This paper examines narrativism’s claim that the historical past cannot be known once and for all because it must be continuously re-described from the standpoint of the present. We argue that this claim is based on a non sequitur. We take narrativism’s claim that the past must be re-described continuously from the perspective of the present to be the result of the following train of thought: 1) “all knowledge is conceptually mediated”; 2) “the conceptual framework through which knowledge of reality (...) is mediated changes with every new generation of historians”; therefore (narrativism’s claim) “the historical past changes with every new generation of historians”. The idea of an unchanging past, for the narrativist, requires denying premise 1 (all knowledge is conceptually mediated”) and therefore rests on a problematic commitment to the chimerical notion of the past as it is in-itself, wie es eigentlich gewesen. We argue that the narrativist’s conclusion does not follow unless one adds a further premise, namely 3) “it is not possible to view reality through the categorial framework of historical agents”. If one asserts the possibility of grasping reality through the categorial framework of others, be they contemporary or past agents (as much philosophy of history written in an idealist key does), then one no longer has to accept the narrativist’s inference that since the past cannot be known in-itself or independently of conceptual mediation, then it cannot be known as it always was for the historical agents. Narrativism’s inference that the past cannot be known as it always was does not follow from premises 1 and 2 unless one smuggles in another problematic premise, premise 3. In this paper we defend the claim that the past can be known as it always was (not as it is in-itself) by invoking a different conception of the role of conceptual mediation in historical knowledge, one which assumes the possibility of viewing reality through the categorial framework of others. This notion of the role of conceptual mediation in historical knowledge is prevalent in the idealist tradition but, in the interest of brevity, we will defend this notion of mediacy by specific reference to the idealist philosophy of R.G. Collingwood. (shrink)
I understand Pluralism to be the doctrine that, either generally or with reference to some particular area of judgement, there is more than one basic principle. It endorses the possibility that some particular case may arise which will be adjudicated in one way if one principle is applied while another principle points otherwise and to an answer which, at least in practice, is incompatible. Thus in morality, according to pluralism there may be more than one correct answer to the question (...) of which of the decisions available in some particular situation is the best. (shrink)
Scientists and laypeople alike use the sense of understanding that an explanation conveys as a cue to good or correct explanation. Although the occurrence of this sense or feeling of understanding is neither necessary nor sufficient for good explanation, it does drive judgments of the plausibility and, ultimately, the acceptability, of an explanation. This paper presents evidence that the sense of understanding is in part the routine consequence of two well-documented biases in cognitive psychology: overconfidence and hindsight. In light of (...) the prevalence of counterfeit understanding in the history of science, I argue that many forms of cognitive achievement do not involve a sense of understanding, and that only the truth or accuracy of an explanation make the sense of understanding a valid cue to genuine understanding. (shrink)
Philosophers agree that scientific explanations aim to produce understanding, and that good ones succeed in this aim. But few seriously consider what understanding is, or what the cues are when we have it. If it is a psychological state or process, describing its specific nature is the job of psychological theorizing. This article examines the role of understanding in scientific explanation. It warns that the seductive, phenomenological sense of understanding is often, but mistakenly, viewed as a cue of genuine understanding. (...) The article closes with a discussion of several new paths of research that tie the psychology of scientific explanation to cognate notions of learning, testimony, and understanding. (shrink)
A fresh, daring, and genuine alternative to the traditional story of scientific progress Explaining the world around us, and the life within it, is one of the most uniquely human drives, and the most celebrated activity of science. Good explanations are what provide accurate causal accounts of the things we wonder at, but explanation's earthly origins haven't grounded it: we have used it to account for the grandest and most wondrous mysteries in the natural world. Explanations give us a sense (...) of understanding, but an explanation that feels right doesn't mean it is true. For every true explanation, there is a false one that feels just as good. A good theory's explanations, though, have a much easier path to truth. This push for good explanations elevated science from medieval alchemy to electro-chemistry, or a pre-inertial physics to the forces underlying nanoparticles. And though the attempt to explain has existed as long as we have been able to wonder, a science timeline from pre-history to the present will reveal a steep curve of theoretical discovery that explodes around 1600, primarily in the West. Ranging over neuroscience, psychology, history, and policy, Wondrous Truths answers two fundamental questions-Why did science progress in the West? And why so quickly? J.D. Trout's answers are surprising. His central idea is that Western science rose above all others because it hit upon successive theories that were approximately true through an awkward assortment of accident and luck, geography and personal idiosyncrasy. Of course, intellectual ingenuity partially accounts for this persistent drive forward. But so too does the persistence of the objects of wonder. Wondrous Truths recovers the majesty of science, and provides a startling new look at the grand sweep of its biggest ideas. (shrink)
Scientific realism has been advanced as an interpretation of the natural sciences but never as an interpretation of the behavioural sciences. This book introduces a novel version of scientific realism -- Measured Realism -- that characterizes the kind of theoretical progress in the social and psychological sciences that is uneven but indisputable. Measuring the Intentional World proposes a theory of measurement -- Population-Guided Estimation -- that connects natural, psychological, and social scientific inquiry.