Is reflective equilibrium enough?

Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):325-359 (2010)
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Suppose that one is at least a minimal realist about a given domain, in that one thinks that that domain contains truths that are not in any interesting sense of our own making. Given such an understanding, what can be said for and against the method of reflective equilibrium as a procedure for investigating the domain? One fact that lends this question some interest is that many philosophers do combine commitments to minimal realism and a reflective equilibrium methodology. Here, for example, is David Lewis on philosophy: Our “intuitions” are simply opinions: our philosophical theories are the same. Some are commonsensical, some are sophisticated; some are particular; some general; some are more firmly held, some less. But they are all opinions, and a reasonable goal for a philosopher is to bring them into equilibrium. Our common task it to find out what equilibria there are that can withstand examination, but it remains for each of us to come to rest at one or another of them… Once the menu of well-worked out theories is before us, philosophy is a matter of opinion. Is that to say that there is no truth to be had? Or that the truth is of our own making, and different ones of us can make it differently? Not at all! If you say flatly that there is no god, and I say that there are countless gods but none of them are our worldmates, then it may be that neither of us is making any mistake of method. We may each be bringing our opinions to equilibrium in the most careful possible way, taking account of all the arguments, distinctions, and counterexamples. But one of us, at least, is making a mistake of fact. Which one is wrong depends on what there is (1983: x-xi). In addition to philosophy in general, the method of reflective equilibrium has also been endorsed as the appropriate procedure for investigating various other subject..



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Author Profiles

Thomas Kelly
Princeton University
Sarah McGrath
Princeton University

Citations of this work

Reflective Equilibrium.Yuri Cath - 2016 - In Herman Cappelen, Tamar Gendler & John P. Hawthorne (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. pp. 213-230.
Cognitive Mobile Homes.Daniel Greco - 2017 - Mind 126 (501):93-121.
The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Methodology.Herman Cappelen, Tamar Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.) - 2016 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

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Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Political Liberalism.John Rawls - 1993 - Columbia University Press.

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