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Howard Sankey
University of Melbourne
  1. The Incommensurability Thesis.Howard Sankey - 1994 - Abingdon: Taylor and Francis.
    This book presents a critical analysis of the semantic incommensurability thesis of Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. In putting forward the thesis of incommensurability, Kuhn and Feyerabend drew attention to complex issues concerning the phenomenon of conceptual change in science. They raised serious problems about the semantic and logical relations between the content of theories which deploy unlike systems of concepts. Yet few of the more extreme claims associated with incommensurability stand scrutiny. The argument of this book is as follows. (...)
  2. Scientific Realism and the Rationality of Science.Howard Sankey - 2008 - Ashgate.
    Scientific realism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientific realism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of scientific realism and contains (...)
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  3. Witchcraft, Relativism and the Problem of the Criterion.Howard Sankey - 2010 - Erkenntnis 72 (1):1-16.
    This paper presents a naturalistic response to the challenge of epistemic relativism. The case of the Azande poison oracle is employed as an example of an alternative epistemic norm which may be used to justify beliefs about everyday occurrences. While a distinction is made between scepticism and relativism, an argument in support of epistemic relativism is presented that is based on the sceptical problem of the criterion. A response to the resulting relativistic position is then provided on the basis of (...)
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    Theories of Scientific Method: An Introduction.Robert Nola & Howard Sankey - 2007 - Acumen Publishing.
    What is it to be scientific? Is there such a thing as scientific method? And if so, how might such methods be justified? Robert Nola and Howard Sankey seek to provide answers to these fundamental questions in their exploration of the major recent theories of scientific method. Although for many scientists their understanding of method is something they just pick up in the course of being trained, Nola and Sankey argue that it is possible to be explicit about what this (...)
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  5. Realism, Progress and the Historical Turn.Howard Sankey - 2017 - Foundations of Science 22 (1):201-214.
    The contemporary debate between scientific realism and anti-realism is conditioned by a polarity between two opposing arguments: the realist’s success argument and the anti-realist’s pessimistic induction. This polarity has skewed the debate away from the problem that lies at the source of the debate. From a realist point of view, the historical approach to the philosophy of science which came to the fore in the 1960s gave rise to an unsatisfactory conception of scientific progress. One of the main motivations for (...)
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  6. Kuhn's changing concept of incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1993 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (4):759-774.
    Since 1962 Kuhn's concept of incommensurability has undergone a process of transformation. His current account of incommensurability has little in common with his original account of it. Originally, incommensurability was a relation of methodological, observational and conceptual disparity between paradigms. Later Kuhn restricted the notion to the semantical sphere and assimilated it to the indeterminacy of translation. Recently he has developed an account of it as localized translation failure between subsets of terms employed by theories.
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  7. Taxonomic incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1998 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 12 (1):7 – 16.
    In a shift of position that has gone largely unnoticed by the great majority of commentators, Thomas Kuhn's version of the incommensurability thesis underwent a major transformation over the last decade and a half of his life. In his later work, Kuhn argued that incommensurability is a relation of translation failure between local subsets of interdefined theoretical terms, which encapsulate the taxonomic structure of a theory. Incommensurability arises because it is impossible to transfer the natural categories employed within one taxonomic (...)
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  8. Epistemic relativism and the problem of the criterion.Howard Sankey - 2011 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (4):562-570.
    This paper explores the relationship between scepticism and epistemic relativism in the context of recent history and philosophy of science. More specifically, it seeks to show that significant treatments of epistemic relativism by influential figures in the history and philosophy of science draw upon the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. The paper begins with a presentation of the problem of the criterion as it occurs in the work of Sextus Empiricus. It is then shown that significant treatments of epistemic relativism (...)
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    Incommensurability and Related Matters.Paul Hoyningen-Huene & Howard Sankey (eds.) - 2001 - Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    Incommensurability and Related Matters draws together some of the most distinguished contributors to the critical literature on the problem of the incommensurability of scientific theories. It addresses all the various problems raised by the problem of incommensurability, such as meaning change, reference of theoretical terms, scientific realism and anti-realism, rationality of theory choice, cognitive aspects of conceptual change, as well as exploring the broader implications of incommensurability for cultural difference. While it offers new work, and new directions of discussion, on (...)
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  10. Incommensurability: The current state of play.Howard Sankey - 1997 - Theoria 12 (3):425-445.
    The incommensurability thesis is the thesis that the content of some alternative scientific theories is incomparable due to translation failure between the vocabulary the theories employ. This paper presents an overview of the main issues which have arisen in the debate about incommensurability. It also briefly outlines a response to the thesis based on a modified causal theory of reference which allows change of reference subsequent to initial baptism, as well as a role to description in the determination of reference. (...)
