Modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas. One is a belief in some fundamental cleavage between truths which are analytic, or grounded in meanings independently of matters of fact, and truth which are synthetic, or grounded in fact. The other dogma is reductionism: the belief that each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience. Both dogmas, I shall argue, are ill founded. One effect of abandoning them is, (...) as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. Another effect is a shift toward pragmatism. (shrink)
It is argued that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Bas van Fraassen nowhere uses the argument from underdetermination in his argument for constructive empiricism. It is explained that van Fraassen’s use of the notion of empirical equivalence in The Scientific Image has been widely misunderstood. A reconstruction of the main arguments for constructive empiricism is offered, showing how the passages that have been taken to be part of an appeal to the argument from underdetermination should actually be interpreted.
My topic is the materialist appropriation of empiricism – as conveyed in the ‘minimal credo’ nihil est in intellectu quod non fuerit in sensu (which interestingly is not just a phrase repeated from Hobbes and Locke to Diderot, but is also a medical phrase, used by Harvey, Mandeville and others). That is, canonical empiricists like Locke go out of their way to state that their project to investigate and articulate the ‘logic of ideas’ is not a scientific project: “I (...) shall not at present meddle with the Physical consideration of the Mind” (Essay, I.i.2, in Locke 1975; which Kant gets exactly wrong in his reading of Locke, in the Preface to the A edition of the first Critique). Indeed, I have suggested elsewhere, contrary to a prevalent reading of Locke, that the Essay is not the extension to the study of the mind of the methods of natural philosophy; that he is actually not the “underlabourer” of Newton and Boyle he claims politely to be in the Epistle to the Reader (Wolfe and Salter 2009, Wolfe 2010). Rather, Locke says quite directly if we pay heed to such passages, “Our Business here is not to know all things, but those which concern our Conduct” (Essay, I.i.6). There would be more to say here about what this implies for our understanding of empiricism (see Norton 1981 and Gaukroger 2005), but instead I shall focus on a different aspect of this episode: how a non-naturalistic claim which falls under what we now call epistemology (a claim about the senses as the source of knowledge) becomes an ontology – materialism. That is, how an empiricist claim could shift from being about the sources of knowledge to being about the nature of reality (and/or the mind, in which case it needs, as David Hartley saw and Denis Diderot proclaimed more overtly, an account of the relation between mental processes and the brain). (David Armstrong, for one, denied that there could be an identification between empiricism and materialism on this point: eighteenth-century history of science seems to prove him wrong: see Armstrong 1968 and 1978.) Put differently, I want to examine the shift from the logic of ideas in the seventeenth century (Locke) to an eighteenth-century focus on what kind of ‘world’ the senses give us (Condillac), to an assertion that there is only one substance in the universe (Diderot, giving a materialist cast to Spinozism), and that we need an account of the material substrate of mental life. This is neither a ‘scientific empiricism’ nor a linear developmental process from philosophical empiricism to natural science, but something else again: the unpredictable emergence of an ontology on empiricist grounds. (shrink)
In his recent book, The Empirical Stance, Bas van Fraassen forcefully raises the question of what a philosophical position can or should be. He mainly discusses this question with regard to empiricism but his discussion makes it clear that he takes his proposed answer to be generalizable: not only empiricism but philosophical positions in general should be understood as stances rather than dogmata. The first part of this essay is devoted to an examination of van Fraassen’s critique of (...) ‘naïve’ or dogmatic empiricism, which represents an integral part of his argument for ‘stance’ empiricism. It will be argued that, contrary to van Fraassen’s view, not all versions of naïve empiricism run into the problems identified by him. In the second part of the paper the case will be made that, contrary to van Fraassen’s thesis, the stance empiricist is in at least as bad a position as the naïve empiricist with regard to the task of providing a radical critique of metaphysics, which van Fraassen takes to be an essential task that any empiricist should be able to accomplish. The third part of this essay concerns van Fraassen’s general proposal, and examines the question whether a philosophical position can possibly consist in a stance. It will be suggested that this is not the case. With regard to empiricism this has the implication that if one wants to be a philosopher and an empiricist at the same time one needs to subscribe to a form of naïve empiricism. Furthermore, it will be proposed that as a philosopher-empiricist one should want, or, at least, allow some form of metaphysical theorizing to be part of the philosophical enterprise after all. (shrink)
This is the introduction to a collection of essays on 'embodied empiricism' in early modern philosophy and the life sciences - papers on Harvey, Glisson, Locke, Hume, Bonnet, Lamarck, on anatomy and physiology, on medicine and natural history, etc.
