Kaila’s ‘invariantist argument.’ All these variations of arguments are intended to prevent the logical empiricist agenda from the shortcomings of (...) radical positivism, instrumentalism, and other forms of scientific antirealism. On the whole, it will be seen that logical empiricism and scientific realism are essentially compatible with each other. Especially Kaila’s invariantist approach to science (and nature) comes quite close to what nowadays is discussed under the label ‘structural realism.’ This, in turn, necessitates a fundamental reevaluation of Kaila’s role in the logical empiricist movement in particular and in twentieth-century philosophy of science in general. (shrink)
Abstract. Value judgments are meaningless. This thesis was one of the notorious tenets of Carnap’s mature logical empiricism. Less well known is the fact that in the Aufbau values were con-sidered as philosophically respectable entities that could be constituted from value experiences. About 1930, however, values were banished to the realm of meaning-less me-taphysics, and Carnap came to endorse a strict emotivism. The aim of this paper is to shed new light on the question why Carnap abandoned his originally (...) positive attitude concerning values. It is argued that Carnap’s non-cognitivist attitude was the symptom of a deep-rooted and never properly dissolved tension be-tween his conflicting inclinations towards Neokantianism and Lebensphilosophie. In America Carnap’s non-cognitivism became a major obstacle for a closer collaboration between lo-gical empiricists and American pragmatists. Carnap’s persisting ad---herence to the dualism of practical life and theoretical science was the ultimate reason why he could not accept Morris’s and Kaplan’s pragmatist the-ses that cognitivism might well are compatible with a logical and empiricist scientific philosophy. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss three examples of the appropriation of Kuhn’s ideas in philosophy of science. First we deal with classical logical empiricism. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the arch-logical empiricist Carnap considered Kuhn’s socio-historical account as a useful complementation, and not as a threat of the philosophy of science of logical empiricism. As a second example we consider the attempt of the so-called struc- turalist philosophy of science to provide a “rational reconstruction” of Kuhn’s approach. Finally, we will (...) deal with Friedman’s proposal to apply Kuhn’s ideas to the formulation of a modernized, historically enlightened Kantian approach that is based on the concept of a non-apodictic constitutive and historically moving a priori. (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)
I analyse critically what I regard as the most accomplished empiricist account of propensities, namely the long run propensity theory developed by Donald Gillies . Empiricist accounts are distinguished by their commitment to the ‘identity thesis’: the identification of propensities and objective probabilities. These theories are intended, in the tradition of Karl Popper’s influential proposal, to provide an interpretation of probability that renders probability statements directly testable by experiment. I argue that the commitment to the identity thesis leaves empiricist theories, (...) including Gillies’ version, vulnerable to a variant of what is known as Humphreys’ paradox. I suggest that the tension may be resolved only by abandoning the identity thesis, and by adopting instead an understanding of propensities as explanatory properties of chancy objects. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the “Austro-American” logical empiricism proposed by physicist and philosopher Philipp Frank, particularly his interpretation of Carnap’s Aufbau, which he considered the charter of logical empiricism as a scientific world conception. According to Frank, the Aufbau was to be read as an integration of the ideas of Mach and Poincaré, leading eventually to a pragmatism quite similar to that of the American pragmatist William James. Relying on this peculiar interpretation, Frank intended (...) to bring about a rapprochement between the logical empiricism of the Vienna Circle in exile and American pragmatism. In the course of this project, in the last years of his career, Frank outlined a comprehensive, socially engaged philosophy of science that could serve as a “link between science and philosophy”. (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)
In these comments I briefly discuss three aspects of the empiricist account of the epistemic role of experience that Anil Gupta develops in his Empiricism and Experience. First, I discuss the motivations Gupta offers for the claim that the given in experience should be regarded as reliable. Second, I discuss two different ways of conceiving of the epistemic significance of the phenomenology of experience. And third, I discuss whether Gupta's account is able to deliver the anti-skeptical results he intends (...) it to. I close by suggesting that, once fully fleshed out, Gupta's account is best understood in terms of the fusion of certain core ideas within both the empiricist and the rationalist traditions. (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)
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)
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)
Value judgments are meaningless. This thesis was one of the notorious tenets of Carnap’s mature logical empiricism. Less well known is the fact that in the Aufbau values were considered as philosophically respectable entities that could be constituted from value experiences. About 1930, however, values and value judgments were banished to the realm of meaningless metaphysics, and Carnap came to endorse a strict emotivism. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the question why Carnap abandoned his (...) originally positive attitude concerning values. It is argued that his non-cognitivist attitude was the symptom of a deep-rooted and never properly dissolved tension between conflicting inclinations towards Neokantianism and Lebensphilosophie. In America Carnap’s non-cognitivism became a major obstacle for a closer collaboration between logical empiricists and American pragmatists. Carnap’s persisting adherence to the dualism of practical life and theoretical science was the ultimate reason why he could not accept Morris’s and Kaplan’s pragmatist theses that cognitivism might well be compatible with a logical and empiricist scientific philosophy. (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)
This article examines the work of the seventeenth-century thinker Catharine Trotter Cockburn with an eye toward explication of her trenchant empiricism, and the foundations upon which it rested. It is argued that part of the originality of Cockburn's work has to do with her consistent line of thought with regard to evidence from the senses and the process of abstract conceptualization; in this she differed strongly from some of her contemporaries. The work of Martha Brandt Bolton and Fidelis Morgan (...) is cited, and there is an auxiliary argument to the effect that Cockburn is probably better known as a playwright than she is as a philosophical thinker. (shrink)
In The Inference That Makes Science, Ernan McMullin recounts the clear historical progress he saw toward a vision of the sciences as conclusions reached rationally on the basis of empirical evidence. Distinctive of this vision was his view of science as driven by a specific form of inference, retroduction. To understand this properly, we need to disentangle the description of retroductive inference from the claims made on its behalf. To end I will suggest that the real rival to McMullin's vision (...) of science is not the methodologies he criticizes so successfully but a more radical empiricist alternative in epistemology. (shrink)
This essay examines the perspective from which Bas van Fraassen, in his book, The Empirical Stance, explains the project of empiricism. I argue that this perspective is a robustly transcendental perspective, which suggests that the tradition of empiricism lacks the resources to explain itself. I offer an alternative history of epistemic voluntarism in twentieth-century philosophy to the history van Fraassen himself provides, one that finds the novelty in van Fraassen's own views to be precisely his reintroduction of the (...) knowing mind into the tradition of analytic philosophy of science. (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)
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.