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  11. Scientific realism: An elaboration and a defence.Howard Sankey - 2001 - Theoria A Journal of Social and Political Theory 98 (98):35-54.
    This paper describes the position of scientific realism and presents the basic lines of argument for the position. Simply put, scientific realism is the view that the aim of science is knowledge of the truth about observable and unobservable aspects of a mind-independent, objective reality. Scientific realism is supported by several distinct lines of argument. It derives from a non-anthropocentric conception of our place in the natural world, and it is grounded in the epistemology and metaphysics of common sense. Further, (...)
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  12. To believe is to believe true.Howard Sankey - 2019 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 23 (1):131-136.
    It is argued that to believe is to believe true. That is, when one believes a proposition one thereby believes the proposition to be true. This is a point about what it is to believe rather than about the aim of belief or the standard of correctness for belief. The point that to believe is to believe true appears to be an analytic truth about the concept of belief. It also appears to be essential to the state of belief that (...)
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  13. Realism and the Epistemic Objectivity of Science.Howard Sankey - 2021 - Kriterion - Journal of Philosophy 35 (1):5-20.
    The paper presents a realist account of the epistemic objectivity of science. Epistemic objectivity is distinguished from ontological objectivity and the objectivity of truth. As background, T.S. Kuhn’s idea that scientific theory-choice is based on shared scientific values with a role for both objective and subjective factors is discussed. Kuhn’s values are epistemologically ungrounded, hence provide a minimal sense of objectivity. A robust account of epistemic objectivity on which methodological norms are reliable means of arriving at the truth is presented. (...)
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  14. Scepticism, relativism and the argument from the criterion.Howard Sankey - 2012 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43 (1):182-190.
    This article explores the relationship between epistemic relativism and Pyrrhonian scepticism. It is argued that a fundamental argument for contemporary epistemic relativism derives from the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. Pyrrhonian scepticism is compared and contrasted with Cartesian scepticism about the external world and Humean scepticism about induction. Epistemic relativism is characterized as relativism due to the variation of epistemic norms, and is contrasted with other forms of cognitive relativism, such as truth relativism, conceptual relativism and ontological relativism. An argument (...)
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  15. Induction and Natural Kinds.Howard Sankey - 1997 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 1 (2):239-254.
    The paper sketches an ontological solution to an epistemological problem in the philosophy of science. Taking the work of Hilary Kornblith and Brian Ellis as a point of departure, it presents a realist solution to the Humean problem of induction, which is based on a scientific essentialist interpretation of the principle of the uniformity of nature. More specifically, it is argued that use of inductive inference in science is rationally justified because of the existence of real, natural kinds of things, (...)
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  16. Rationality, Relativism and Incommensurability.Howard Sankey - 1997 - Ashgate.
    This book concentrates on three topics: the problem of the semantic incommensurability of theories; the non-algorithmic character of rational scientific theory choice and naturalised accounts of the rationality of methodological change. The underlying aim is to show how the phenomenon of extensive conceptual and methodological variation in science need not give rise to a thorough-going epistemic or conceptual relativism.
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  17. Methodological pluralism, normative naturalism and the realist aim of science.Howard Sankey - 2000 - In Howard Sankey & Robert Nola (eds.), After Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend: Recent Issues in Theories of Scientific Method. Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 211-229.
    There are two chief tasks which confront the philosophy of scientific method. The first task is to specify the methodology which serves as the objective ground for scientific theory appraisal and acceptance. The second task is to explain how application of this methodology leads to advance toward the aim(s) of science. In other words, the goal of the theory of method is to provide an integrated explanation of both rational scientific theory choice and scientific progress.
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  18. Scientific realism and the semantic incommensurability thesis.Howard Sankey - 2009 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 40 (2):196-202.
    This paper reconsiders the challenge presented to scientific realism by the semantic incommensurability thesis. A twofold distinction is drawn between methodological and semantic incommensurability, and between semantic incommensurability due to variation of sense and due to discontinuity of reference. Only the latter presents a challenge to scientific realism. The realist may dispose of this challenge on the basis of a modified causal theory of reference, as argued in the author’s 1994 book, The incommensurability thesis. This referential response has been the (...)
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  19. Scientific Realism And The Inevitability Of Science.Howard Sankey - 2008 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 39 (2):259-264.