Vitalism, from its early modern to its Enlightenment forms (from Glisson and Willis to La Caze and Barthez), is notoriously opposed to intervention into the living sphere. Experiment, quantification, measurement are all ‘vivisectionist’, morally suspect and worse, they alter and warp the ‘life’ of the subject. They are good for studying corpses, not living individuals. This much is well known, and it has disqualified vitalist medicine from having a place in standard histories of medicine, until recent, post-Foucauldian maneuvers have sought (...) to change the situation (but for unrelated, contextualist reasons). What is perhaps more suprising is that if we consider the emergence of medical ‘theory’ as a whole, from Harvey through to Locke and Sydenham, is the presence of a sustained anti-experimentalist line of argument, and this from the ‘empiricist’ (not Cartesian or Boerhaavian rationalist) side. It would seem then that ‘empiricks’, medical empiricists and other protagonists of an ‘embodied empiricism’ are not Boylean experimentalists who seek to map out Nature in its transparency, but deliberately archaic, Hippocratic observers of living bodies. (shrink)
In artificial intelligence, recent research has demonstrated the remarkable potential of Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs), which seem to exceed state-of-the-art performance in new domains weekly, especially on the sorts of very difficult perceptual discrimination tasks that skeptics thought would remain beyond the reach of artificial intelligence. However, it has proven difficult to explain why DCNNs perform so well. In philosophy of mind, empiricists have long suggested that complex cognition is based on information derived from sensory experience, often appealing to (...) a faculty of abstraction. Rationalists have frequently complained, however, that empiricists never adequately explained how this faculty of abstraction actually works. In this paper, I tie these two questions together, to the mutual benefit of both disciplines. I argue that the architectural features that distinguish DCNNs from earlier neural networks allow them to implement a form of hierarchical processing that I call “transformational abstraction”. Transformational abstraction iteratively converts sensory-based representations of category exemplars into new formats that are increasingly tolerant to “nuisance variation” in input. Reflecting upon the way that DCNNs leverage a combination of linear and non-linear processing to efficiently accomplish this feat allows us to understand how the brain is capable of bi-directional travel between exemplars and abstractions, addressing longstanding problems in empiricist philosophy of mind. I end by considering the prospects for future research on DCNNs, arguing that rather than simply implementing 80s connectionism with more brute-force computation, transformational abstraction counts as a qualitatively distinct form of processing ripe with philosophical and psychological significance, because it is significantly better suited to depict the generic mechanism responsible for this important kind of psychological processing in the brain. (shrink)
In this work, I discuss the role of Husserl’s phenomenology in Paolo Parrini’s positive philosophy. In the first section, I highlight the presence of both empiricist and constructivist elements in Parrini’s anti-foundationalist and anti-absolutist conception of knowledge. In the second section, I stress Parrini’s acknowledgement of the crucial role of phenomenology in investigating the empirical basis of knowledge, thanks to its analysis of the relationship between form and matter of cognition. In the third section, I point out some lines of (...) development of the phenomenological form of empirical realism as revealed in Parrini’s reflection, through a comparison of Husserl’s genetic phenomenology, Mary Hesse’s network model and the tradition of neutral monism. (shrink)
This book offers a novel account of the relationship of experience to knowledge. The account builds on the intuitive idea that our ordinary perceptual judgments are not autonomous, that an interdependence obtains between our view of the world and our perceptual judgments. Anil Gupta shows in this important study that this interdependence is the key to a satisfactory account of experience. He uses tools from logic and the philosophy of language to argue that his account of experience makes available an (...) attractive and feasible empiricism. (shrink)
Philosophy of biology is often said to have emerged in the last third of the twentieth century. Prior to this time, it has been alleged that the only authors who engaged philosophically with the life sciences were either logical empiricists who sought to impose the explanatory ideals of the physical sciences onto biology, or vitalists who invoked mystical agencies in an attempt to ward off the threat of physicochemical reduction. These schools paid little attention to actual biological science, and as (...) a result philosophy of biology languished in a state of futility for much of the twentieth century. The situation, we are told, only began to change in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when a new generation of researchers began to focus on problems internal to biology, leading to the consolidation of the discipline. In this paper we challenge this widely accepted narrative of the history of philosophy of biology. We do so by arguing that the most important tradition within early twentieth-century philosophy of biology was neither logical empiricism nor vitalism, but the organicist movement that flourished between the First and Second World Wars. We show that the organicist corpus is thematically and methodologically continuous with the contemporary literature in order to discredit the view that early work in the philosophy of biology was unproductive, and we emphasize the desirability of integrating the historical and contemporary conversations into a single, unified discourse. (shrink)
