It is argued that to believe is to believe true. That is, when one believes a proposition one thereby believes the proposition to be true. This is a point about what it is to believe rather than about the aim of belief or the standard of correctness for belief. The point that to believe is to believe true appears to be an analytic truth about the concept of belief. It also appears to be essential to the state of belief that (...) to believe is to believe true. This is not just a contingent fact about our ordinary psychology, since even a non-ordinary believer must believe a proposition that they believe to be true. Nor is the idea that one may accept a theory as empirically adequate rather than as true a counter-example, since such acceptance combines belief in the truth of the observational claims of a theory with suspension of belief with respect to the non-observational claims of a theory. Nor is the fact that to believe is to believe true to be explained in terms of an inference governed by the T-scheme from the belief that P to the belief that P is true, since there is no inference from the former to the latter. To believe that P just is to believe that P is true. (shrink)
This paper presents a naturalistic response to the challenge of epistemic relativism. The case of the Azande poison oracle is employed as an example of an alternative epistemic norm which may be used to justify beliefs about everyday occurrences. While a distinction is made between scepticism and relativism, an argument in support of epistemic relativism is presented that is based on the sceptical problem of the criterion. A response to the resulting relativistic position is then provided on the basis of (...) a particularist response to scepticism combined with a naturalistic approach to the warrant of epistemic norms. It is argued that it is possible to comparatively assess the ability of epistemic norms to lead to epistemic aims. As against the epistemic relativist, it is possible to provide an objective basis for the choice between alternative epistemic norms. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between scepticism and epistemic relativism in the context of recent history and philosophy of science. More specifically, it seeks to show that significant treatments of epistemic relativism by influential figures in the history and philosophy of science draw upon the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. The paper begins with a presentation of the problem of the criterion as it occurs in the work of Sextus Empiricus. It is then shown that significant treatments of epistemic relativism (...) in recent history and philosophy of science (critical rationalism, historical philosophy of science and the strong programme) draw upon the problem of the criterion. It is briefly suggested that a particularist response to the problem of the criterion may be put to good use against epistemic relativism. (shrink)
Does science provide knowledge of reality? In this paper, I offer a positive response to this question. I reject the anti-realist claim that we are unable to acquire knowledge of reality in favour of the realist view that science yields knowledge of the external world. But what world is that? Some argue that science leads to the overthrow of our commonsense view of the world. Common sense is “stone-age metaphysics” to be rejected as the false theory of our primitive ancestors. (...) Against such eliminativists about common sense, I argue that science both preserves and explains commonsense experience of the world. Though science may lead to the overthrow of deeply held beliefs, common sense reflects a more basic and durable level of experience. Commonsense beliefs are well-confirmed beliefs which are vindicated by their role in successful practical action each and every day. Common sense provides a firm basis on which to establish the realist approach to science. (shrink)
This paper reconsiders the challenge presented to scientific realism by the semantic incommensurability thesis. A twofold distinction is drawn between methodological and semantic incommensurability, and between semantic incommensurability due to variation of sense and due to discontinuity of reference. Only the latter presents a challenge to scientific realism. The realist may dispose of this challenge on the basis of a modified causal theory of reference, as argued in the author’s 1994 book, The incommensurability thesis. This referential response has been the (...) subject of a charge of meta-incommensurability by Hoyningen-Huene et al., who argue that the realist’s referential response begs the question against anti-realist advocates of incommensurability. In reply, it is noted that a tu quoque rejoinder is available to the realist. It is also argued that the dialectical situation favours the scientific realist, since the anti-realist defence of incommensurability depends on an incoherent distinction between phenomenal world and world-in-itself. In light of such incoherence, and a strong commonsense presumption in favour of realism, the referential response to semantic incommensurability may be justifiably based on realism.Keywords: Scientific realism; Incommensurability; Meta-incommensurability; Thomas Kuhn; Paul Feyerabend; Paul Hoyningen-Huene. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore the purported conflict between science and common sense within the context of scientific realism. I argue for a version of scientific realism which retains commitment to realism about common sense rather than seeking to eliminate it.
