This essay contains a partial exploration of some key concepts associated with the epistemology of realist philosophies of science. It shows that neither reference nor approximate truth will do the explanatory jobs that realists expect of them. Equally, several widely-held realist theses about the nature of inter-theoretic relations and scientific progress are scrutinized and found wanting. Finally, it is argued that the history of science, far from confirming scientific realism, decisively confutes several extant versions of avowedly 'naturalistic' forms of scientific (...) realism. (shrink)
Laudan constructs a fresh approach to a longtime problem for the philosopher of science: how to explain the simultaneous and widespread presence of both agreement and disagreement in science. Laudan critiques the logical empiricists and the post-positivists as he stresses the need for centrality and values and the interdependence of values, methods, and facts as prerequisites to solving the problems of consensus and dissent in science.
This book consists of a collection of essays written between 1965 and 1981. Some have been published elsewhere; others appear here for the first time. Although dealing with different figures and different periods, they have a common theme: all are concerned with examining how the method of hy pothesis came to be the ruling orthodoxy in the philosophy of science and the quasi-official methodology of the scientific community. It might have been otherwise. Barely three centuries ago, hypothetico deduction was in (...) both disfavor and disarray. Numerous rival methods for scientific inquiry - including eliminative and enumerative induction, analogy and derivation from first principles - were widely touted. The method of hypothesis, known since antiquity, found few proponents between 1700 and 1850. During the last century, of course, that ordering has been inverted and - despite an almost universal acknowledgement of its weaknesses - the method of hypothesis (usually under such descriptions as 'hypothetico deduction' or 'conjectures and refutations') has become the orthodoxy of the 20th century. Behind the waxing and waning of the method of hypothesis, embedded within the vicissitudes of its fortunes, there is a fascinating story to be told. It is a story that forms an integral part of modern science and its philosophy. (shrink)
By targeting and critiquing these assumptions, he lays the groundwork for a post-positivist philosophy of science that does not provide aid and comfort to the enemies of reason. This book consists of thirteen essays.
Beginning with the premise that the principal function of a criminal trial is to find out the truth about a crime, Larry Laudan examines the rules of evidence and procedure that would be appropriate if the discovery of the truth were, as higher courts routinely claim, the overriding aim of the criminal justice system. Laudan mounts a systematic critique of existing rules and procedures that are obstacles to that quest. He also examines issues of error distribution by offering the first (...) integrated analysis of the various mechanisms - the standard of proof, the benefit of the doubt, the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof - for implementing society's view about the relative importance of the errors that can occur in a trial. (shrink)
Some Key Controversies in the Philosophy of Science Larry Laudan. the mouths of my realist, relativist, and positivist. (By contrast, there is at least one person who hews to the line I have my prag- matist defending.) But I have gone to some ...
Normative naturalism is a view about the status of epistemology and philosophy of science; it is a meta-epistemology. It maintains that epistemology can both discharge its traditional normative role and nonetheless claim a sensitivity to empirical evidence. The first sections of this essay set out the central tenets of normative naturalism, both in its epistemic and its axiological dimensions; later sections respond to criticisms of that species of naturalism from Gerald Doppelt, Jarrett Leplin and Alex Rosenberg.
