Culp (1994) provides a defense for a form of experimental reasoning entitled 'robustness'. Her strategy is to examine a recent episode in experimental microbiology--the case of the mistaken discovery of a bacterial organelle called a 'mesosome'--with an eye to showing how experimenters effectively used robust experimental reasoning (or could have used robust reasoning) to refute the existence of the mesosome. My plan is to criticize Culp's assessment of the mesosome episode and to cast doubt on the epistemic significance of robustness. (...) In turn, I present a different account of the experimental reasoning microbiologists used in arriving at the conclusion that mesosomes are artifacts. I call this form of reasoning 'reliable process reasoning', and close the paper with a brief discussion of how experimental microbiologists justify the claim that an experimental process is reliable. (shrink)
In this paper I distinguish two kinds of predictivism, ‘timeless’ and ‘historicized’. The former is the conventional understanding of predictivism. However, I argue that its defense in the works of John Worrall (Scerri and Worrall 2001, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 32, 407–452; Worrall 2002, In the Scope of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science, 1, 191–209) and Patrick Maher (Maher 1988, PSA 1988, 1, pp. 273) is wanting. Alternatively, I promote an historicized predictivism, and briefly defend such (...) a predictivism at the end of the paper. (shrink)
In this paper I distinguish two kinds of predictivism, 'timeless' and 'historicized'. The former is the conventional understanding of predictivism. However, I argue that its defense in the works of John Worrall and Patrick Maher is wanting. Alternatively, I promote an historicized predictivism, and briefly defend such a predictivism at the end of the paper.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and Alan Musgrave argue that it is impossible to precisely date discovery events and precisely identify discoverers. They defend this claim mainly on the grounds that so-called discoverers have in many cases misconceived the objects of discovery. In this paper, I argue that Kuhn and Musgrave arrive at their view because they lack a substantive account of how well discoverers must be able to conceptualize discovered objects. I remedy this deficiency by providing just such an (...) account, and with this account I delineate how one can secure precision regarding the identity of discoverers and the times of discoveries. Near the end of my paper I bring my target of criticism up-to-date; it turns out that Steve Woolgar adopts an approach to discovery kindred to those of Kuhn and Musgrave and I close the paper by discussing what is at stake in rebutting him. (shrink)
In 1912, Henri Poincaré published an argument which apparently shows that the hypothesis of quanta is both necessary and sufficient for the truth of Planck''s experimentally corroborated law describing the spectral distribution of radiant energy in a black body. In a recent paper, John Norton has reaffirmed the authority of Poincarés argument, setting it up as a paradigm case in which empirical data can be used to definitively rule out theoretical competitors to a given theoretical hypothesis. My goal is to (...) dispute Norton ''s claim that there is no theoretical underdetermination problem arising between classical physics and early quantum theory. The strategy I use in defending my view is to adopt a suggestion made by Jarrett Leplin and Larry Laudan on how to assess the relative merits of competing theoretical alternatives, where each alternative has an equal capacity to save the phenomena. In the course of the paper, I distinguish between two branches of classical physics: classical mechanics and classical electromagnetism. The former is claimed by Norton and Poincaré to be determinately ruled out by the black body evidence; and it is the former that I argue is compatible with this evidence. (shrink)
The goal of this paper is to defend the claim that there is such a thing as direct perception, where by âdirect perceptionâ I mean perception unmediated by theorizing or concepts. The basis for my defense is a general philosophic perspective which I call âempiricist philosophyâ. In brief, empiricist philosophy (as I have defined it) is untenable without the occurrence of direct perception. It is untenable without direct perception because, otherwise, one can't escape the hermeneutic circle, as this phrase is (...) used in van Fraassen (1980). The bulk of the paper is devoted to defending my belief in direct perception against various objections that can be posed against it. I discuss various anticipations of my view found in the literature, eventually focusing on Ian Hacking's related conception of `entity realism' (Hacking 1983). Hacking has been criticized by a number of philosophers and my plan is to respond to these criticisms on behalf of entity realism (or more precisely on behalf of the claim that direct perception is a reality) and to then respond to other possible criticisms that can be launched against direct perception. (shrink)