This paper traces the ancestry of a familiar historiographical narrative, according to which early modern philosophy was marked by the development of empiricism, rationalism, and their synthesis by Immanuel Kant. It is often claimed that this narrative became standard in the nineteenth century, due to the influence of Thomas Reid, Kant and his disciples, or German Hegelians and British Idealists. The paper argues that the narrative became standard only at the turn of the twentieth century. This was not due (...) to the influence of Reid, German Hegelians, or British Idealists as they did not endorse the narrative, although Thomas Hill Green may have facilitated its uptake. The narrative is based on Kant’s historiographical sketches, as corrected and integrated by Karl Leonhard Reinhold. It was first fleshed out into full-fledged histories by two Kantians, Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann and Johann Gottlieb Buhle. Numerous historians, several of whom were not Kantians, spread it in the English-speaking world. They include Kuno Fischer, Friedrich Ueberweg, Richard Falckenberg, and Wilhelm Windelband. However, the wide availability of their works did not suffice to make the narrative standard because, until the 1890s, the Hegelian account was at least as popular as theirs. Among the factors that allowed the narrative to become standard are its aptness to be adopted by philosophers of the most diverse persuasions, its simplicity and suitability for teaching. (shrink)
From one end of his philosophical work to the other, Gilles Deleuze consistently described his position as a transcendental empiricism. But just what is transcendental about Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism? And how does his position fit with the traditional empiricism articulated by Hume? In Difference and Givenness , Levi Bryant addresses these long-neglected questions so critical to an understanding of Deleuze’s thinking. Through a close examination of Deleuze’s independent work--focusing especially on Difference and Repetition-- as well as his (...) engagement with thinkers such as Kant, Mai;mon, Bergson, and Simondon, Bryant sets out to unearth Deleuze’s transcendental empiricism and to show how it differs from transcendental idealism, absolute idealism, and traditional empiricism. What emerges from these efforts is a metaphysics that strives to articulate the conditions for real existence, capable of accounting for the individual itself without falling into conceptual or essentialist abstraction. In Bryant’s analysis, Deleuze’s metaphysics articulates an account of being as process or creative individuation based on difference, as well as a challenging critique--and explanation--of essentialist substance ontologies. A clear and powerful discussion of how Deleuze’s project relates to two of the most influential strains in the history of philosophy, this book will prove essential to anyone seeking to understand Deleuze’s thought and its specific contribution to metaphysics and epistemology. (shrink)
The idea that justified modal belief can be accounted for in terms of empirically justified, non-modal belief is enjoying increasing popularity in the epistemology of modality. One alleged reason to prefer modal empiricism over more traditional, rationalist modal epistemologies is that empiricism avoids the problem with the integration challenge that arise for rationalism, assuming that we want to be realists about modal metaphysics. In this paper, I argue that given two very reasonable constraints on what it means to (...) meet the integration challenge for modality, empiricism is currently at best on a par with, but potentially worse off than, rationalist alternatives, with respect to the integration challenge. (shrink)
In this chapter, I argue against empiricist positions which claim that empirical evidence can be sufficient to defeasibly justify aesthetic judgements, or judgements about the adequacy of aesthetic judgements, or sceptical judgements about someone's capacity to form adequate aesthetic judgements. First, empirical evidence provides neither inferential, nor non-inferential justification for aesthetic opinions. Second, while empirical evidence may tell us how we do respond aesthetically to artworks, it cannot tell us how we should respond to them. And, third, empirical insights into (...) the irrationality of many of our aesthetic judgements do not warrant the sceptical conclusion that we ought to refrain from forming aesthetic opinions. As a consequence of these limitations to aesthetic empiricism, we should endorse the rationalist position that aesthetic criticism is largely a matter of reasoning and, moreover, a collective undertaking. (shrink)
Several scholars have criticized the histories of early modern philosophy based on the dichotomy of empiricism and rationalism. They view them as overestimating the importance of epistemological issues for early modern philosophers (epistemological bias), portraying Kant's Critical philosophy as a superior alternative to empiricism and rationalism (Kantian bias), and forcing most or all early modern thinkers prior to Kant into the empiricist or rationalist camps (classificatory bias). Kant is often said to be the source of the three biases. (...) Against this criticism, this paper argues that Kant did not have the three biases. However, he promoted a way of writing histories of philosophy from which those biases would naturally flow. (shrink)