    This paper examines the question of whether scientific realism is committed to the inevitability of science or is consistent with claims of the contingency of science. In order to address this question, a general characterization of the position of scientific realism is presented. It is then argued that scientific realism has no evident implications with regard to the inevitability of science. A historical case study is presented in which contingency plays a significant role, and the appropriate realist response to this (...)
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    Scientific Realism: An Elaboration and a Defence.Howard Sankey - 2001 - Theoria 48 (98):35-54.
    This paper describes the position of scientific realism and presents the basic lines of argument for the position. Simply put, scientific realism is the view that the aim of science is knowledge of the truth about observable and unobservable aspects of a mind-independent, objective reality. Scientific realism is supported by several distinct lines of argument. It derives from a non-anthropocentric conception of our place in the natural world, and it is grounded in the epistemology and metaphysics of common sense. Further, (...)
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  21. Induction and Natural Kinds Revisited.Howard Sankey - 2021 - In Benjamin Hill, Henrik Lagerlund & Stathis Psillos (eds.), Reconsidering Causal Powers: Historical and Conceptual Perspectives. Oxford University Press. pp. 284-299.
    In ‘Induction and Natural Kinds’, I proposed a solution to the problem of induction according to which our use of inductive inference is reliable because it is grounded in the natural kind structure of the world. When we infer that unobserved members of a kind will have the same properties as observed members of the kind, we are right because all members of the kind possess the same essential properties. The claim that the existence of natural kinds is what grounds (...)
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  22. Rethinking Scientific Change and Theory Comparison:: Stabilities, Ruptures, Incommensurabilities?Lena Soler, Howard Sankey & Paul Hoyningen-Huene (eds.) - 2008 - Springer.
    The volume is a collection of essays devoted to the analysis of scientific change and stability. It explores the balance and tension that exist between commensurability and continuity on the one hand, and incommensurability and discontinuity on the other. Moreover, it discusses some central epistemological consequences regarding the nature of scientific progress, rationality and realism. In relation to these topics, it investigates a number of new avenues, and revisits some familiar issues, with a focus on the history and philosophy of (...)
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  23. How the epistemic relativist may use the sceptic’s strategy: A reply to Markus Seidel.Howard Sankey - 2013 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 44 (1):140-144.
    This paper is a response to an objection that Markus Seidel has made to my analysis of epistemic relativism. Seidel argues that the epistemic relativist is unable to base a relativist account of justification on the sceptical problem of the criterion in the way that I have suggested in earlier work. In response to Seidel, I distinguish between weak and strong justification, and argue that all the relativist needs is weak justification. In addition, I explain my reasons for employing the (...)
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  24. In defence of untranslatability.Howard Sankey - 1990 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):1 – 21.
    This paper addresses criticisms of the concept of untranslatability which Davidson and Putnam have raised against the incommensurability thesis.
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  25. Factivity or Grounds? Comment on Mizrahi.Howard Sankey - 2019 - Logos and Episteme 10 (3):333-4.
    This is a comment on Moti Mizrahi's paper ' You Can't Handle the Truth: Knowledge = Epistemic Certainty'. Mizrahi claims that the factivity of knowledge entails that knowledge requires epistemic certainty. But the argument that Mizrahi presents does not proceed from factivity to certainty. Instead, it proceeds from a premise about the relationship between grounds and knowledge to the conclusion about certainty.
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  26. After Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend: Recent Issues in Theories of Scientific Method.Robert Nola & Howard Sankey (eds.) - 2000 - Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    Some think that issues to do with scientific method are last century's stale debate; Popper was an advocate of methodology, but Kuhn, Feyerabend, and others are alleged to have brought the debate about its status to an end. The papers in this volume show that issues in methodology are still very much alive. Some of the papers reinvestigate issues in the debate over methodology, while others set out new ways in which the debate has developed in the last decade. The (...)
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  27. Kuhn, Relativism and Realism.Howard Sankey - 2018 - In Juha Saatsi (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Scientific Realism. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 72-83.
    The aim of this chapter is to explore the relationship between Kuhn’s views about science and scientific realism. I present an overview of key features of Kuhn’s model of scientific change. The model suggests a relativistic approach to the methods of science. I bring out a conflict between this relativistic approach and a realist approach to the norms of method. I next consider the question of progress and truth. Kuhn’s model is a problem-solving model that proceeds by way of puzzles (...)
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  28. Methodological Incommensurability and Epistemic Relativism.Howard Sankey - 2013 - Topoi 32 (1):33-41.
    This paper revisits one of the key ideas developed in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. In particular, it explores the methodological form of incommensurability which may be found in the original edition of Structure. It is argued that such methodological incommensurability leads to a form of epistemic relativism. In later work, Kuhn moved away from the original idea of methodological incommensurability with his idea of a set of epistemic values that provides a basis for rational theory choice, but do not (...)
