For many, the two key thinkers about science in the twentieth century are Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper, and one of the key questions in contemplating science is how to make sense of theory change. In Creatively Undecided, philosopher Menachem Fisch defends a new way to make sense of the rationality of scientific revolutions. He argues, loosely following Kuhn, for a strong notion of the framework dependency of all scientific practice, while at the same time he shows how such frameworks (...) can be deemed the possible outcomes of keen rational deliberation along Popperian lines. Fisch's innovation is to call attention to the importance of ambiguity and indecision in scientific change and advancement. Specifically, he backs the problem up, looking not at how we might communicate rationally across an already existing divide but at the rational incentive to create an alternative framework in the first place. Creatively Undecided will be essential reading for philosophers of science, and its vivid case study in Victorian mathematics will draw in historians. (shrink)
__The View from Within_ _examines the character of reason and the ability of an individual to effectively distance himself from the normative framework in which he functions in order to be self-critical and innovative. To accomplish this task, Menachem Fisch and Yitzhak Benbaji critically employ or reject the recent writings of Brandom, Friedman, Frankfurt, Walzer, Davidson, Williams, Habermas, Rorty, and McDowell to offer a fundamental analysis of the character of reason and the problem of relativism. This ambitious book forcefully raises (...) the problem of rational normative change and makes the unique and insightful claim that although we cannot be _convinced _by normative criticism to modify or replace our norms, we can be rationally _motivated_ to do so by the effect of exposure to trusted critics. Its unprecedented analysis, with its solution to the problem of normative self-criticism that has baffled philosophers for the past sixty years, will be welcomed by both students and scholars of philosophy. “__The View from Within_ _is a thorough evaluation of the arguments made by contemporary philosophers about the normative character of reason and the derivative problem of relativism. Fisch and Benbaji have admirably compared and contrasted competing positions, and with a balanced critique, they have made a sustained effort to ‘save’ rationality and provide new guideposts for its philosophical evaluation. A timely and important contribution.” —_Alfred I. Tauber, Boston University_. (shrink)
The paper attempts to elucidate and evaluate William Whewell's notion of a "consilience of inductions." In section I Whewellian consilience is defined and shown to differ considerably from what latter-day writers talk about when they use the term. In section II a primary analysis of consilience is shown to yield two types of consilient processes, one in which one of the lower-level laws undergoes a conceptual change (the case aptly discussed in Butts ), and one in which the explanatory theory (...) undergoes conceptual "stretching." In section III both consilient cases are compared to the non-consilient case in reference to L. J. Cohen's method of relevant variables. In section IV we examine the test procedures of the theory in all three cases, and it is shown that in the event of genuine consilience (consilience of the second type) a theory acquires extraordinarily high support. In the final section something is said of the short-comings of standard Bayesian confirmation theories that are highlighted by Whewellian consilience. (shrink)
William Whewell was a giant of Victorian intellectual culture. His influence, whether recognized or forgotten, is palpable in areas as diverse as moral philosophy, mineralogy, architecture, the politics of education, physics, engineering, and theology. Recent studies of the place of the sciences in nineteenth-century Britain have repeatedly indicated the significance of Whewell's sweeping and critical proposals for a reformed account of scientific knowledge and moral values. However, until now there has been no detailed study of the context and impact of (...) his project. This collection of essays by recognized authorities in the fields of history, history of science, and philosophy thus represents the first attempt to do justice to a magisterial nineteenth-century intellectual. More generally, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of Victorian intellectual life and its aftermath. (shrink)
Some relativists deny that moral discourse is factual. According to them, our ethical commitments are to be explained by appealing to noncognitive mental states like desires, rather than to beliefs in some independent moral facts. Indeed, the package antirealism (there are no moral properties) & noncognitivism (the source of moral commitments is noncognitive) seems to be implicit in Lewis’s and Harman’s relativism. But to many philosophers this package seems to be unattractive. Our task in this paper is to construe and (...) defend a less committal and hence more attractive version of relativism. Our thesis has two elements. First, we shall present a version of relativism that combines, on the one hand, realism with regard to thick ethical properties, and, on the other, antirealism with regard to thin ethical properties. Secondly, we shall argue that this version of relativism can be defended through the skeptical theory of meaning Kripke attributes to the later Wittgenstein. The paper comprises three parts: the first sketches in very broad lines a version of standard moral relativism. In the second part we construe an alternative version that we call ‘cultural relativism.’ By appealing to the thick-thin distinction, cultural relativists explain what it means to say of forms of life that they are in conflict. In the third part we shall elaborate an argument whose conclusion is that in ranking conflicting ethical outlooks, people make an error, that is, they attribute to these outlooks moral properties that do not exist. (shrink)
More than any other aspect of the Second Scientific Revolution, the remarkable revitalization or British mathematics and mathematical physics during the first half of the nineteenth century is perhaps the most deserving of the name. While the newly constituted sciences of biology and geology were undergoing their first revolution, as it were, the reform of British mathematics was truly and self-consciously the story of a second coming of age. ‘Discovered by Fermat, cocinnated and rendered analytical by Newton, and enriched by (...) Leibniz with a powerful and comprehensive notation’, wrote the young John Herschel and Charles Babbage of the calculus in 1813, ‘as if the soil of this country [was] unfavourable to its cultivation, it soon drooped and almost faded into neglect; and we now have to re-import the exotic, with nearly a century of foreign improvement, and to render it once more indigenous among us’. (shrink)
Babbage wrote two relatively detailed, yet significantly incongruous, autobiographical accounts of his pre-Cambridge and Cambridge days. He published one in 1864 and in it advertised the existence of the other, which he carefully retained in manuscript form. The aim of this paper is to chart in some detail for the first time the discrepancies between the two accounts, to compare and assess their relative credibility, and to explain their author's possible reasons for knowingly fabricating the less credible of the two.
