What is truth? Michael Lynch defends a bold new answer to this question. Traditional theories of truth hold that truth has only a single uniform nature. All truths are true in the same way. More recent deflationary theories claim that truth has no nature at all; the concept of truth is of no real philosophical importance. In this concise and clearly written book, Lynch argues that we should reject both these extremes and hold that truth is a functional property. To (...) understand truth we must understand what it does, its function in our cognitive economy. Once we understand that, we'll see that this function can be performed in more than one way. And that in turn opens the door to an appealing pluralism: beliefs about the concrete physical world needn't be true in the same way as our thoughts about matters -- like morality -- where the human stain is deepest. (shrink)
Philosophers, historians, and sociologists of science have grown interested in the daily practices of scientists. Recent studies have drawn linkages between scientific innovations and more ordinary procedures, craft skills, and sources of sponsorship. These studies dispute the idea that science is the application of a unified method or the outgrowth of a progressive history of ideas. This book critically reviews arguments and empirical studies in two areas of sociology that have played a significant role in the 'sociological turn' in science (...) studies: ethnomethodology and the sociology of scientific knowledge. In both fields, efforts to study scientific practices have led to intractable difficulties and debates, due in part to scientistic and foundationalist commitments that remain entrenched with social-scientific research policies and descriptive language. The central purpose of this book is to explore the possibility of an empirical approach to the epistemic contents of science that avoids the pitfalls of scientism and foundationalism. (shrink)
In Truth as One and Many, Michael Lynch offers a new theory of truth. There are two kinds of theory of truth in the literature. On the one hand, we have logical theories, which seek to construct formal systems that are consistent, while also containing a predicate which have as many as possible of the properties which we ordinarily take the English predicate ‘is true’ to have; salient examples include Tarski’s and Kripke’s theories of truth. On the other hand, we (...) have metaphysical theories, which seek to give a non-formal account of the nature of truth – of what truth consists in, of what it means to say that something is true; salient examples include correspondence, coherence and deflationary theories of truth. Lynch’s theory – functionalism about truth – is of the second sort.The theory takes its start from a number of principles which Lynch classifies as truisms about truth:Objectivity: The belief that p is true if, and only if, with respect to the belief that p, things are as they are believed to be.Norm of Belief: It is prima facie correct to believe that p if and only if the proposition that p is true.End of Inquiry: Other things being equal, true beliefs are a worthy goal of inquiry.Lynch argues that other familiar principles can be derived from these: for example, Objectivity together with some auxiliary principles and definitions yields versions of the T-schema, and of the principle that beliefs can be true without being warranted and vice versa. These principles are supposed to give the nominal essence of truth – to constitute our folk theory of truth. Lynch …. (shrink)
In the 1980s, philosophical, historical and social studies of science underwent a change which later evolved into a turn to practice. Analysts of science were asked to pay attention to scientific practices in meticulous detail and along multiple dimensions, including the material, social and psychological. Following this turn, the interest in scientific practices continued to increase and had an indelible influence in the various fields of science studies. No doubt, the practice turn changed our conceptions and approaches of science, but (...) what did it really teach us? What does it mean to study scientific practices? What are the general lessons, implications, and new challenges? This volume explores questions about the practice turn using both case studies and theoretical analysis. The case studies examine empirical and mathematical sciences, including the engineering sciences. The volume promotes interactions between acknowledged experts from different, often thought of as conflicting, orientations. It presents contributions in conjunction with critical commentaries that put the theses and assumptions of the former in perspective. Overall, the book offers a unique and diverse range of perspectives on the meanings, methods, lessons, and challenges associated with the practice turn. (shrink)
ABSTRACTDemocracies, Dewey and others have argued, are ideally spaces of reasons – they allow for an exchange of reasons both practical and epistemic by those willing to engage in that discourse. That requires that citizens have convictions they believe in, but it also requires that they be willing to listen to each other. This paper examines how a particular psychological attitude, “epistemic arrogance,” can undermine the achievement of these goals. The paper presents an analysis of this attitude and then examines (...) four arguments for how its adoption – especially by the powerful – undermines the ideal of democracy as a space of reasons. (shrink)