This paper is a critical response to Hylarie Kochiras’ “Gravity and Newton’s substance counting problem,” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 40 267–280. First, the paper argues that Kochiras conflates substances and beings; it proceeds to show that Newton is a substance monist. The paper argues that on methodological grounds Newton has adequate resources to respond to the metaphysical problems diagnosed by Kochiras. Second, the paper argues against the claim that Newton is committed to two speculative doctrines attributed to (...) him by Kochiras and earlier Andrew Janiak: i) the passivity of matter and ii) the principle of local causation. Third, the paper argues that while Kochiras’ arguments about Newton’s metaphysical commitments are mistaken, it qualifies the characterization of Newton as an extreme empiricist as defended by Howard Stein and Rob DiSalle. In particular, the paper shows that Newton’s empiricism was an intellectual and developmental achievement that built on non trivial speculative commitments about the nature of matter and space.Keywords: Newton; Substance; Action at a distance; Space; Matter; Empiricism. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that aim-oriented empiricism (AOE), a conception of natural science that I have defended at some length elsewhere, is a kind of synthesis of the views of Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos, but is also an improvement over the views of all three. Whereas Popper's falsificationism protects metaphysical assumptions implicitly made by science from criticism, AOE exposes all such assumptions to sustained criticism, and furthermore focuses criticism on those assumptions most likely to need revision if science (...) is to make progress. Even though AOE is, in this way, more Popperian than Popper, it is also, in some respects, more like the views of Kuhn and Lakatos than falsificationism is. AOE is able, however, to solve problems which Kuhn's and Lakatos's views cannot solve. [Back to Top]. (shrink)
In this paper we suggest a revisionist perspective on two significant figures in early modern life science and philosophy: William Harvey and John Locke. Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, is often named as one of the rare representatives of the ‘life sciences’ who was a major figure in the Scientific Revolution. While this status itself is problematic, we would like to call attention to a different kind of problem: Harvey dislikes abstraction and controlled experiments (aside from (...) the ligature experiment in De Motu Cordis), tends to dismiss the value of instruments such as the microscope, and emphasizes instead the privileged status of ‘observed experience’. To use a contemporary term, Harvey appears to rely on, and chiefly value, ‘tacit knowledge’. Secondly, Locke’s project is often explained with reference to the image he uses in the Epistle to the Reader of his Essay, that he was an “underlabourer” of the sciences. In fact, despite the significant medical phase of his career, Locke’s ‘empiricism’ turns out to be above all a practical (i.e. ‘moral’) project, which focuses on the delimitation of our powers in order to achieve happiness, and rejects the possibility of naturalizing knowledge. When combined, these two cases suggest a different view of some canonical moments in early modern natural philosophy. (shrink)
This article explores Galen's analysis of and response to the Rationalist and Empiricist medical sects. It argues that his interest in their debate concerning the epistemology of medicine and anatomy was key to his advancement of an experimental methodology.
In this paper, I argue that the “positive argument” for Constructive Empiricism (CE), according to which CE “makes better sense of science, and of scientific activity, than realism does” (van Fraassen 1980, 73), is an Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE). But constructive empiricists are critical of IBE, and thus they have to be critical of their own “positive argument” for CE. If my argument is sound, then constructive empiricists are in the awkward position of having to reject their (...) own “positive argument” for CE by their own lights. (shrink)
The global relation between logical empiricism and American pragmatism is one of the more difficult problems in history of philosophy. In this paper I’d like to take a local perspective and concentrate on the details that concern the vicissitudes of a philosopher who played an important role in the encounter of logical empiricism and American pragmatism, namely, Ernest Nagel. In this paper, I want to explore some aspects of Nagel’s changing attitude towards the then „new“ logical-empiricist philosophy. In (...) the beginning Nagel welcomed logical empiricism whole-heartedly. This early enthusiasm did not last. At the end of his philosophical career Nagel’s early positive attitude towards logical empiricism shown in the 1930s had been replaced by a much more reserved one. Nagel’s growing dissatisfaction with the Carnapian version of logical empiricist philosophy was clearly expressed in Nagel’s criticism of Carnap’s inductive logic and more generally in his last book Teleology Revisited and Other Essays on History and Philosophy of Science. There he critized harshly Carnap’s philosophy of science in general as ahistoric and non-pragmatist. One of the distinctive features of Nagel’s philosophy of science is the emphasis that he put on the role of history of science for philosophy of science. A compelling evidence for this attitude are his works on the history and philosophy of geometry and algebra One may say that Carnap and Nagel represented opposed possibilities of how the profession of a philosopher of science could be understood: Carnap as a „conceptual engineer“ was engaged in the task of inventing the conceptual tools for a better theoretical understanding of science, while Nagel was to be considered more as a „public intellectual“ engaged in the project of realizing a more rational and enlightened society. (shrink)