Science studies the world, but does not include itself in it. The task of systematically studying science falls to the humanities. The problem is that philosophers who take recent developments in philosophy seriously are forced to deny any credence to the self-image of science as a steadily progressive, self-critical enterprise, while philosophers who take what scientists do and feel more seriously, are forced to ignore some of the most profound latter-day findings of philosophy. What makes this issue highly relevant in (...) the present context, is that at its heart it is a dispute about language. This paper explores the possibility not of adjudicating this dispute, but of somehow bridging it. What it asks and proposes to answer positively is whether it is possible to remain committed to both horns of the dilemma: to salvage a philosophically viable account of science as a self-critical enterprise, without having to breach the latter-day philosophical framework that would seem to deem this impossible. (shrink)
Robert Brandom's "The Pragmatist Enlightenment" describes the advent of American pragmatism as signaling a sea-change in our understanding of human reason away from the top-down Euclidian models of reasoning, warrant and knowledge inspired by the physical sciences, toward the far more bottom-up, narrative, inherently fallible and dialogical forms of reasoning of the life and human sciences. It is against this backdrop that Talmudic Judaism emerges not only as an early anticipation of the pragmatist enlightenment, but as going a substantial and (...) radical step beyond it, that in the context of religious commitment and reasoning, is unprecedented. (shrink)
I have always been a philosopher at heart. I write history of science and history of its philosophy primarily as a philosopher wary of his abstractions and broad conceptualizations. But that has not always been the case. Lakatos famously portrayed history of science as the testing ground for theories of scientific rationality. But he did so along the crudest Hegelian lines that did injury both to Hegel and to the history and methodology of science. Since science is ultimately rational, he (...) argued, rival methodologies can prove their mettle by competing for whose tendentiously reconstructed account of the history of science renders more of it rational! My own approach to the relationship between history and philosophy of science started out perhaps a little more open-mindedly than Lakatos’s, but in a manner no less crude. Over the years the relationship between the history I wrote and the philosophy to which I was committed took on a firmer and more reciprocal shape. It did so in the course of a process that I now realize exemplified the philosophical position it eventually yielded. I would like to trace that development in the following pages and reflect as best I can on where it has lead and left me. (shrink)
The problems divulged, analyzed and allegedly solved in Science, Order & Creativity are not scientific problems. They attest to a fundamental failure of science but not to scientific failure per se. Bohm and Peat's meta-scientific undertaking cannot afford, therefore, to remain negative. However, neither science itself nor current professional philosophy are capable of the radical positive rethinking required, in their view, in order to restore and ensure scientific creativity.
Ronald Giere and others aspire to 'naturalize science' by examining scientific activity as they would any other natural phenomenon — scientifically. Giere aims to fashion a theory of science that is naturalistic, realistic, and evolutionary, and to thus carve for himself a niche between foundationalist philosophies of science (positing abstract criteria of rationality) on the one hand, and relativist sociologies of science on the other. Giere's approach is appealing because it allows that science is a human endeavor pursued by humans (...) using human cognitive skills. The cognitive skills most salient to science, in Giere's view, are the ability to represent the world more or less accurately, and the ability to choose more or less accurately between available theories. These skills, Giere believes, have been endowed by evolution. We believe that Giere's account is inadequate because it gives short shrift to rationality. Giere places too much emphasis on natural modeling skills and on natural heuristics for judging the relative merits of these models, and too little emphasis on the systematic attempts to reflect on, find fault with, and modify, models that characterize so much of scientific activity. This aspect of science and other human endeavor — the creative, contemplative, reflective, in short the rational aspect of representation — is all but lacking in Giere's study. Thus, Giere's account of science, like other naturalist accounts, excludes precisely that which is most important, and which most needs to be explained, about science. (shrink)
0. Rational Rabbis aspires to make two main points, one philosophical and contemporary, the other interpretative and historical. The book’s philosophical undertaking, presented in Part I, is to develop a central insight of Karl Popper’s into a more fuller theory of rational endeavor. The book’s interpretative and main undertaking, presented in Part II, is to argue (a) that the talmudic literature bears clear witness to a tannaitic view of humanly possible intellectual achievement intriguingly akin to the theory of rationality proposed (...) in Part I, and (b) that despite appearances to the contrary, it is a voice centrally responsible for the Bavli’s halakhic discourse and project. The TR session at AAR 2002 focused on this second last claim by means of a close reading of the ‘meitivi’ sugya presented in Bavli, Berakhot 19b-20a. A detailed reading of the sugya can now be accessed at: http://jtr.lib.virginia.edu/volume4/number2/TR04_02_a01.html What follows briefly summarizes that reading and outlines its broader philosophical and hermeneutical settings. (shrink)
This article introduces the confrontational theology of the rabbinic literature of late antiquity by means of a well-known, yet ill-understood legend. It goes on to argue that Talmudic confrontationalism comes coupled with an insistent dialogism that, unlike any other major human undertaking, displays a profound awareness of the indispensable role of external normative critique in the process of changing one’s mind.