My task in this paper is to defend the legitimacy of historicist philosophy of science, defined as the philosophic study of science that takes seriously case studies drawn from the practice of science. Historicistphilosophy of science suffers from what I call the ’evidence problem’. The worry is that case studies cannot qualify as rigorous evidence for the adjudication of philosophic theories. I explore the reasons why one might deny to historical cases a probative value, then reply to these reasons on (...) behalf of historicism. The main proponents of the view I am criticizing are Pitt (2001) and Rasmussen (2001). (shrink)
James Robert Brown’s Who Rules in Science? is an engaging, candid discussion of various postmodern and sociological challenges that have recently been launched at the orthodoxy of science. Interspersed throughout the book are various, largely introductory discussions of issues pertaining to the history of philosophy of science, issues such as realism, unification, instrumentalism, novel predictions, objectivity, and so forth. At the end of the book Brown takes up topics relevant to the politics of science. Altogether it is a pleasant book (...) to read, written with the same warm flair that is characteristic of Brown’s accessible lecturing style. (shrink)
The WIMP (weakly interacting dark matter) is currently the leading candidate for what is thought to be dark matter, the cosmological material claimed to make up almost 99% of the matter of the universe and which is indiscernible by means of electromagnetic radiation. There are many research groups dedicated to experimentally isolating WIMPs, and in this paper we describe the work of three of these groups, the Saclay group, DAMA and UKDM. This exploration into the recent history of astroparticle physics (...) serves to illuminate two philosophical issues. First, is confirmatory evidence more compelling if it coordinates results gleaned from independent experimental investigations? And secondly, in justifying experimental conclusions, how strong must this justification be? Are the high standards set by philosophers, in the spirit of Descartes, relevant to experimental research? (shrink)
In her 1996 book, Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge, Deborah Mayo argues that use- (or heuristic) novelty is not a criterion we need to consider in assessing the evidential value of observations. Using the notion of a “severe” test, Mayo claims that such novelty is valuable only when it leads to severity, and never otherwise. To illustrate her view, she examines the historical case involving the famous 1919 British eclipse expeditions that generated observations supporting Einstein's theory of gravitation (...) over Newton's. My plan here is to defend use-novelty as a valuable methodological principle. I begin by exposing a weakness in Mayo's criticism of use-novelty. Remedying this weakness re-establishes the worth of use-novelty under specific conditions; in particular, heuristically novel data are to be preferred, as I will say, “prima facie”. Armed with this revised version of use-novelty, I re-examine the history of the eclipse experiments and offer an interpretation of this episode that to an extent—and contrary to Mayo—restores the mildly heretical, Earman/Glymour evaluation of this episode offered in their (1980). I conclude by responding to criticism of my assessment of Mayo's work. (shrink)
I believe observation is valued by scientists because it is an objective source of information. Objective here can mean two things. First, observation could be objective in that it is an assured source of truths about the world, truths whose meaning is the same for everyone regardless of their personal theoretical vantage points. I criticize this construal of observational objectivity in chapter one. The guilty doctrine, which I entitle 'empiricistic epistemological foundationalism', is shown to be untenable on, in part, historical (...) grounds. The historical episode I deploy for this task is the early stages of quantum theory, an episode I return to at various times throughout the thesis in illustration of my philosophical points. The sense of objective I favour views empirical data as the locus of extensive interpersonal agreement. Observation, from this perspective, plays the role of a communal judge in arbitrating our theoretical disputes. Returning to early quantum theory , I show how observation could not have had the adjudicative effect it exhibited unless it were objective in this sense. ;A crucial philosophical problem I take up is to provide the best definition of observation suited to accomplish the normative goals set out above for empirical data. Two major contenders are presented in chapter two, the semantic and pragmatic theories of observation, and other pragmatically-based proposals are discussed at the end of chapter four. In the end, I show that the pragmatic theory of observation triumphs as the philosophically most responsible account of the value of scientific observations. ;The final chapter turns to an examination of the bearing of evidence on theory. From my particular pragmatic viewpoint, I describe first how the rationality of induction can be established, and following this I reassess the value of Hempel's classic list of confirmation principles. My final task is to use a new, overtly pragmatic definition of confirmation to re-evaluate the experimental confirmation by Rubens and Kurlbaum of Planck's quantum hypothesis. (shrink)