According to Bas van Fraassen, scientific realists and anti-realists disagree about whether accepting a scientific theory involves believing that the theory is true. On van Fraassen’s own anti-realist empiricist position, accepting a theory involves believing only that the theory is correct in its claims about observable aspects of the world. However, a number of philosophers have argued that acceptance and belief cannot be distinguished and thus that the debate is either confused or trivially settled in favor of the realist. In (...) addition, another set of philosophers have argued that van Fraassen’s empiricist position appeals to an unmotivated distinction between observable and unobservable aspects of the world. This paper aims to reconstruct a van Fraassen-style empiricism about scientific acceptance that avoids these two objections – reconstructed empiricism. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the “Austro-American” logical empiricism proposed by physicist and philosopher Philipp Frank, particularly his interpretation of Carnap’s Aufbau, which he considered the charter of logical empiricism as a scientific world conception. According to Frank, the Aufbau was to be read as an integration of the ideas of Mach and Poincaré, leading eventually to a pragmatism quite similar to that of the American pragmatist William James. Relying on this peculiar interpretation, Frank intended (...) to bring about a rapprochement between the logical empiricism of the Vienna Circle in exile and American pragmatism. In the course of this project, in the last years of his career, Frank outlined a comprehensive, socially engaged philosophy of science that could serve as a “link between science and philosophy”. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Constructive Empiricism (CE) is ambiguous between two interpretations: CE as a normative epistemology of science and CE as a descriptive philosophy of science. When they present CE, constructive empiricists write as if CE is supposed to be more than a normative epistemology of science and that it is meant to be responsible to actual scientific practices. However, when they respond to objections, constructive empiricists fall back on a strictly normative interpretation of CE. This (...) ambiguity seems to make CE immune to objections in a rather ad hoc fashion. (shrink)
This is a careful explication of and commentary on Wilfrid Sellars's classic essay "Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind" [EPM]. It is appropriate for upper-level undergraduates and beyond. The full text of EPM is included in the volume.
In Science as Social Knowledge in 1990 and The Fate of Knowledge in 2002, Helen Longino develops an epistemological theory known as Critical Contextual Empiricism (CCE). Knowledge production, she argues, is an active, value-laden practice, evidence is context dependent and relies on background assumptions, and science is a social inquiry that, under certain conditions, produces social knowledge with contextual objectivity. While Longino’s work has been generally well-received, there have been a number of criticisms of CCE raised in the philosophical (...) literature in recent years. In this paper I outline the key elements of Longino’s theory and propose modifications to the four norms offered by the account. The version of CCE I defend, which draws on lessons learned by medical researchers in recent years, gives principles of epistemic diversity a central role and also provides greater specification of three of the four norms. Further, it offers additional resources for defending CCE against Alvin Goldman’s suggestion that there is a need for a “healthy dogmatism” in science, as well as a concern about “manufactured uncertainty” arising out of recent work by David Michaels. Finally, the modified version proposed here is also well positioned to respond (negatively) to a suggestion from Kristen Intemann that CCE needs to be adapted to incorporate a central insight from feminist standpoint theory. In light of the variety of social pressures influencing contemporary scientific research, and the role of science in shaping public policy, I argue that a rigorous social epistemology such as CCE is indispensable for understanding and assessing contemporary scientific practice. (shrink)
In this paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years.
I analyse critically what I regard as the most accomplished empiricist account of propensities, namely the long run propensity theory developed by Donald Gillies . Empiricist accounts are distinguished by their commitment to the ‘identity thesis’: the identification of propensities and objective probabilities. These theories are intended, in the tradition of Karl Popper’s influential proposal, to provide an interpretation of probability that renders probability statements directly testable by experiment. I argue that the commitment to the identity thesis leaves empiricist theories, (...) including Gillies’ version, vulnerable to a variant of what is known as Humphreys’ paradox. I suggest that the tension may be resolved only by abandoning the identity thesis, and by adopting instead an understanding of propensities as explanatory properties of chancy objects. (shrink)
Thirty years after the rise of the evidence-based medicine (EBM) movement, formal training in philosophy remains poorly represented among medical students and their educators. In this paper, I argue that EBM’s reception in this context has resulted in a privileging of empiricism over rationalism in clinical reasoning with unintended consequences for medical practice. After a limited review of the history of medical epistemology, I argue that a solution to this problem can be found in the method of the 2nd-century (...) Roman physician Galen, who brought empiricism and rationalism together in a synthesis anticipating the scientific method. Next, I review several of the problems that have been identified as resulting from a staunch commitment to empiricism in medical practice. Finally, I conclude that greater epistemological awareness in the medical community would precipitate a Galenic shift toward a more epistemically balanced, scientific approach to clinical research. (shrink)