This article explores the relationship between epistemic relativism and Pyrrhonian scepticism. It is argued that a fundamental argument for contemporary epistemic relativism derives from the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. Pyrrhonian scepticism is compared and contrasted with Cartesian scepticism about the external world and Humean scepticism about induction. Epistemic relativism is characterized as relativism due to the variation of epistemic norms, and is contrasted with other forms of cognitive relativism, such as truth relativism, conceptual relativism and ontological relativism. An argument (...) from the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion to epistemic relativism is presented, and is contrasted with three other arguments for epistemic relativism. It is argued that the argument from the criterion is the most fundamental argument for epistemic relativism. Finally, it is noted how the argument of the present paper fits with the author’s previous suggestion that a particularist response to the Pyrrhonian sceptic may be combined with a naturalistic view of epistemic warrant to meet the challenge of epistemic relativism. (shrink)
This paper examines the question of whether scientific realism is committed to the inevitability of science or is consistent with claims of the contingency of science. In order to address this question, a general characterization of the position of scientific realism is presented. It is then argued that scientific realism has no evident implications with regard to the inevitability of science. A historical case study is presented in which contingency plays a significant role, and the appropriate realist response to this (...) case study is indicated. Finally, it is argued that, when conjoined with a reliabilist theory of method, realism does have implications for the inevitability of science.Keywords: Inevitability; Contingency; Scientific realism; Reliabilism; Ian Hacking. (shrink)
As is well known, Putnam changed his philosophical position on a number of occasions throughout his career. In this paper, I reconsider the position of internal realism which Putnam defended from the mid-1970’s until around 1990. The paper opens with a discussion of the position that Putnam called “metaphysical realism”, since his internal realism emerged out of a critique of that position. The paper then briefly presents the internal realist view as one which involves an epistemic conception of truth, as (...) well as an anti-realist metaphysical outlook on which objects depend on conceptual scheme. The paper then provides a survey of the key objections to internal realism which emerged in the ensuing debate with defenders of realism. The paper concludes with a brief consideration of the relevance of Putnam’s later adoption of a direct realist theory of perception with respect to the issue of realism. (shrink)
The paper sketches an ontological solution to an epistemological problem in the philosophy of science. Taking the work of Hilary Kornblith and Brian Ellis as a point of departure, it presents a realist solution to the Humean problem of induction, which is based on a scientific essentialist interpretation of the principle of the uniformity of nature. More specifically, it is argued that use of inductive inference in science is rationally justified because of the existence of real, natural kinds of things, (...) which are characterized as such by the essential properties which all members of a kind necessarily possess in common. The proposed response to inductive scepticism combines the insights of epistemic naturalism with a metaphysical outlook that is due to s cientific realism. (shrink)
In ‘Induction and Natural Kinds’, I proposed a solution to the problem of induction according to which our use of inductive inference is reliable because it is grounded in the natural kind structure of the world. When we infer that unobserved members of a kind will have the same properties as observed members of the kind, we are right because all members of the kind possess the same essential properties. The claim that the existence of natural kinds is what grounds (...) reliable use of induction is based on an inference to the best explanation of the success of our inductive practices. As such, the argument for the existence of natural kinds employs a form of ampliative inference. But induction is likewise a form of ampliative inference. Given both of these facts, my account of the reliability of induction is subject to the objection that it provides a circular justification of induction, since it employs an ampliative inference to justify an ampliative inference. In this paper, I respond to the objection of circularity by arguing that what justifies induction is not the inference to the best explanation of its reliability. The ground of induction is the natural kinds themselves. (shrink)
This paper is a response to an objection that Markus Seidel has made to my analysis of epistemic relativism. Seidel argues that the epistemic relativist is unable to base a relativist account of justification on the sceptical problem of the criterion in the way that I have suggested in earlier work. In response to Seidel, I distinguish between weak and strong justification, and argue that all the relativist needs is weak justification. In addition, I explain my reasons for employing the (...) idiom of objectivity rather than that of absolutism which Seidel prefers. -/- . (shrink)
In a shift of position that has gone largely unnoticed by the great majority of commentators, Thomas Kuhn's version of the incommensurability thesis underwent a major transformation over the last decade and a half of his life. In his later work, Kuhn argued that incommensurability is a relation of translation failure between local subsets of interdefined theoretical terms, which encapsulate the taxonomic structure of a theory. Incommensurability arises because it is impossible to transfer the natural categories employed within one taxonomic (...) structure into the categorial system of another such structure. Apparently on the basis of such taxonomic incommensurability, Kuhn asserted a number of antirealist theses about truth, reference and reality. In this paper, it will be argued, however, that, far from leading to antirealist consequences about the relationship between theory and reality, the taxonomic incommensurability thesis may be incorporated unproblematically within a reasonably robust scientific realist framework. (shrink)
Since 1962 Kuhn's concept of incommensurability has undergone a process of transformation. His current account of incommensurability has little in common with his original account of it. Originally, incommensurability was a relation of methodological, observational and conceptual disparity between paradigms. Later Kuhn restricted the notion to the semantical sphere and assimilated it to the indeterminacy of translation. Recently he has developed an account of it as localized translation failure between subsets of terms employed by theories.
