During the last three decades, reflections on the growth of scientific knowledge have inspired historians, sociologists, and some philosophers to contend that scientific objectivity is a myth. In this book, Kitcher attempts to resurrect the notions of objectivity and progress in science by identifying both the limitations of idealized treatments of growth of knowledge and the overreactions to philosophical idealizations. Recognizing that science is done not by logically omniscient subjects working in isolation, but by people with a variety of personal (...) and social interests, who cooperate and compete with one another, he argues that, nonetheless, we may conceive the growth of science as a process in which both our vision of nature and our ways of learning more about nature improve. Offering a detailed picture of the advancement of science, he sets a new agenda for the philosophy of science and for other "science studies" disciplines. (shrink)
Striving to boldly redirect the philosophy of science, this book by renowned philosopher Philip Kitcher examines the heated debate surrounding the role of science in shaping our lives. Kitcher explores the sharp divide between those who believe that the pursuit of scientific knowledge is always valuable and necessary--the purists--and those who believe that it invariably serves the interests of people in positions of power. In a daring turn, he rejects both perspectives, working out a more realistic image of the sciences--one (...) that allows for the possibility of scientific truth, but nonetheless permits social consensus to determine which avenues to investigate. He then proposes a democratic and deliberative framework for responsible scientists to follow. Controversial, powerful, yet engaging, this volume will appeal to a wide range of readers. Kitcher's nuanced analysis and authorititative conclusion will interest countless scientists as well as all readers of science--scholars and laypersons alike. (shrink)
Claims that science should be more democratic than it is frequently arouse opposition. In this essay, I distinguish my own views about the democratization of science from the more ambitious theses defended by Paul Feyerabend. I argue that it is unlikely that the complexity of some scientific debates will allow for resolution according to the methodological principles of any formal confirmation theory, suggesting instead that major revolutions rest on conflicts of values. Yet these conflicts should not be dismissed as irresoluble.
The official model of explanation proposed by the logical empiricists, the covering law model, is subject to familiar objections. The goal of the present paper is to explore an unofficial view of explanation which logical empiricists have sometimes suggested, the view of explanation as unification. I try to show that this view can be developed so as to provide insight into major episodes in the history of science, and that it can overcome some of the most serious difficulties besetting the (...) covering law model. (shrink)
I defend a view of the species category, pluralistic realism, which is designed to do justice to the insights of many different groups of systematists. After arguing that species are sets and not individuals, I proceed to outline briefly some defects of the biological species concept. I draw the general moral that similar shortcomings arise for other popular views of the nature of species. These shortcomings arise because the legitimate interests of biology are diverse, and these diverse interests are reflected (...) in different legitimate approaches to the classification of organisms. In the final section, I show briefly how the pluralistic approach can help to illuminate some areas of biological and philosophical dispute. (shrink)
Abstract: Philosophy is often conceived in the Anglophone world today as a subject that focuses on questions in particular “core areas,” pre-eminently epistemology and metaphysics. This article argues that the contemporary conception is a new version of the scholastic “self-indulgence for the few” of which Dewey complained nearly a century ago. Philosophical questions evolve, and a first task for philosophers is to address issues that arise for their own times. The article suggests that a renewal of philosophy today should turn (...) the contemporary conception inside out, attending to and developing further the valuable work being done on the supposed “periphery” and attending to the “core areas” only insofar as is necessary to address genuinely significant questions. (shrink)
Recent debates about Intelligent Design have brought into high relief the huge schism between those who believe in Darwin and the power of science to understand the world, and those who look through the prism of religious faith. Why, asks eminent philosopher Philip Kitcher, does this debate continue to rage given that the scientific consensus in favor of Darwin is overwhelming? This accessible and elegant essay attempts to answer this question. Kitcher first presents the compelling evidence on behalf of Darwin's (...) evolutionary theory, bringing out with unprecedented clarity the structure of the reasoning that has convinced almost all educated people of its merits during the past century and a half. He then sets the current debate about Intelligent Design in historical context, showing that ID theory is really dead science. Explaining the scientific issues in an elegant and accessible way, Kitcher shows how crucial discoveries successively undermined the Creationist views about life on earth that were once considered scientific orthodoxy. Finally, Kitcher goes on to analyze the recurrent opposition to Darwinian ideas, arguing that they do present a genuine threat to those forms of religion that invoke divine providence. A Darwinian understanding of the history of life makes popular forms of religious faith, including most versions of Christianity and Judaism, hard to sustain. The dispute about Intelligent Design emerges as a symptom of a much deeper problem - the clash between the deep impulses to religion and the discoveries of the natural and human sciences. Kitcher contends that we cannot resolve that clash either by denying these discoveries or by brusquely overriding the underlying impulses. Somehow, we must develop a version of secular humanism that will prove genuinely satisfying. (shrink)
This essay aims to disentangle various types of anti-realism, and to disarm the considerations that are deployed to support them. I distinguish empiricist versions of anti-realism from constructivist versions, and, within each of these, semantic arguments from epistemological arguments. The centerpiece of my defense of a modest version of realism - real realism - is the thought that there are resources within our ordinary ways of talking about and knowing about everyday objects that enable us to extend our claims to (...) unobservable entities. This strategy, the Galilean strategy, is explained using the historical example of the telescope. (shrink)
"Philip Kitcher's Science, Truth and Democracy joins generosity to argument. Throughout, Kitcher remains engaged with reason as he tries to understand, critically, the positions of realists, creationists, empiricists, and constructivists."--Peter Galison, Mallinckrodt Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, Harvard University.