This paper examines the settlement movement (a social reform movement during the Progressive Era, roughly 1890–1920) in order to illustrate what pragmatism is and is not. In 1906, Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch proposed an analysis of settlement house methods. Because of her emphasis on interpretation and action, and because of the nature of the settlement movement as a social reform effort with vitally important consequences for everyone involved, it might be thought that her analysis would be pragmatist in character. This paper (...) shows that her analysis is empiricist, not pragmatist, and offers an alternative pragmatist sketch of settlement house methodology. (shrink)
Over the past years, in books and journals , N. Maxwell launched a ferocious attack on B. C. van Fraassen's view of science called Constructive Empiricism . This attack has been totally ignored. Must we conclude from this silence that no defence is possible and that a fortiori Maxwell has buried CE once and for all? Or is the attack too obviously flawed as not to merit exposure? A careful dissection of Maxwell's reasoning will make it clear that neither (...) is the case. This dissection includes an analysis of Maxwell's 'aberrance-argument' for the claim that science implicitly and permanently accepts a substantial, metaphysical thesis about the universe, which then paves the way for his own metaphysical-realist hierarchyview of science. This aberrance-claim, which Maxwell directs against a widely shared and harmful ideology of science called 'Standard Empiricism', generally has been ignored too, for more than a quarter of a century. Our conclusions will be that Maxwell's attacks on CE can be beaten off, and his 'aberrance-arguments' do not establish what Maxwell believes they establish, but we can draw a number of valuable lessons from these attacks about the nature of science and of the libertarian nature of CE. (shrink)
Leading philosophers from both sides of the Atlantic present essays on Wilfrid Sellars's Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, one of the crowning achievements of 20th-century analytic philosophy. They discuss empiricism, perception, epistemology, realism, and normativity, showing how vibrant Sellarsian philosophy remains in the 21st century.
Value judgments are meaningless. This thesis was one of the notorious tenets of Carnap's mature logical empiricism. Less well known is the fact that in the Aufbau values were considered as philosophically respectable entities that could be constituted from value experiences. About 1930, however, values and value judgments were banished to the realm of meaningless metaphysics, and Carnap came to endorse a strict emotivism. The aim of this paper is to shed light on the question why Carnap abandoned his (...) originally positive attitude concerning values. It is argued that his non-cognitivist attitude was the symptom of a deep-rooted and never properly dissolved tension between conflicting inclinations towards Neokantianism and Lebensphilosophie. In America Carnap's non-cognitivism became a major obstacle for a closer collaboration between logical empiricists and American pragmatists. Carnap's persisting adherence to the dualism of practical life and theoretical science was the ultimate reason why he could not accept Morris's and Kaplan's pragmatist theses that cognitivism might well be compatible with a logical and empiricist scientific philosophy. (shrink)
We sley Salmon, in his influential and detailed book, Four Decades of Scientific Explanation, argues that the pragmatic approach to scientific explanation, “construed as the claim that scientific explanation can be explicated entirely in pragmatic terms” (1989, 185) is inadequate. The specific inadequacy ascribed to a pragmatic account is that objective relevance relations cannot be incorporated into such an account. Salmon relies on the arguments given in Kitcher and Salmon (1987) to ground this objection. He also suggests that Peter Railton’s (...) concepts of the ideal explanatory text and explanatory information (Railton 1981) can provide what the pragmatic approach lacks. This suggestion is not a conclusion of course; we read it as the promotion of part of a research program aimed at forging a greater consensus on scientific explanation-an admirable goal. However, we do not see the pragmatic approach as inadequate. We will show that a synthetic account inspired by Salmon’s adaptation of Railton would be equivalent to van Fraassen’s pragmatic account in three respects: accepting or rejecting requests for explanation; the practice of giving scientific explanations; and the evaluation of the goodness of explanations. We include all three under the general rubric of explanatory “practice.” Admittedly these are not the only three features by which an account of explanation might be evaluated. Roughly, we mean to show that a synthetic account cannot do a better job of accounting for the scientific practices which are of importance to the constructive empiricist, and therefore no argument can be presented to the constructive empiricist to convince her that by her own standards the synthetic account is superior. (shrink)
Constructive empiricism implies that if van Fraassen does not believe that scientific theories and his positive philosophical theories, including his contextual theory of explanation, are empirically adequate, he cannot accept them, and hence he cannot use them for scientific and philosophical purposes. Moreover, his epistemic colleagues, who embrace epistemic reciprocalism, would not believe that his positive philosophical theories are empirically adequate. This epistemic disadvantage comes with practical disadvantages in a social world.