Scientific realism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientific realism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of scientific realism and contains (...) an original solution to the problem of induction that rests on an appeal to the principle of uniformity of nature. (shrink)
The contemporary debate between scientific realism and anti-realism is conditioned by a polarity between two opposing arguments: the realist’s success argument and the anti-realist’s pessimistic induction. This polarity has skewed the debate away from the problem that lies at the source of the debate. From a realist point of view, the historical approach to the philosophy of science which came to the fore in the 1960s gave rise to an unsatisfactory conception of scientific progress. One of the main motivations for (...) the scientific realist appeal to the success of science was the need to provide a substantive account of the progress of science as an increase of knowledge about the same entities as those referred to by earlier theories in the history of science. But the idea that a substantive conception of progress requires continuity of reference has faded from the contemporary debate. In this paper, I revisit the historical movement in the philosophy of science in an attempt to resuscitate the original agenda of the debate about scientific realism. I also briefly outline the way in which the realist should employ the theory of reference as the basis for a robust account of scientific progress which will satisfy realist requirements. (shrink)
This paper describes the position of scientific realism and presents the basic lines of argument for the position. Simply put, scientific realism is the view that the aim of science is knowledge of the truth about observable and unobservable aspects of a mind-independent, objective reality. Scientific realism is supported by several distinct lines of argument. It derives from a non-anthropocentric conception of our place in the natural world, and it is grounded in the epistemology and metaphysics of common sense. Further, (...) the success of science entitles us to infer both the approximate truth of mature scientific theories and the truth-conduciveness of the methods of science. (shrink)
The aim of this chapter is to explore the relationship between Kuhn’s views about science and scientific realism. I present an overview of key features of Kuhn’s model of scientific change. The model suggests a relativistic approach to the methods of science. I bring out a conflict between this relativistic approach and a realist approach to the norms of method. I next consider the question of progress and truth. Kuhn’s model is a problem-solving model that proceeds by way of puzzles (...) and anomalies rather than progress toward truth. I explore Kuhn’s views about scientific progress in connection with scientific realist views about truth and progress. This leads to consideration of Kuhn’s views about the incommensurability of paradigms, as well as brief consideration of an anti-realist interpretation of his talk of world-change. I conclude by indicating that the scientific realist may endorse some aspects of Kuhn’s view. (shrink)
Some think that issues to do with scientific method are last century's stale debate; Popper was an advocate of methodology, but Kuhn, Feyerabend, and others are alleged to have brought the debate about its status to an end. The papers in this volume show that issues in methodology are still very much alive. Some of the papers reinvestigate issues in the debate over methodology, while others set out new ways in which the debate has developed in the last decade. The (...) book will be of interest to philosophers and scientists alike in the reassessment it provides of earlier debates about method and current directions of research. (shrink)
This note poses a dilemma for scientific realism which stems from the apparent conflict between science and common sense. On the one hand, we may accept scientific realism and agree that there is a conflict between science and common sense. If we do this, we remove the evidential basis for science and have no reason to accept science in the first place. On the other hand, we may accept scientific realism and endorse common sense. If we do this, we must (...) reject the conflict between science and common sense. The dilemma is to be resolved by distinguishing between basic common sense and widely held beliefs. Basic common sense survives the advance of science and may serve as the evidential basis for science. (shrink)
This paper revisits one of the key ideas developed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In particular, it explores the methodological form of incommensurability which may be found in the original edition of Structure. It is argued that such methodological incommensurability leads to a form of epistemic relativism. In later work, Kuhn moved away from the original idea of methodological incommensurability with his idea of a set of epistemic values that provides a basis for rational theory choice, but do not (...) constitute an algorithm for such choice. The paper also explores the sceptical basis for the epistemic relativism of the original view that Kuhn proposes in Structure. It suggests that the main sceptical rationale for such relativism may be avoided by a particularist and naturalist conception of epistemic normativity. When this approach is combined with the appeal to external methodological standards endorsed by the later Kuhn and his critics, the epistemic relativism of Structure may be completely repudiated. (shrink)
The incommensurability thesis is the thesis that the content of some alternative scientific theories is incomparable due to translation failure between the vocabulary the theories employ. This paper presents an overview of the main issues which have arisen in the debate about incommensurability. It also briefly outlines a response to the thesis based on a modified causal theory of reference which allows change of reference subsequent to initial baptism, as well as a role to description in the determination of reference. (...) On such a view. the content of theories may be compared on the basis of shared reference, despite failure of translation. Two recent developments involving the incomnensurability thesis are also examined: (i) the taxonomic version of the incomensurability thesis found in Kuhn’s later writings. (ii) Hoyningen-Huenc’s neo-Kantian interpretation of Kuhn’s metaphysics. (shrink)
There are two chief tasks which confront the philosophy of scientific method. The first task is to specify the methodology which serves as the objective ground for scientific theory appraisal and acceptance. The second task is to explain how application of this methodology leads to advance toward the aim(s) of science. In other words, the goal of the theory of method is to provide an integrated explanation of both rational scientific theory choice and scientific progress.