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 1999 Academic debates about pluralism and truth have become increasingly polarized in recent years. One side embraces extreme relativism, deeming any talk of objective truth as philosophically naïve. The opposition, frequently arguing that any sort of relativism leads to nihilism, insists on an objective notion of truth according to which there is only one true story of the world. Both sides agree that there is no middle path. In Truth in Context, Michael Lynch argues (...) that there is a middle path, one where metaphysical pluralism is consistent with a robust realism about truth. Drawing on the work of Hilary Putnam, W.V.O. Quine, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others, Lynch develops an original version of metaphysical pluralism, which he calls relativistic Kantianism. He argues that one can take facts and propositions as relative without implying that our ordinary concept of truth is a relative, epistemic, or "soft" concept. The truths may be relative, but our concept of truth need not be. (shrink)
Pluralism about truth is the view that there is more than one way for a proposition to be true. When taken to imply that there is more than one concept and property of truth, this position faces a number of troubling objections. I argue that we can overcome these objections, and yet retain pluralism's key insight, by taking truth to be a multiply realizable property of propositions.
Reflexivity is a well-established theoretical and methodological concept in the human sciences, and yet it is used in a confusing variety of ways. The meaning of `reflexivity' and the virtues ascribed to the concept are relative to particular theoretical and methodological commitments. This article examines several versions of the concept, and critically focuses on treatments of reflexivity as a mark of distinction or source of methodological advantage. Although reflexivity often is associated with radical epistemologies, social scientists with more conventional leanings (...) often speak of reflexivity as a methodological tool, substantive property of social systems, or source of individual enlightenment. Radical and conventional social scientists alike tend to stress the importance of being reflexive, as opposed to being unreflexive, but they do not share a coherent conception of what `being reflexive' means or entails. As an alternative to reflexive self-privileging, I recommend an ethnomethodological conception of reflexivity as an ordinary, unremarkable and unavoidable feature of action. The ethnomethodological conception does not support a particular theoretical or methodological standpoint by contrasting it to an `unreflexive' counterpart. It has little value as a critical weapon or source of epistemological advantage, which, in the present context, can have advantages of its own for promoting peace and epistemic democracy. (shrink)
Know-it-All Society is about how we form and maintain our political convictions, and the ways in which political ideologies, human psychology and technology conspire to make our society more dogmatic, less intellectually humble and ultimately less democratic.
Is truth objective or relative? What exists independently of our minds? The essays in this book debate these two questions, which are among the oldest of philosophical issues and have vexed almost every major philosopher, from Plato, to Kant, to Wittgenstein. Fifteen eminent contributors bring fresh perspectives, renewed energy, and original answers to debates of great interest both within philosophy and in the culture at large.
Minimalists generally see themselves as engaged in a descriptive project. They maintain that they can explain everything we want to say about truth without appealing to anything other than the T-schema, i.e., the idea that the proposition that p is true iff p. I argue that despite recent claims to the contrary, minimalists cannot explain one important belief many people have about truth, namely, that truth is good. If that is so, then minimalism, and possibly deflationism as a whole, must (...) be rejected or recast as a profoundly revisionary project. (shrink)
Imagine you had the functions of your smartphone miniaturized to a cellular level and accessible by your neural network. Reflection on this possibility suggests that we should not just concern ourselves with whether our knowledge is extending “out” to our devices; our devices are extending in, and with them, possibly the information that they bring. If so, then the question of whether knowledge is “extended” becomes wrapped up with the question of whether knowing is something we do, or something we (...) can share with, or outsource to, instruments. And that in turn raises the two questions of this paper: First, to what extent does such technology put pressure on the idea that we might have more than one conception of knowledge? And second, what is the value of states that fit these conceptions of knowledge? (shrink)
In this paper, we offer a brief, critical survey of contemporary work on truth. We begin by reflecting on the distinction between substantivist and deflationary truth theories. We then turn to three new kinds of truth theory—Kevin Scharp's replacement theory, John MacFarlane's relativism, and the alethic pluralism pioneered by Michael Lynch and Crispin Wright. We argue that despite their considerable differences, these theories exhibit a common "pluralizing tendency" with respect to truth. In the final section, we look at the underinvestigated (...) interface between metaphysical and formal truth theories, pointing to several promising questions that arise here. (shrink)
According to alethic functionalism, truth is a higher-order multiply realizable property of propositions. After briefly presenting the views main principles and motivations, I defend alethic functionalism from recent criticisms raised against it by Cory Wright. Wright argues that alethic functionalism will collapse either into deflationism or into a view that takes true as simply ambiguous. I reject both claims.