The issue of time-awareness presents a critical challenge for empiricism: if temporal properties are not directly perceived, how do we become aware of them? A unique empiricist account of time-awareness suggested by Hume's comments on time in the Treatise avoids the problems characteristic of other empiricist accounts. Hume's theory, however, has some counter-intuitive consequences. The failure of empiricists to come up with a defensible theory of time-awareness lends prima facie support to a non-empiricist theory of ideas.
This article examines the work of the seventeenth-century thinker Catharine Trotter Cockburn with an eye toward explication of her trenchant empiricism, and the foundations upon which it rested. It is argued that part of the originality of Cockburn's work has to do with her consistent line of thought with regard to evidence from the senses and the process of abstract conceptualization; in this she differed strongly from some of her contemporaries. The work of Martha Brandt Bolton and Fidelis Morgan (...) is cited, and there is an auxiliary argument to the effect that Cockburn is probably better known as a playwright than she is as a philosophical thinker. (shrink)
Dove and Machery both argue that recent findings about the nature of numerical representation present problems for Concept Empiricism. I shall argue that, whilst this evidence does challenge certain versions of CE, such as Prinz, it needn’t be seen as problematic to the general CE approach. Recent research can arguably be seen to support a CE account of number concepts. Neurological and behavioral evidence suggests that systems involved in the perception of numerical properties are also implicated in numerical cognition. (...) Furthermore, the discovery of associations between spatial and numerical representations also lends independent support to a CE approach. Although these findings support CE in general, certain versions of the theory may need revising in order to accommodate them. In particular, it may be necessary to either jettison Prinz's Modal Specificity Hypothesis or to revise one’s method for individuating modal representational formats. (shrink)
Eino Kaila's thought occupies a curious position within the logical empiricist movement. Along with Hans Reichenbach, Herbert Feigl, and the early Moritz Schlick, Kaila advocates a realist approach towards science and the project of a “scientific world conception”. This realist approach was chiefly directed at both Kantianism and Poincaréan conventionalism. The case in point was the theory of measurement. According to Kaila, the foundations of physical reality are characterized by the existence of invariant systems of relations, which he called structures. (...) In a certain sense, these invariant structures, he maintained, are constituted in the act of measuring. By “constitution”, however, Kaila meant neither the dependency of the objects of measurement on a priori concepts (or Kantian categories) nor their being effected by conventional stipulations in a Poincaréan sense. He held that invariant structures are, quite literally, real: they exist prior to and independently of our theoretical capacity. By executing measurements, invariant structures are detected and objectively determinable by laws of nature. (shrink)
Concepts are the constituents of thoughts. Therefore, concepts are vital to any theory of cognition. However, despite their widely accepted importance, there is little consensus about the nature and origin of concepts. Thanks to the work of Lawrence Barsalou, Jesse Prinz and others concept empiricism has been gaining momentum within the philosophy and psychology literature. Concept empiricism maintains that all concepts are copies, or combinations of copies, of perceptual representations—that is, all concepts are couched in the codes of (...) perceptual representation systems. It is widely agreed that any satisfactory theory of concepts must account for how concepts semantically compose (the compositionality requirement) and explain how their intentional content is determined (the content determination requirement). In this paper, I argue that concept empiricism has serious problems satisfying these two requirements. Therefore, although stored perceptual representations may facilitate some traditionally conceptual tasks, concepts should not be identified with copies of perceptual representations. (shrink)
There is an enduring story about empiricism, which runs as follows: from Locke onwards to Carnap, empiricism is the doctrine in which raw sense-data are received through the passive mechanism of perception; experience is the effect produced by external reality on the mind or ‘receptors’. Empiricism on this view is the ‘handmaiden’ of experimental natural science, seeking to redefine philosophy and its methods in conformity with the results of modern science. Secondly, there is a story about materialism, (...) popularized initially by Marx and Engels and later restated as standard, ‘textbook’ history of philosophy in the English-speaking world. It portrays materialism as explicitly mechanistic, seeking to reduce the world of qualities, sensations, and purposive behaviour to a quantitative, usually deterministic physical scheme. Building on some recent scholarship, I aim to articulate the contrarian view according to which neither of these stories is true. On the contrary, empiricism turns out to be less ‘science-friendly’ and more concerned with moral matters; materialism reveals itself to be, in at least a large number of cases, a ‘vital’, anti-mechanistic doctrine which focuses on the unique properties of organic beings. This revision of two key philosophical episodes should reveal that our history of early modern philosophy is dependent to a great extent on ‘special interests’, whether positivistic or Kantian, and by extension lead us to rethink the relation and distinction between ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ in this period. (shrink)