What is it to be scientific? Is there such a thing as scientific method? And if so, how might such methods be justified? Robert Nola and Howard Sankey seek to provide answers to these fundamental questions in their exploration of the major recent theories of scientific method. Although for many scientists their understanding of method is something they just pick up in the course of being trained, Nola and Sankey argue that it is possible to be explicit about what this (...) tacit understanding of method is, rather than leave it as some unfathomable mystery. They robustly defend the idea that there is such a thing as scientific method and show how this might be legitimated. This book begins with the question of what methodology might mean and explores the notions of values, rules and principles, before investigating how methodologists have sought to show that our scientific methods are rational. Part 2 of this book sets out some principles of inductive method and examines its alternatives including abduction, IBE, and hypothetico-deductivism. Part 3 introduces probabilistic modes of reasoning, particularly Bayesianism in its various guises, and shows how it is able to give an account of many of the values and rules of method. Part 4 considers the ideas of philosophers who have proposed distinctive theories of method such as Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend and Part 5 continues this theme by considering philosophers who have proposed naturalised theories of method such as Quine, Laudan and Rescher. This book offers readers a comprehensive introduction to the idea of scientific method and a wide-ranging discussion of how historians of science, philosophers of science and scientists have grappled with the question over the last fifty years. (shrink)
This paper addresses the relationship between the history and philosophy of science by way of the issue of epistemic normativity. After brief discussion of the relationship between history and philosophy of science in Kuhn’s own thinking, the paper focuses on the implications of the history of science for epistemic normativity. There may be historical evidence for change of scientific methodology, which may seem to support a position of epistemic relativism. However, the fact that the methods of science undergo variation does (...) not entail that epistemic justification varies with the methods employed by scientists. In order to arrive at the relativist conclusion, an epistemological argument is required that justification depends upon operative methods. This raises the question of epistemic normativity. Kuhn himself attempted to deal with this question on a number of occasions, but without success. Following brief discussion of Kuhn on this topic, the paper then turns to the treatment of epistemic normativity in the work of Lakatos, Laudan and Worrall. Lakatos and Laudan proposed that particular episodes from the history of science might be employed to adjudicate between alternative theories of method. Such episodes are selected on the basis of value judgements or pre-analytic intuitions, but such value judgements and intuitions are themselves problematic. Laudan later proposed the normative naturalist view that a rule of method is to be evaluated empirically on the basis of its reliability in conducing to a desired cognitive aim. Against this attempt to naturalize meta-methodology, Worrall argued that the normative force of the appeal to past reliability requires an a priori inductive principle. In my view, the problem of epistemic normativity is solved by combining the particularist focus on specific episodes in the history of science with the naturalistic account of the reliability of method. (shrink)
This paper considers the relationship between science and common sense. It takes as its point of departure, Eddington’s distinction between the table of physics and the table of common sense, as well as Eddington’s suggestion that science shows common sense to be false. Against the suggestion that science shows common sense to be false, it is argued that there is a form of common sense, basic common sense, which is not typically overthrown by scientific research. Such basic common sense is (...) strongly confirmed by our everyday experience and may itself serve as the basic for scientific realism. (shrink)
This paper presents a particularist and naturalist response to epistemic relativism. The response is based on an analysis of the source of epistemic relativism, according to which epistemic relativism is closely related to Pyrrhonian scepticism. The paper starts with a characterization of epistemic relativism. Such relativism is explicitly distinguished from epistemological contextualism. Next the paper presents an argument for epistemic relativism that is based on the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. It then considers a response to the problem of the (...) criterion proposed by Roderick Chisholm, which is based on epistemological particularism. After sketching Chisholm’s approach, a response to epistemic relativism is presented which combines Chisholm’s particularism with epistemic naturalism and reliabilism. A number of objections to the position are then considered. The paper ends with remarks about the relationship between particularism and the naturalistic response proposed to epistemic relativism. (shrink)
The paper briefly reviews the main formulations of the incommensurability thesis by Feyerabend and Kuhn, as well as the main criticisms leveled against it. The question is then raised of whether there is a "phenomenon" of incommensurability that has been "discovered". It is argued that there is no such phenomenon.