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  29. The Relativistic Legacy of Kuhn and Feyerabend.Howard Sankey - 2020 - In M. Kusch (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Relativism. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 379-387.
    Relativism in the philosophy of science is widely associated with the work of Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend. Kuhn and Feyerabend espoused views about conceptual change and variation of scientific method that have apparent relativistic implications. Both held that scientific theories or paradigms may be incommensurable due to semantic variation. Two ways that truth may be relative because of semantic incommensurability will be distinguished. Davidson’s criticism of the idea of an untranslatable language will be discussed, as well as a response (...)
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  30. Scientific Realism and the Conflict with Common Sense.Howard Sankey - 2020 - In Wenceslao J. Gonzalez (ed.), New Approaches to Scientific Realism. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 68-83.
    In this paper, I explore the purported conflict between science and common sense within the context of scientific realism. I argue for a version of scientific realism which retains commitment to realism about common sense rather than seeking to eliminate it.
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  31. Introduction.Howard Sankey & Paul Hoyningen-Huene - 2001 - In Paul Hoyningen-Huene & Howard Sankey (eds.), Incommensurability and Related Matters. Kluwer Academic Publishers.
  32. A Selective Survey of Theories of Scientific Method.Howard Sankey & Robert Nola - 2000 - In Robert Nola & Howard Sankey (eds.), After Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend: Recent Issues in Theories of Scientific Method. Dordrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 1-65.
    This is a survey of theories of scientific method which opens the book "After Popper, Kuhn and Feyerabend: Recent Issues in Theories of Scientific Method".
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  33.  32
    The Objective Status of Subjective Facts.Howard Sankey - forthcoming - Metaphysica: International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics.
    Some facts are objective. Some facts are subjective. Subjective facts are personal facts about individuals. It is the purpose of this short note to suggest that subjective facts are in fact objective facts about us. This applies not just to facts involving relations to entities that are independent of us, but to our tastes. It is an objective fact about us that we have the tastes that we do though there may be no objective matter of fact that our tastes (...)
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  34. Incommensurability and Theory Change.Howard Sankey - 2011 - In Steven Hales (ed.), A Companion to Relativism. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 456-474.
    The paper explores the relativistic implications of the thesis of incommensurability. A semantic form of incommensurability due to semantic variation between theories is distinguished from a methodological form due to variation in methodological standards between theories. Two responses to the thesis of semantic incommensurability are dealt with: the first challenges the idea of untranslatability to which semantic incommensurability gives rise; the second holds that relations of referential continuity eliminate semantic incommensurability. It is then argued that methodological incommensurability poses little risk (...)
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  35.  25
    Robert Nola as I remember him.Howard Sankey - forthcoming - Metascience:1-3.
  36. Scepticism, Relativism and a Naturalistic Particularism.Howard Sankey - 2015 - Social Epistemology 29 (4):395-412.
    This paper presents a particularist and naturalist response to epistemic relativism. The response is based on an analysis of the source of epistemic relativism, according to which epistemic relativism is closely related to Pyrrhonian scepticism. The paper starts with a characterization of epistemic relativism. Such relativism is explicitly distinguished from epistemological contextualism. Next the paper presents an argument for epistemic relativism that is based on the Pyrrhonian problem of the criterion. It then considers a response to the problem of the (...)
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  37. Causation and Laws of Nature.Howard Sankey (ed.) - 1999 - Kluwer Academic Publishers.
    This is a collection of articles which represents current research on the metaphysics of causation and laws of nature, mostly by authors working in or active in the Australasian region. The book provides an overview of current work on the theory of causation, including counterfactual, singularist, nomological and causal process approaches. It also covers work on the nature of laws of nature, with special emphasis on the scientific essentialist theory that laws of nature are, at base, the fundamental dispositions or (...)
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  38. Incommensurability, translation and understanding.Howard Sankey - 1991 - Philosophical Quarterly 41 (165):414-426.
    This paper addresses the issue of how it is possible to understand the language of an incommensurable theory. The aim is to defend the idea of translation failure against the objection that it incoherently precludes understanding.
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  39. Scientific Realism and Basic Common Sense.Howard Sankey - 2014 - Kairos. Revista de Filosofia and Ciência 10:11-24.
    This paper considers the relationship between science and common sense. It takes as its point of departure, Eddington’s distinction between the table of physics and the table of common sense, as well as Eddington’s suggestion that science shows common sense to be false. Against the suggestion that science shows common sense to be false, it is argued that there is a form of common sense, basic common sense, which is not typically overthrown by scientific research. Such basic common sense is (...)