In this essay, I discuss the relationship between Garfinkel’s Studies in Ethnomethodology and subsequent developments in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. I argue that a point of continuity in ethnomethodology and CA, which marks both as radically different from long-standing traditions in Western philosophy and social science, is the claim that social order is evidently produced in ongoing activities, and that no specialized theory or methodology is necessary for making such order observable and accountable. In the half-century following the publication of (...) Studies, Garfinkel explicitly aimed to radicalize ethnomethodology’s stance toward what he called “formal” or “classical” treatments of social order, while much of CA pursued the path of an empirical social science that became increasingly integrated with other branches of social science. Nevertheless, I argue, Garfinkel’s radical initiatives are not completely out of play in ethnomethodological conversational analysis, and the potential remains for further elucidating, exemplifying, and developing them. (shrink)
This article critically examines the relations between epistemics in conversation analysis and linguistic and cognitivist conceptions of communicative interaction that emphasize information and information transfer. The epistemic program adheres to the focus on recorded instances of talk-in-interaction that is characteristic of CA, explicitly identifies its theoretical origins with ethnomethodology, and points to implications of its research for the social distribution of knowledge. However, despite such affiliations with CA and ethnomethodology, the EP is cognitivist in the way it emphasizes information exchange (...) as an underlying, extrasituational ‘driver’ in social interaction. To document how the EP draws upon cognitivist conceptions of information and knowledge, we review examples from the corpus of transcripts analyzed in key publications on epistemics. Our re-analysis casts doubt upon the way EP analysis invokes an underlying order that supposedly drives the evident sequential organization of those transcripts. (shrink)
Can we give objective reasons for our most basic standards of reason-- our fundamental epistemic principles? I argue, against several forms of skepticism about reason, that we can, but that the reasons we can give for epistemic principles are ultimately practical, not epistemic.
Moral relativism is an attractive position, but also one that it is difficult to formulate. In this paper, we propose an alternative way of formulating moral relativism that locates the relativity of morality in the property that makes moral claims true. Such an approach, we believe, has significant advantages over other possible ways of formulating moral relativism. We conclude by considering a few problems such a position might face.
This paper builds upon ethnomethodological and social constructivist studies of representation in the natural sciences to examine sociological theory, a field that is much closer to home. An analysis of diagrams and related illustrations in theory texts shows that labels, geometric boundaries, vectors, and symmetries often are used to convey a sense of orderly flows of causal influences in a homogeneous field. These graphic elements make up what I call a "rhetorical mathematics" that conveys an impression of rationality. Although theory (...) pictures rarely show much beyond what a text already says in its writing, they simulate a hermeneutic passage from written ideas to an independent representational or mathematical space. The paper discusses two modes of textual disruption of the rhetorical mathematics of theory pictures: parody and deconstruction. Parody makes ironic use of graphic devices in order to expose the rationalistic associations that come with the territory. Deconstruction displaces (and, if taken far enough, dissolves entirely) the Flatland of pictorial rationality. These negative maneuvers raise the possibility of using figural space for alternative modes of sociological inquiry. (shrink)
Supervenience has provided a way for nonreductive materialists to explain how the mental can be physically irreducible but still physically respectable. In recent years, doubts about this research program have emerged from a number of quarters. Consequently, Terence Horgan has argued that nonreductive materialists must appeal to an upgraded "superdupervenience," if supervenience is to do any materialist work. We argue that nonreductive materialism cannot meet this challenge. Superdupervenience is impossible.