The term ‘realism’ and its contrasting terms have various related senses, although often they occlude as much as they illuminate, especially if ontological and epistemological issues and their tenable combinations are insufficiently clarified. For example, in 1807 the infamous ‘idealist’ Hegel argued cogently that any tenable philosophical theory of knowledge must take the natural and social sciences into very close consideration, which he himself did. Here I argue that Hegel ably and insightfully defends Newton’s causal realism about gravitational force, in (...) part by exposing a fatal equivocation in the traditional concept of substance, by criticizing some still-standard empiricist misconceptions of force, by emphasizing the role of explanatory integration in Newtonian mechanics, and by using his powerful semantics of singular, specifically cognitive reference to justify fallibilism regarding empirical justification, together with the semantic core of Newton’s Rule Four of (experimental) Philosophy—in a way that highlights a key fallacy in many arguments against realism, both in epistemology and within philosophy of science. (shrink)
Logical empiricism is commonly seen as a counter-position to scientific realism. In the present paper it is shown that there indeed existed a realist faction within the logical empiricist movement. In particular, I shall point out that at least four types of realistic arguments can be distinguished within this faction: Reichenbach’s ‘probabilistic argument,’ Feigl’s ‘pragmatic argument,’ Hempel’s ‘indispensability argument,’ and Kaila’s ‘invariantist argument.’ All these variations of arguments are intended to prevent the logical empiricist agenda from the shortcomings of (...) radical positivism, instrumentalism, and other forms of scientific antirealism. On the whole, it will be seen that logical empiricism and scientific realism are essentially compatible with each other. Especially Kaila’s invariantist approach to science (and nature) comes quite close to what nowadays is discussed under the label ‘structural realism.’ This, in turn, necessitates a fundamental reevaluation of Kaila’s role in the logical empiricist movement in particular and in twentieth-century philosophy of science in general. (shrink)
Kant contends that necessity is a criterion of the a priori—that is, that all knowledge of necessary propositions is a priori. This contention, together with two others that Kant took to be evident—we know some mathematical propositions and such propositions are necessary—leads directly to the conclusion that some knowledge is a priori. Although many contemporary philosophers endorse Kant’s criterion, supporting arguments are hard to come by. Gordon Barnes provides one of the few examples. My purpose in this chapter is to (...) articulate and examine his argument. I have two goals in doing so. The first is to uncover several significant gaps in the argument. The second is to show that it suffers from a common defect in rationalist arguments. If the argument were successful against empiricist accounts of modal knowledge, it would apply with equal force to extant rationalist accounts of such knowledge. Hence, the cost of refuting modal empiricism is modal scepticism. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Rudolf Carnap’s “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” (ESO) has received a good deal of sympathetic interest over the years from philosophers who are not particularly sympathetic to verificationism, or suspicious of metaphysics in general. Recent work has favorably cited ESO in connection with doubts about the genuine content of debates in the metaphysics of material objects. But, when we look at how Carnap introduces his central notion of a ‘framework’, and the questions he wants to use it to deflate, (...) there seem to be significant differences in his approach and aim from that of contemporary deflationists about the metaphysics of material objects. This paper first looks at some of these differences, and suggests a way of seeing them as arising more from differences in focus and interest than fundamental approach. However, a further question is whether philosophers who may entirely disagree with Carnap about abstract entities, or the substantiveness of the debate between Realists and Idealists – possibly all of his negative conclusions in ESO - can really be seen as heirs to his approach and argument therein. We look first at his discussion of the Realism/Idealism debate, to sort out different aspects of his analysis, and determine to what extent one can disagree with it while not thinking this undermines other analyses using the same general strategy. In the course of this, we are able to distinguish the basic Carnapian analysis of metaphysical disputes, from the question of whether, if the analysis is correct, this actually subverts the disputes. I suggest that, if we put verificationism aside, ESO really provides us with an approach and a type of skeptical challenge more than an argument, and it is open to contemporary philosophers to think that this skeptical challenge can (or can’t) be met, or can be supplemented by further argument, on a case by case basis. (shrink)
One important debate between scientific realists and constructive empiricists concerns whether we observe things using instruments. This paper offers a new perspective on the debate over instruments by looking to recent discussion in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Realists often speak of instruments as ‘extensions’ to our senses. I ask whether the realist may strengthen her view by drawing on the extended mind thesis. Proponents of the extended mind thesis claim that cognitive processes can sometimes extend beyond our brains (...) and bodies into the environment. I suggest that the extended mind thesis offers a way to make sense of realists’ talk of instruments as extensions to the senses and that it provides the realist with a new argument against the constructive empiricist view of instruments. (shrink)