Experimental data are often acclaimed on the grounds that they can be consistently generated. They are, it is said, reproducible. In this paper I describe how this feature of experimental-data (their pragmatic reliability) leads to their epistemic worth (their epistemic reliability). An important part of my description is the supposition that experimental procedures are to certain extent fixed and stable. Various illustrations from the actual practice of science are introduced, the most important coming at the end of the paper with (...) a discussion of Ray Davis' 1967 solar-neutrino detection experiment (as it is portrayed in Pinch, 1980). (shrink)
Recent scholarship (by mainly Michael Friedman, but also by Thomas Uebel) on the philosophy of Rudolf Carnap covering the period from the publication of Carnap’s’ 1928 book Der Logische Aufbau der Welt through to the mid to late 1930’s has tended to view Carnap as espousing a form of conventionalism (epitomized by his adoption of the principle of tolerance) and not a form of empirical foundationalism. On this view, it follows that Carnap’s 1934 The Logical Syntax of Language is the (...) pinnacle of his work during this era, this book having developed in its most complete form the conventionalist approach to dissolving the pseudoproblems that often attend philosophical investigation. My task in this paper, in opposition to this trend, is to resuscitate the empiricist interpretation of Carnap’s work during this time period. The crux of my argument is that Carnap’s 1934 book, by eschewing for the most part the empiricism he espouses in the Aufbau and in his 1932 The Unity of Science, is led to a form of conventionalism that faces the serious hazard of collapsing into epistemological relativism. My speculation is that Carnap came to recognize this deficiency in his 1934 book, and in subsequent work (“Testability and Meaning”, published in 1936/37) felt the need to re-instate his empiricist agenda. This subsequent work provides a much improved empiricist epistemology from Carnap’s previous efforts and, ashistory informs us, sets the standard for future research in the theory of confirmation. (shrink)
It is often claimed that anti-realists are compelled to reject the inference of the knowability paradox, that there are no unknown truths. I call those anti-realists who feel so compelled ‘faint-hearted’, and argue in turn that anti-realists should affirm this inference, if it is to be consistent. A major part of my strategy in defending anti-realism is to formulate an anti-realist definition of truth according to which a statement is true only if it is verified by someone, at some time. (...) I also liberalize what is meant by a verification to allow for indirect forms of verification. From this vantage point, I examine a key objection to anti-realism, that it is committed to the necessary existence of minds, and reject a response to this problem set forth by Michael Hand. In turn I provide a more successful anti-realist response to the necessary minds problem that incorporates what I call an ‘agential’ view of verification. I conclude by considering what intellectual cost there is to being an anti-realist in the sense I am advocating. (shrink)
In this paper, I raise some questions about Pritchard ’s internalist argument for scepticism. I argue that his internalism begs the question in support of scepticism. Correlatively I advance what I take to be a better internalist argument for scepticism, one that leaves open the possibility of empirically adjudicating sceptical hypotheses. I close by discussing what it means to be an internalist.
Broadly speaking, there are two different ways in which one might defend skepticism – an a priori way and an empirical way. My first task in this paper is to defend the view that the preferred way to defend skepticism is empirical. My second task is to explain why this approach actually makes sense. I accomplish this latter task by responding to various criticisms one might advance against the possibility of empirically defending skepticism. In service of this response, I distinguish (...) between two different kinds of hallucination, ‘metaphysical’ and ‘ordinary’, and seek to clarify the notion of a ‘presupposition’. (shrink)