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  40. Scientific method.Howard Sankey - 2008 - In Stathis Psillos & Martin Curd (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Science. London and New York: Routledge. pp. 248-258.
  41.  28
    The Twofold Objectivity of Truth.Howard Sankey - manuscript
    Truth about matters of fact is objective. This is not just because truth is objective. It is also because facts are objective. An objective fact makes an assertion of that fact true. The objectivity of the fact adds a further element of objectivity to the objective truth of the assertion. True assertions of fact are true because truth is objective and because the facts that make them true are objective. True assertions of fact are objective twice over. Their objectivity is (...)
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  42. Objective Facts.Howard Sankey - 2022 - Metaphysica: International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics 23 (1):117-121.
    This is a brief exploration of the notion of an objective fact. The form of objectivity at issue is distinct from epistemic objectivity or objectivity about truth. It is an ontological form of objectivity. Objective facts may obtain whether or not we know, believe or are aware of them. They depend upon objects, for example, on the properties that objects have or the relationships into which objects enter. Setting scepticism to one side, there is a perfectly mundane sense in which (...)
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    Truth About Artifacts.Howard Sankey - forthcoming - Symposion: Theoretical and Applied Inquiries in Philosophy and Social Sciences.
    Truth in a correspondence sense is objective in two ways. It is objective because the relation of correspondence is objective and because the facts to which truths correspond are objective. Truth about artifacts is problematic because artifacts are intentionally designed to perform certain functions, and so are not entirely mind independent. Against this, it is argued in this paper that truth about artifacts is perfectly objective despite the role played by intention and purpose in the production of artifacts.
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  44. Relativism, Particularism and Reflective Equilibrium.Howard Sankey - 2014 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 45 (2):281-292.
    In previous work, I have sought to show that the basic argument for epistemic relativism derives from the problem of the criterion that stems from ancient Pyrrhonian scepticism. Because epistemic relativism depends upon a sceptical strategy, it is possible to respond to relativism on the basis of an anti-sceptical strategy. I argue that the particularist response to scepticism proposed by Roderick Chisholm may be combined with a naturalistic and reliabilist conception of epistemic warrant as the basis for a satisfactory response (...)
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    Introduction to Ciencia Realidad y Racionalidad.Howard Sankey - manuscript
    This is the original English version of the introduction to Ciencia, Realidad y Racionalidad (University of Cauca Press, 2015), which is a collection of my essays translated into Spanish by Juan Carlos Aguirre Garcia.
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  46. Kuhn's ontological relativism.Howard Sankey - 2000 - Science & Education 9 (1-2):59-75.
    In this paper, I provide an interpretation of ontological aspects of Kuhn's theory of science.
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  47. Neither a Truism nor a Triviality: Reply to Grzankowski.Howard Sankey - 2019 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 23 (2):361-365.
    This is a reply to Alex Grzankowski’s comment on my paper, ‘To Believe is to Believe True’. I argue that one may believe a proposition to be true without possessing the concept of truth. I note that to believe the proposition P to be true is not the same as to believe the proposition ‘P is true’. This avoids the regress highlighted by Grzankowski in which the concept of truth is employed an infinite number of times in a single belief.
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  48. Why Must Justification Guarantee Truth? Reply to Mizrahi.Howard Sankey - 2019 - Logos and Episteme: An International Journal of Epistemology 10 (4):445-447.
    This reply provides further grounds to doubt Mizrahi’s argument for an infallibilist theory of knowledge. It is pointed out that the fact that knowledge requires both truth and justification does not entail that the level of justification required for knowledge be sufficient to guarantee truth. In addition, an argument presented by Mizrahi appears to equivocate with respect to the interpretation of the phrase “p cannot be false”.
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  49.  98
    K. Brad Wray: Interpreting Kuhn: Critical Essays[REVIEW]Howard Sankey - 2022 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 12 (1):311-314.
    This is a book review of Brad Wray (ed.) Interpreting Kuhn: Critical Essays.
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  50. Realism, method and truth.Howard Sankey - 2002 - In Michele Marsonet (ed.), The Problem of Realism. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp. 64-81.
    What is the relation between method and truth? Are we justified in accepting a theory that satisfies the rules of scientific method as true? Such questions divide realism from anti-realism in the philosophy of science. Scientific realists take the methods of science to promote the realist aim of correspondence truth. Anti-realists either claim that the methods of science promote lesser epistemic goals than realist truth, or else they reject the realist conception of truth altogether. In this paper, I propose a (...)
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