This essay contains a partial exploration of some key concepts associated with the epistemology of realist philosophies of science. It shows that neither reference nor approximate truth will do the explanatory jobs that realists expect of them. Equally, several widely-held realist theses about the nature of inter-theoretic relations and scientific progress are scrutinized and found wanting. Finally, it is argued that the history of science, far from confirming scientific realism, decisively confutes several extant versions of avowedly 'naturalistic' forms of scientific (...) realism. (shrink)
Laudan constructs a fresh approach to a longtime problem for the philosopher of science: how to explain the simultaneous and widespread presence of both agreement and disagreement in science. Laudan critiques the logical empiricists and the post-positivists as he stresses the need for centrality and values and the interdependence of values, methods, and facts as prerequisites to solving the problems of consensus and dissent in science.
By targeting and critiquing these assumptions, he lays the groundwork for a post-positivist philosophy of science that does not provide aid and comfort to the enemies of reason. This book consists of thirteen essays.
Beginning with the premise that the principal function of a criminal trial is to find out the truth about a crime, Larry Laudan examines the rules of evidence and procedure that would be appropriate if the discovery of the truth were, as higher courts routinely claim, the overriding aim of the criminal justice system. Laudan mounts a systematic critique of existing rules and procedures that are obstacles to that quest. He also examines issues of error distribution by offering the first (...) integrated analysis of the various mechanisms - the standard of proof, the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof - for implementing society's view about the relative importance of the errors that can occur in a trial. (shrink)
Normative naturalism is a view about the status of epistemology and philosophy of science; it is a meta-epistemology. It maintains that epistemology can both discharge its traditional normative role and nonetheless claim a sensitivity to empirical evidence. The first sections of this essay set out the central tenets of normative naturalism, both in its epistemic and its axiological dimensions; later sections respond to criticisms of that species of naturalism from Gerald Doppelt, Jarrett Leplin and Alex Rosenberg.
Some Key Controversies in the Philosophy of Science Larry Laudan. the mouths of my realist, relativist, and positivist. (By contrast, there is at least one person who hews to the line I have my prag- matist defending.) But I have gone to some ...
This paper argues that it has been widely assumed by philosophers of science that the cumulative retention of explanatory success is a "sine qua non" for making judgements about the progress or rational preferability of one theory over another. It has also been assumed that it is impossible to make objective, Comparative judgements of the acceptability of rival theories unless all the statements of both theories could be translated into a common language. This paper seeks to show that both these (...) dogmas are mistaken; that progress without cumulativity and comparability without commensurability are both viable. (shrink)
It is widely supposed that the scientists in any field use identical standards for evaluating theories. Without such unity of standards, consensus about scientific theories is supposedly unintelligible. However, the hypothesis of uniform standards can explain neither scientific disagreement nor scientific innovation. This paper seeks to show how the presumption of divergent standards (when linked to a hypothesis of dominance) can explain agreement, disagreement and innovation. By way of illustrating how a rational community with divergent standards can encourage innovation and (...) eventually reach consensus, recent developments in geophysics are discussed at some length. (shrink)
This paper propounds the following theses: 1). that the traditional focus on the Blackstone ratio of errors as a device for setting the criminal standard of proof is ill-conceived, 2). that the preoccupation with the rate of false convictions in criminal trials is myopic, and 3). that the key ratio of interest, in judging the political morality of a system of criminal justice, involves the relation between the risk that an innocent person runs of being falsely convicted of a serious (...) crime and the risk of being criminally victimized by someone who was falsely acquitted. (shrink)
Intuitionistic meta-methodologies, which abound in recent philosophy of science, take the criterion of success for theories of scientific rationality to be whether those theories adequately explicate our intuitive judgments of rationality in exemplary cases. Garber's (1985) critique of Laudan's (1977) intuitionistic meta-methodology, correct as far as it goes, does not go far enough. Indeed, Garber himself advocates a form of intuitionistic meta-methodology; he merely denies any special role for historical (as opposed to contemporary or imaginary) test cases. What all such (...) positions lack is a base from which to inform, criticize, or restructure our core methodological intuitions. To acquiesce in this is to deny that exemplary cases can serve the sort of warranting role required for intuitionism. This point is reinforced by a series of reasons for denying the warranting role of pre-analytic judgments of rationality. These reasons point the way toward an improved approach to meta-methodology. (shrink)
Most contributions to Whewell scholarship have tended to stress the idealistic, antiempirical temper of Whewell’s philosophy. Thus, the only two monograph-length studies on Whewell, Blanché’s Le Rationalisme de Whewell and Marcucci’s L’ ‘Idealismo’ Scientifico di William Whewell, are, as their titles suggest, concerned primarily with Whewell’s departures from classical British empiricism. Particularly in his famous dispute with Mill, it has proved tempting to parody Whewell’s position in the debate by treating it as a straightforward encounter between an arch-empiricist and an (...) arch-rationalist. There is, however, a danger that an emphasis on the necessitarian and a priori elements in Whewell’s philosophy may well obscure the unmistakable empirical emphasis in Whewell’s theory of science. I think it is time to begin to redress the balance, by focusing attention on the significant ‘empiricist’ strains in Whewell’s philosophy of science. One of the most important of those strains is connected with the operation which Whewell calls ‘the consilience of inductions’. (shrink)
GEOMETRY AND SEMANTICS: AN EXAMINATION OF PUTNAM'S PHILOSOPHY OF GEOMETRY There are many ways to shed light on how and why our conception of geometry changed during the last two centuries. One fruitful strategy is to relate those ...
It is difficult, if not impossible, to so define the term as to satisfy a subtle and metaphysical mind, bent on the detection of some point, however attenuated, upon which to hang a criticism. —Supreme Court of Virginia 1.