Philip Kitcher is one of the leading figures in the philosophy of science today. Here he collects, for the first time, many of his published articles on the philosophy of biology, spanning from the mid-1980's to the present. The book's title refers to Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian monk who was one of the first scientists to develop a theory of heredity. Mendel's work has been deeply influential to our understanding of our selves and our world, just as the study of (...) genetics today will have a profound and long-term impact on future scientific research. Kitcher's articles cover a broad range of topics with similar philosophical and social significance: sociobiology, evolutionary psychology, species, race, altruism, genetic determinism, and the rebirth of creationism in Intelligent Design. Kitcher's work on the intersection of biology and the philosophy of science is both unprecedented and wide-ranging, and will appeal not only to philosophers of science, but to scholars and students across disciplines. (shrink)
According to the cliché a picture is worth a thousand words. But this is a canard, for it vastly underestimates the expressive power of many pictures and diagrams. In this note we show that even a simple map such as the outline of Manhattan Island, accompanied by a pointer marking North, implies a vast infinity of statements—including a vast infinity of true statements.
In his "Discussion" (1984), Elliott Sober offers some criticisms of the view about species--pluralistic realism--advocated in my 1984. Sober's comments divide into three parts. He attempts to show that species are not sets; he responds to my critique of David Hull's thesis that species are individuals; and he offers some arguments for the claim that species are "chunks of the genealogical nexus." I consider each of these objections in turn, arguing that each of them fails. I attempt to use Sober's (...) insightful critique to explain and defend pluralistic realism more fully. (shrink)
The internet has considerably changed epistemic practices in science as well as in everyday life. Apparently, this technology allows more and more people to get access to a huge amount of information. Some people even claim that the internet leads to a democratization of knowledge. In the following text, we will analyze this statement. In particular, we will focus on a potential change in epistemic structure. Does the internet change our common epistemic practice to rely on expert opinions? Does it (...) alter or even undermine the division of epistemic labor? The epistemological framework of our investigation is a naturalist-pragmatist approach to knowledge. We take it that the internet generates a new environment to which people seeking information must adapt. How can they, and how should they, expand their repertory of social markers to continue the venture of filtering, and so make use of the possibilities the internet apparently provides? To find answers to these questions we will take a closer look at two case studies. The first example is about the internet platform WikiLeaks that allows so-called whistle-blowers to anonymously distribute their information. The second case study is about the search engine Google and the problem of personalized searches. Both instances confront a knowledge-seeking individual with particular difficulties which are based on the apparent anonymity of the information distributor. Are there ways for the individual to cope with this problem and to make use of her social markers in this context nonetheless? (shrink)
Militant modern atheism, whose most eloquent champion is Richard Dawkins, provides an effective and necessary critique of fundamentalist forms of religion and their role in political life, both within states and across national boundaries. Because it is also presented as a more general attack on religion (tout court), it has provoked a severe reaction from scholars who regard its conception of religion as shallow and narrow. My aim is to examine this debate, identifying insights and oversights on both sides.Two distinct (...) conceptions of religion are in play. For Dawkins and his allies (most notably Dan Dennett) religions are grounded in doctrines, propositions about supernatural entities, events and processes which the devout believe. Their beliefs prompt them to actions, which they support or rationalize by reference to the doctrines. Dawkins and Dennett view the acceptance of the doctrines as resting on cognitive misfiring — these are delusions to be outgrown or spells to be broken.By contrast, the religious scholars who criticize the militant atheists often view religion as centered in social practices that inform and enrich human lives. To the extent that there are doctrines that atheists might subject to epistemic evaluation, these are to be viewed as pieces of scaffolding, that are, in principle, dispensable.I argue that militant modern atheism is incomplete (and likely counter-productive) so long as it fails to attend systematically to the roles religion fulfills in human lives. Yet it is important to achieve public clarity about the literal falsehood of the doctrines on which fundamentalists rely. The challenge is to develop a well-articulated and convincing version of secular humanism. Meeting that challenge is, I claim, one of the central problems of philosophy today. (shrink)