Sociologists, philosophers and historians of science are gradually recognizing the importance of visual representation. This is part of a more general movement away from a theory-centric view of science and towards an interest in practical aspects of observation and experimentation. Rather than treating science as a matter of demonstrating the logical connection between theoretical and empirical statements, an increasing number of investigations are examining how scientists compose and use diagrams, graphs, photographs, micrographs, maps, charts, and related visual displays. This paper (...) focuses on diagrams in biology, and tries to demonstrate how diagrams are an integral part of the production of scientific knowledge. In order to disclose some of the distinctive practical and analytical uses of diagrams, the paper contrasts the way diagrams and photographs are used in biological texts. Both diagrams and photographs are shown to be “constructions” that separately and together mediate the investigation of scientific phenoman. (shrink)
The answers to the questions in the title depend on the kind of pluralism one is talking about. We will focus here on our own views. The purpose of this article is to trace out some possible connections between these kinds of pluralism. We show how each of them might bear on the other, depending on how certain open questions are resolved.
Ethnomethodologists (or at least many of them) have been reticent about their theoretical sources and methodological principles. It frequently falls to others to make such matters explicit. In this paper I discuss this silence about theory, but rather than entering the breach by specifying a set of implicit assumptions and principles, I suggest that the reticence is consistent with ethnomethodology's distinctive research 'program'. The main part of the paper describes the pedagogical exercises and forms of apprenticeship through which Garfinkel and (...) Sacks aimed to develop ethnomethodology as a practice. These efforts were not entirely successful, partly because ethnomethodological 'practice' required an engagement with other fully-fledged practices. Aside from the difficulties of mastering such practices, it was unclear what an ethnomethodological study would add to, or take from, them. Whether successful or not, ethnomethodological research points to the specificity of discourse and action in any given practice which a general theory is bound to misconstrue. Current disputes about cultural constructivist versions of natural science illustrate the problems that arise when the terms of a general theory are used to describe and evaluate specific domains of practice. The paper concludes by recommending ethnomethodology as a way to dissolve an unbridgeable gap between cultural theories and socially located practices. (shrink)
Many epistemological terms, such as investigation, inquiry, argument, evidence, and fact were established in law well before being associated with science. However, while legal proof remained qualified by standards of ‘moral certainty’, scientific proof attained a reputation for objectivity. Although most forms of legal evidence continue to be treated as fallible ‘opinions’ rather than objective ‘facts’, forensic DNA evidence increasingly is being granted an exceptional factual status. It did not always enjoy such status. Two decades ago, the scientific status of (...) forensic DNA evidence was challenged in the scientific literature and in courts of law, but by the late 1990s it was being granted exceptional legal status. This paper reviews the ascendancy of DNA profiling, and argues that its widely-heralded objective status is bound up with systems of administrative accountability. The ‘administrative objectivity’ of DNA evidence rests upon observable and reportable bureaucratic rules, records, recording devices, protocols, and architectural arrangements. By highlighting administrative sources of objectivity, this paper suggests that DNA evidence remains bound within the context of ordinary organisational and practical routines, and is not a transcendent source of ‘truth’ in the criminal justice system. (shrink)
Contemporary expressivists typically deny that all true judgments must represent reality. Many instead adopt truth minimalism, according to which there is no substantive property of judgments in virtue of which they are true. In this article, I suggest that expressivists would be better suited to adopt truth pluralism, or the view that there is more than one substantive property of judgments in virtue of which judgments are true. My point is not that an expressivism that takes this form is true, (...) but that it more readily accommodates the motivations that typically lead expressivists to their view in the first place. (shrink)