This paper argues that it has been widely assumed by philosophers of science that the cumulative retention of explanatory success is a "sine qua non" for making judgements about the progress or rational preferability of one theory over another. It has also been assumed that it is impossible to make objective, Comparative judgements of the acceptability of rival theories unless all the statements of both theories could be translated into a common language. This paper seeks to show that both these (...) dogmas are mistaken; that progress without cumulativity and comparability without commensurability are both viable. (shrink)
Most contributions to Whewell scholarship have tended to stress the idealistic, antiempirical temper of Whewell’s philosophy. Thus, the only two monograph-length studies on Whewell, Blanché’s Le Rationalisme de Whewell and Marcucci’s L’ ‘Idealismo’ Scientifico di William Whewell, are, as their titles suggest, concerned primarily with Whewell’s departures from classical British empiricism. Particularly in his famous dispute with Mill, it has proved tempting to parody Whewell’s position in the debate by treating it as a straightforward encounter between an arch-empiricist and an (...) arch-rationalist. There is, however, a danger that an emphasis on the necessitarian and a priori elements in Whewell’s philosophy may well obscure the unmistakable empirical emphasis in Whewell’s theory of science. I think it is time to begin to redress the balance, by focusing attention on the significant ‘empiricist’ strains in Whewell’s philosophy of science. One of the most important of those strains is connected with the operation which Whewell calls ‘the consilience of inductions’. (shrink)
Intuitionistic meta-methodologies, which abound in recent philosophy of science, take the criterion of success for theories of scientific rationality to be whether those theories adequately explicate our intuitive judgments of rationality in exemplary cases. Garber's (1985) critique of Laudan's (1977) intuitionistic meta-methodology, correct as far as it goes, does not go far enough. Indeed, Garber himself advocates a form of intuitionistic meta-methodology; he merely denies any special role for historical (as opposed to contemporary or imaginary) test cases. What all such (...) positions lack is a base from which to inform, criticize, or restructure our core methodological intuitions. To acquiesce in this is to deny that exemplary cases can serve the sort of warranting role required for intuitionism. This point is reinforced by a series of reasons for denying the warranting role of pre-analytic judgments of rationality. These reasons point the way toward an improved approach to meta-methodology. (shrink)
It is widely supposed that the scientists in any field use identical standards for evaluating theories. Without such unity of standards, consensus about scientific theories is supposedly unintelligible. However, the hypothesis of uniform standards can explain neither scientific disagreement nor scientific innovation. This paper seeks to show how the presumption of divergent standards (when linked to a hypothesis of dominance) can explain agreement, disagreement and innovation. By way of illustrating how a rational community with divergent standards can encourage innovation and (...) eventually reach consensus, recent developments in geophysics are discussed at some length. (shrink)
1. Introduction. The papers by Hellman and Mayo offer up a rich menu of problems and proposed solutions, so there is much here for a friendly critic to fasten on. In order to bring a modicum of focus to my commentary, I shall limit my remarks to the Duhem problem and its radiations in epistemology and methodology. Both Mayo and Hellman claim to have solutions to that hoary old problem and they tout these solutions as key indicators of the explanatory (...) power of their respective technical epistemologies, whether Bayesian or Neyman/Pearsonian. Like Mayo, I shall be arguing that the Bayesian treatment of Duhem's problem is no solution at all; that, indeed, it fails to grapple with the core challenges posed by the purported ambiguities of falsification. My response to Mayo's more detailed, and I think more right-headed, treatment of the Duhem problem will be more complex. While I believe that she is moving in the right direction in many respects, I think that she fails to see one key dimension of the Duhemian conundrum. Indeed, she risks solving not Duhem's problem but quite a different one. I shall gently try to encourage her to steer her way back towards the central task. (shrink)
In this study of Auguste Comte's philosophy of science, an attempt is made to explicate his views on such methodological issues as explanation, prediction, induction and hypothesis. Comte's efforts to resolve the dual problems of demarcation and meaning led to the enunciation of principles of verifiability and predictability. Comte's hypothetico-deductive method is seen to permit conjectures dealing with unobservable entities.
For positivists and post-positivists alike, methodology had a decidedly suspect status. Positivists saw methodological rules as stipulative conventions, void of any empirical content. Post-positivists (especially naturalistic ones) see such rules as mere descriptions of how research is conducted, carrying no normative force. It is argued here that methodological rules are fundamentally empirical claims, but ones which have significant normative bite. Methodology is thus divorced both from foundationalism and conventionalism.
This paper propounds the following theses: 1). that the traditional focus on the Blackstone ratio of errors as a device for setting the criminal standard of proof is ill-conceived, 2). that the preoccupation with the rate of false convictions in criminal trials is myopic, and 3). that the key ratio of interest, in judging the political morality of a system of criminal justice, involves the relation between the risk that an innocent person runs of being falsely convicted of a serious (...) crime and the risk of being criminally victimized by someone who was falsely acquitted. (shrink)
It is difficult, if not impossible, to so define the term as to satisfy a subtle and metaphysical mind, bent on the detection of some point, however attenuated, upon which to hang a criticism. —Supreme Court of Virginia 1.