The term ‘realism’ and its contrasting terms have various related senses, although often they occlude as much as they illuminate, especially if ontological and epistemological issues and their tenable combinations are insufficiently clarified. For example, in 1807 the infamous ‘idealist’ Hegel argued cogently that any tenable philosophical theory of knowledge must take the natural and social sciences into very close consideration, which he himself did. Here I argue that Hegel ably and insightfully defends Newton’s causal realism about gravitational force, in (...) part by exposing a fatal equivocation in the traditional concept of substance, by criticizing some still-standard empiricist misconceptions of force, by emphasizing the role of explanatory integration in Newtonian mechanics, and by using his powerful semantics of singular, specifically cognitive reference to justify fallibilism regarding empirical justification, together with the semantic core of Newton’s Rule Four of (experimental) Philosophy—in a way that highlights a key fallacy in many arguments against realism, both in epistemology and within philosophy of science. (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.
For over 30 years I have argued that we need to construe science as accepting a metaphysical proposition concerning the comprehensibility of the universe. In a recent paper, Fred Muller criticizes this argument, and its implication that Bas van Fraassen’s constructive empiricism is untenable. In the present paper I argue that Muller’s criticisms are not valid. The issue is of some importance, for my argument that science accepts a metaphysical proposition is the first step in a broader argument intended (...) to demonstrate that we need to bring about a revolution in science, and ultimately in academic inquiry as a whole so that the basic aim becomes wisdom and not just knowledge. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Rudolf Carnap’s “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” (ESO) has received a good deal of sympathetic interest over the years from philosophers who are not particularly sympathetic to verificationism, or suspicious of metaphysics in general. Recent work has favorably cited ESO in connection with doubts about the genuine content of debates in the metaphysics of material objects. But, when we look at how Carnap introduces his central notion of a ‘framework’, and the questions he wants to use it to deflate, (...) there seem to be significant differences in his approach and aim from that of contemporary deflationists about the metaphysics of material objects. This paper first looks at some of these differences, and suggests a way of seeing them as arising more from differences in focus and interest than fundamental approach. However, a further question is whether philosophers who may entirely disagree with Carnap about abstract entities, or the substantiveness of the debate between Realists and Idealists – possibly all of his negative conclusions in ESO - can really be seen as heirs to his approach and argument therein. We look first at his discussion of the Realism/Idealism debate, to sort out different aspects of his analysis, and determine to what extent one can disagree with it while not thinking this undermines other analyses using the same general strategy. In the course of this, we are able to distinguish the basic Carnapian analysis of metaphysical disputes, from the question of whether, if the analysis is correct, this actually subverts the disputes. I suggest that, if we put verificationism aside, ESO really provides us with an approach and a type of skeptical challenge more than an argument, and it is open to contemporary philosophers to think that this skeptical challenge can (or can’t) be met, or can be supplemented by further argument, on a case by case basis. (shrink)
This reassessment of the long debate about Friedman's thesis on the pointlessness of testing assumptions in economics shows that Friedman's three famous examples, on which a large part of the credit given to this thesis is based, far from substantiating it, can be used to establish radically opposite conclusions. Furthermore, it is shown that this so-called “instrumentalist” thesis, when applied by Friedman to economics, is of a quite different nature and raises much more serious problems than the standard instrumentalist thesis (...) devised by some methodologists of physics. To disentangle these ambiguities concerning realism and instrumentalism applied to physics or to economics, this paper refers to Van Fraassen's “constructive empiricism”, which is helpful in reformulating, in a more satisfactory way, the essentials of Friedman's considerations about empiricism and anti-realism. (shrink)