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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
In this essay, I examine four different reasons for thinking that political dissent has epistemic value. The realization of this epistemic value hinges in part on what I’ll loosely call the epistemic environment, or the environment in which individuals come to believe, reason, inquire, and debate. In particular, to the degree that our social practices encourage and even embody an attitude of epistemic arrogance, the epistemic value of dissent will be difficult to realize. Ironically, it is precisely then that dissent (...) is most often needed. (shrink)
Many philosophers take understanding to be a distinctive kind of knowledge that involves grasping dependency relations; moreover, they hold it to be particularly valuable. This paper aims to investigate and address two well-known puzzles that arise from this conception: (1) the nature of understanding itself—in particular, the nature of “grasping”; (2) the source of understanding’s distinctive value. In what follows, I’ll argue that we can shed light on both puzzles by recognizing first, the importance of the distinction between the act (...) of coming to understand and the state of understanding; and second, that coming to understand is a creative act. (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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
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)
A prevailing view in contemporary philosophy of mind is that zombies are logically possible. I argue, via a thought experiment, that if this prevailing view is correct, then I could be transformed into a zombie. If I could be transformed into a zombie, then surprisingly, I am not certain that I am conscious. Regrettably, this is not just an idiosyncratic fact about my psychology; I think you are in the same position. This means that we must revise or replace some (...) important positions in the philosophy of mind. We could embrace radical skepticism about our own consciousness, or maintain the complete and total infallibility of our beliefs about our own phenomenal experiences. I argue that we should actually reject the logical possibility of zombies. (shrink)
What does truth have to do with freedom? That is, what is the relationship between our political and epistemic principles? In this paper, I grapple and reject Rorty's reasons for thinking that the former can't be based on the latter, but offer an alternative argument that supports his over-all conclusion that our epistemic and political values are ultimately intertwined.
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)
Like William James before him, Huw Price has influentially argued that truth has a normative role to play in our thought and talk. I agree. But Price also thinks that we should regard truth-conceived of as property of our beliefs-as something like a metaphysical myth. Here I disagree. In this paper, I argue that reflection on truth's values pushes us in a slightly different direction, one that opens the door to certain metaphysical possibilities that even a Pricean pragmatist can love.
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.
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)
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)
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)
My remarks in this brief commentary focus on Chris Calvert-Minor’s (2014) article on Karen Barad’s philosophical writings, and are only indirectly relevant to an assessment of Barad’s work. I have limited acquaintance with Barad’s writings, and even less with Nils Bohr’s. Barad explicitly borrows from Bohr’s theoretical writings when developing her version of feminist epistemology. Barad’s recruitment of Bohr to support her philosophy creates a dilemma for me and other readers who are not conversant with Bohr’s physics/philosophy. To my understanding, (...) the general lessons that Barad draws from Bohr about physical phenomena seem roughly in line with Husserl’s conception of phenomena or Merleau-Ponty’s account of “the intertwining,”Barad is not the first to identify a phenomenological position with a feminist standpoint (see Smith 1992). Although she refers to the tendency to feminize “nature” as the passive object of science, she distinguishes her feminist view of “nature as agent” from. (shrink)
Despite widespread confusion over its meaning, the notion of a conceptual scheme is pervasive in Anglo-American philosophy, particularly amongst those who call themselves ' conceptual relativists'. In this paper, I identify three different ways to understand conceptual schemes. I argue that the two most common models, deriving from Kant and Quine, are flawed, and, in addition, useless for the relativist. Instead, I urge adoption of a 'neo-Kantian', broadly Wittgensteinian model, which, it is ' argued, is immune from Davidsonian objections to (...) the very idea of a scheme. (shrink)
The article begins with Derrida’s etymology of the word ‘archive’: a privileged site to which records are officially consigned and in which they are guarded by legal authority. It explores contemporary variations on the theme of archive. The cases presented include efforts to construct scholarly archives that stand as personal monuments, struggles over the collection and consignment of records during official investigations of government scandals, and the ‘popular archive’ produced by the media spectacle surrounding the O. J. Simpson trial. The (...) discussion orients to these archives not only as sources of documentary information but also as sites of historical struggle over the writing, collection, consignment, destruction and interpretation of writings. (shrink)