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Ragnar Van Der Merwe
University of Johannesburg
  1. Whewell’s hylomorphism as a metaphorical explanation for how mind and world merge.Ragnar van der Merwe - 2023 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 54 (1):19-38.
    William Whewell’s 19th century philosophy of science is sometimes glossed over as a footnote to Kant. There is however a key feature of Whewell’s account worth noting. This is his appeal to Aristotle’s form/matter hylomorphism as a metaphor to explain how mind and world merge in successful scientific inquiry. Whewell’s hylomorphism suggests a middle way between rationalism and empiricism reminiscent of experience pragmatists like Steven Levine’s view that mind and world are entwined in experience. I argue however that Levine does (...)
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  2. Stance Pluralism, Scientology and the Problem of Relativism.Ragnar van der Merwe - forthcoming - Foundations of Science: DOI: 10.1007/s10699-022-09882-w.
    Inspired by Bas van Fraassen’s Stance Empiricism, Anjan Chakravartty has developed a pluralistic account of what he calls epistemic stances towards scientific ontology. In this paper, I examine whether Chakravartty’s stance pluralism can exclude epistemic stances that licence pseudo-scientific practices like those found in Scientology. I argue that it cannot. Chakravartty’s stance pluralism is therefore prone to a form of debilitating relativism. I consequently argue that we need (1) some ground or constraint in relation to which epistemic stances can be (...)
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  3. Grounding the Selectionist Explanation for the Success of Science in the External Physical World.Ragnar van der Merwe - forthcoming - Foundations of Science: DOI: 10.1007/s10699-023-09907-y.
    I identify two versions of the scientific anti-realist’s selectionist explanation for the success of science: Bas van Fraassen’s original and K. Brad Wray’s newer interpretation. In Wray’s version, psycho-social factors internal to the scientific community – viz. scientists’ interests, goals, and preferences – explain the theory-selection practices that explain theory-success. I argue that, if Wray’s version were correct, then science should resemble art. In art, the artwork-selection practices that explain artwork-success appear faddish. They are prone to radical change over time. (...)
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  4. A Pragmatist Reboot of William Whewell’s Theory of Scientific Progress.Ragnar van der Merwe - 2023 - Contemporary Pragmatism 20 (3):218-245.
    William Whewell’s philosophy of science is often overlooked as a relic of 19th century Whiggism. I argue however that his view – suitably modified – can contribute to contemporary philosophy of science, particularly to debates around scientific progress. The reason Whewell’s view needs modification is that he makes the following problematic claim: as science progresses, it reveals necessarily truths and thereby grants a glimpse of the mind of God. Modifying Whewell’s view will involve reinventing his notion of necessary truth as (...)
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  5.  87
    Collapsing the Complicated/Complex Distinction: It’s Complexity all the Way Down.Ragnar van der Merwe - 2023 - Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems 21 (1):1-17.
    Several complexity theorists draw a sharp and ontologically robust distinction between (merely) complicated systems and (genuinely) complex systems. I argue that this distinction does not hold. Upon fine-grained analysis, ostensibly complicated systems turn out to be complex systems. The purported boundary between the complicated and the complex appears to be vague rather than sharp. Systems are complex by degrees.
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  6. A Dilemma for Determination Pluralism (or Dualism).Ragnar van der Merwe - 2021 - Axiomathes 31 (4):507-523.
    Douglas Edwards is arguably the most prominent contemporary advocate of moderate alethic pluralism. Significantly influenced by Crispin Wright and Michael Lynch, his work on the nature of truth has become widely discussed in the topical literature. Edwards labels his version of moderate alethic pluralism determination pluralism. At first blush, determination pluralism appears philosophically promising. The position deserves thoughtful consideration, particularly because of its capacity to accommodate the scope problem. I argue, however, that upon analysis the view is better understood as (...)
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  7. How pluralistic is pluralism really? A case study of Sandra Mitchell’s Integrative Pluralism.Ragnar van der Merwe - 2024 - Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 38 (3):319-338.
    Epistemic pluralists in the philosophy of science often argue that different epistemic perspectives in science are equally warranted. Sandra Mitchell – with her Integrative Pluralism (IP) – has notably advocated for this kind of epistemic pluralism. A problem arises for Mitchell however because she also wants to be an epistemological pluralist. She claims that, not only are different epistemic perspectives in science equally warranted in different contexts, but different understandings of these epistemic perspectives in science are also equally warranted in (...)