I argue that the title question needs to be taken seriously because there are important questions about how the scientific agenda should be set. Natural answers to the question – declarations of the proper autonomy of science or expressions of faith in market forces – are found inadequate. Instead, I propose a form of democracy with respect to scientific research that will avoid the obvious dangers of a tyranny of ignorance. I conclude with some modest proposals about how the ideal (...) of a democratic science might be implemented and with a response to common objections. (shrink)
This chapter outlines three programs that aim to use biological insights in support of philosophical positions in ethics: Aristotelian approaches found, for example, in Thomas Hurka and Philippa Foot; Humean approaches found in Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard; and biologically grounded approaches found in of Elliott Sober and Brian Skyrms. The first two approaches begin with a philosophical view, and seek support for it in biology. The third approach begins with biology, and uses it to illuminate the status of morality. (...) This chapter pursues a version of the third program. A major accomplishment of evolutionary biology has been the explanation of biological altruism, which opens the door to a similar explanation of psychological altruism, or “fellow-feeling.” The chapter conjectures that humans have evolved a capacity for normative governance by socially shared rules. A process of cultural evolution led to the social rules with which we are familiar. This genealogical story poses a challenge, for the idea of moral truth plays no role in it. The story therefore lends support to non-cognitivism or anti-realist expressivism. The chapter concludes by exploring the implications of the genealogical story for moral knowledge, moral objectivity, and the idea of moral authority. (shrink)
a priori. Since I ended up defending an unpopular answer to this question—"No"—it’s hardly surprising that people have scrutinized the account, or that many have concluded that I stacked the deck in the first place. Of course, this was not my view of the matter. My own judgment was that I’d uncovered the tacit commitments of mathematical apriorists and that the widespread acceptance of mathematical apriorism rested on failure to ask what was needed for knowledge to be a priori . (...) Nevertheless, my critics have raised important challenges, and have offered rival conceptions that are less demanding. I want to examine their objections to my explication of a priori knowledge, and to explore whether the weaker alternatives succeed in preserving traditional philosophical claims. What follows is a mixture of penitence and intransigence. (shrink)
An intuitive argument for scientific realism suggests that our successes in predicting and intervening would be inexplicable if the theories that generate them were not approximate y true. This argument faces many objections, some of which are briefly addressed in this paper, and one of which is treated in more detail. The focal criticism alleges that appeals to success cannot deliver conclusions that parts of science are true in the sense of truth-as-correspondence that realists prefer. The paper responds to that (...) criticism, in versions proposed by Michael Williams, Michael Levin, and, especiaIly, Paul Horwich, by arguing that critics typically stop at a shallow level of psychological explanation. If we probe more deeply we discover a genuine explanatory role for correspondence truth. (shrink)
In “Scientific Knowledge,” Philip Kitcher challenges arguments that deny the truth of the theoretical claims of science, and he attempts to discover reasons for endorsing the truth of such claims. He suggests that the discovery of such reasons might succeed if we ask why anyone thinks that the theoretical claims we accept are true and then look for answers that reconstruct actual belief‐generating processes. To this end, Kitcher presents the “homely argument” for scientific truth, which claims that when a field (...) of science is continually applied to yield precise predictions, then it is at least approximately true. He defends this approach and offers a supplementary account that gives more attention to detail. This account includes a historical aspect that must answer to skeptical challenges and a social aspect. (shrink)
In the spirit of James and Dewey, I ask what one might want from a theory of knowledge. Much Anglophone epistemology is centered on questions that were once highly pertinent, but are no longer central to broader human and scientific concerns. The first sense in which epistemology without history is blind lies in the tendency of philosophers to ignore the history of philosophical problems. A second sense consists in the perennial attraction of approaches to knowledge that divorce knowing subjects from (...) their societies and from the tradition of socially assembling a body of transmitted knowledge. When epistemology fails to use the history of inquiry as a laboratory in which methodological claims can be tested, there is a third way in which it becomes blind. Finally, lack of attention to the growth of knowledge in various domains leaves us with puzzles about the character of the knowledge we have. I illustrate this last theme by showing how reflections on the history of mathematics can expand our options for understanding mathematical knowledge. (shrink)