This is an introduction to the position of scientific realism, which outlines a number of core doctrines of scientific realism, and indicates a number of optional and non-core doctrine. It also sketches the basic argument for scientific realism, known as the success argument.
This paper responds to criticism presented by Steven Bland of my naturalistic approach to epistemic relativism. In my view, the central argument for epistemic relativism derives from the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. This opens relativism to an anti-sceptical response. I combine Roderick Chisholm’s particularist response to the problem of the criterion with a reliabilist conception of epistemic warrant. A distinction is made between epistemic norms which provide genuine warrant and those which do not. On the basis of this distinction, (...) we may reject the relativist claim that all epistemic norms have equal standing. I consider three points made by Bland against my position. These relate to epistemic pluralism, the relevance of evolution to epistemic pluralism, and empirical evidence as a basic source of knowledge. (shrink)
In this response, doubts are expressed relating to the treatment by Hoyningen-Huene and Oberheim of the relation between incommensurability and content comparison. A realist response is presented to their treatment of ontological replacement. Further questions are raised about the coherence of the neo-Kantian idea of the world-in-itself as well as the phenomenal worlds hypothesis. The notion of common sense is clarified. Meta-incommensurability is dismissed as a rhetorical device which obstructs productive discussion.Keywords: Scientific realism; Incommensurability; Meta-incommensurability; Paul Hoyningen-HueneArticle Outline.
The paper discusses the version of entity realism presented by Ian Hacking in his book, Representing and Intervening. Hacking holds that an ontological form of scientific realism, entity realism, may be defended on the basis of experimental practices which involve the manipulation of unobservable entities. There is much to be said in favour of the entity realist position that Hacking defends, especially the pragmatist orientation of his approach to realism. But there are problems with the position. The paper explores two (...) issues that reflect negatively on Hacking’s version of the entity realist position. The first issue relates to the role of description in fixing the reference of theoretical terms. The second issue relates to Hacking’s claim that the argument for entity realism based on experiment is a different kind of argument from the standard argument for scientific realism based on the success of science. (shrink)
This is a sequel to my paper, ‘What is Scientific Realism?’, which appeared in an earlier issue of this journal (Sankey, 2000a). A number of papers by other authors on topics relating to scientific realism have followed in subsequent issues. In this paper I revisit some of the themes developed in my earlier paper in the light of these later papers. I begin by restating the key ideas of the earlier paper. Next, I mention a number of afterthoughts which I (...) have had since the appearance of the paper. I then offer some comments on three of these subsequent papers. I hope these comments advance the discussion by clarifying and developing a number of key points. (shrink)
The paper explores the relativistic implications of the thesis of incommensurability. A semantic form of incommensurability due to semantic variation between theories is distinguished from a methodological form due to variation in methodological standards between theories. Two responses to the thesis of semantic incommensurability are dealt with: the first challenges the idea of untranslatability to which semantic incommensurability gives rise; the second holds that relations of referential continuity eliminate semantic incommensurability. It is then argued that methodological incommensurability poses little risk (...) to the rationality or objectivity of science. For rational theory choice need neither be dictated by an algorithm nor governed by a binding set of rules. The upshot of the discussion is deflationary. There is little prospect for a relativistic conception of science based on inflated claims about the incommensurability of scientific theories. (shrink)