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  8. Tricky Truths: How Should Alethic Pluralism Accommodate Racial Truths?Ragnar van der Merwe & Phila Msimang - forthcoming - Acta Analytica:1-23.
    Some alethic pluralists maintain that there are two kinds of truths operant in our alethic discourse: a realist kind and an anti-realist kind. In this paper, we argue that such a binary conception cannot accommodate certain social truths, specifically truths about race. Most alethic pluralists surprisingly overlook the status of racial truths. Douglas Edwards is, however, an exception. In his version of alethic pluralism—Determination Pluralism—racial truths are superassertible (anti-realist) true rather than correspondence (realist) true. We argue that racial truths exhibit (...)
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    A Beginner’s Guide to Crossing the Road: Towards an Epistemology of Successful Action in Complex Systems.Ragnar van Der Merwe & Alex Broadbent - forthcoming - Interdisciplinary Science Reviews.
    Crossing the road within the traffic system is an example of an action human agents perform successfully day-to-day in complex systems. How do they perform such successful actions given that the behaviour of complex systems is often difficult to predict? The contemporary literature contains two contrasting approaches to the epistemology of complex systems: an analytic and a post-modern approach. We argue that neither approach adequately accounts for how successful action is possible in complex systems. Agents regularly perform successful actions without (...)
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  10. Stuart Kauffman’s metaphysics of the adjacent possible: A critique.Ragnar Van Der Merwe - 2023 - Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 48 (1):49-61.
    Stuart Kauffman has, in recent writings, developed a thought-provoking and influential argument for strong emergence. The outcome is his Theory of the Adjacent Possible (TAP). According to TAP, the biosphere constitutes a non-physical domain qualitatively distinct from the physical domain. The biosphere exhibits strongly emergent properties such as agency, meaning, value and creativity that cannot, in principle, be reduced to the physical. In this paper, I argue that TAP includes various (explicit or implicit) metaphysical commitments: commitments to (1) scientific realism, (...)
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  11. On Paul Cilliers’ approach to complexity: Post-structuralism versus model exclusivity.Ragnar Van Der Merwe - 2021 - INDECS: Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems 19 (4):457-469.
    Paul Cilliers has developed a novel post-structural approach to complexity that has influenced several writers contributing to the current complexity literature. Concomitantly however, Cilliers advocates for modelling complex systems using connectionist neural networks (rather than analytic, rule-based models). In this paper, I argue that it is dilemmic to simultaneously hold these two positions. Cilliers’ post-structural interpretation of complexity states that models of complex systems are always contextual and provisional; there is no exclusive model of complex systems. This sentiment however appears (...)
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  12. Rational Decision-Making in a Complex World: Towards an Instrumental, yet Embodied, Account.Ragnar Van der Merwe - 2022 - Logos and Episteme 13 (4):381-404.
    Prima facie, we make successful decisions as we act on and intervene in the world day-to-day. Epistemologists are often concerned with whether rationality is involved in such decision-making practices, and, if so, to what degree. Some, particularly in the post-structuralist tradition, argue that successful decision-making occurs via an existential leap into the unknown rather than via any determinant or criterion such as rationality. I call this view radical voluntarism (RV). Proponents of RV include those who subscribe to a view they (...)
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  13. Ladyman’s Realism, van Fraassen’s Anti-Realism and Fine’s Middle-Way.Ragnar Van der Merwe - unknown
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  14. K. Brad Wray: Resisting Scientific Realism, Book Review. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2018. [REVIEW]Ragnar van der Merwe - 2020 - Journal for the General Philosophy of Science 51 (4):637-641.
    Book Review K. Brad Wray: Resisting Scientific Realism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 2018, xii + 224 pp, £ 75.00 (Hardcover), ISBN: 9781108231633. By Ragnar van der Merwe. In The Journal for the General Philosophy of Science.
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  15. Book Review of The Metaphysics of Truth by Douglas Edwards. [REVIEW]Ragnar van der Merwe - 2020 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 28 (4):555-574.
    Book Review The Metaphysics of Truth by Douglas Edwards Oxford University Press, 2018. Pp. x + 210. ISBN 9780198758693. £45.00 ($56.00) (hardcover).
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