What is truth? Michael Lynch defends a bold new answer to this question. Traditional theories of truth hold that truth has only a single uniform nature. All truths are true in the same way. More recent deflationary theories claim that truth has no nature at all; the concept of truth is of no real philosophical importance. In this concise and clearly written book, Lynch argues that we should reject both these extremes and hold that truth is a functional property. To (...) understand truth we must understand what it does, its function in our cognitive economy. Once we understand that, we'll see that this function can be performed in more than one way. And that in turn opens the door to an appealing pluralism: beliefs about the concrete physical world needn't be true in the same way as our thoughts about matters -- like morality -- where the human stain is deepest. (shrink)
Philosophers, historians, and sociologists of science have grown interested in the daily practices of scientists. Recent studies have drawn linkages between scientific innovations and more ordinary procedures, craft skills, and sources of sponsorship. These studies dispute the idea that science is the application of a unified method or the outgrowth of a progressive history of ideas. This book critically reviews arguments and empirical studies in two areas of sociology that have played a significant role in the 'sociological turn' in science (...) studies: ethnomethodology and the sociology of scientific knowledge. In both fields, efforts to study scientific practices have led to intractable difficulties and debates, due in part to scientistic and foundationalist commitments that remain entrenched with social-scientific research policies and descriptive language. The central purpose of this book is to explore the possibility of an empirical approach to the epistemic contents of science that avoids the pitfalls of scientism and foundationalism. (shrink)
In this engaging and spirited text, Michael Lynch argues that truth does matter, in both our personal and political lives. He explains that the growing cynicism over truth stems in large part from our confusion over what truth is.
In Truth as One and Many, Michael Lynch offers a new theory of truth. There are two kinds of theory of truth in the literature. On the one hand, we have logical theories, which seek to construct formal systems that are consistent, while also containing a predicate which have as many as possible of the properties which we ordinarily take the English predicate ‘is true’ to have; salient examples include Tarski’s and Kripke’s theories of truth. On the other hand, we (...) have metaphysical theories, which seek to give a non-formal account of the nature of truth – of what truth consists in, of what it means to say that something is true; salient examples include correspondence, coherence and deflationary theories of truth. Lynch’s theory – functionalism about truth – is of the second sort.The theory takes its start from a number of principles which Lynch classifies as truisms about truth:Objectivity: The belief that p is true if, and only if, with respect to the belief that p, things are as they are believed to be.Norm of Belief: It is prima facie correct to believe that p if and only if the proposition that p is true.End of Inquiry: Other things being equal, true beliefs are a worthy goal of inquiry.Lynch argues that other familiar principles can be derived from these: for example, Objectivity together with some auxiliary principles and definitions yields versions of the T-schema, and of the principle that beliefs can be true without being warranted and vice versa. These principles are supposed to give the nominal essence of truth – to constitute our folk theory of truth. Lynch …. (shrink)
Know-it-All Society is about how we form and maintain our political convictions, and the ways in which political ideologies, human psychology and technology conspire to make our society more dogmatic, less intellectually humble and ultimately less democratic.
In the 1980s, philosophical, historical and social studies of science underwent a change which later evolved into a turn to practice. Analysts of science were asked to pay attention to scientific practices in meticulous detail and along multiple dimensions, including the material, social and psychological. Following this turn, the interest in scientific practices continued to increase and had an indelible influence in the various fields of science studies. No doubt, the practice turn changed our conceptions and approaches of science, but (...) what did it really teach us? What does it mean to study scientific practices? What are the general lessons, implications, and new challenges? This volume explores questions about the practice turn using both case studies and theoretical analysis. The case studies examine empirical and mathematical sciences, including the engineering sciences. The volume promotes interactions between acknowledged experts from different, often thought of as conflicting, orientations. It presents contributions in conjunction with critical commentaries that put the theses and assumptions of the former in perspective. Overall, the book offers a unique and diverse range of perspectives on the meanings, methods, lessons, and challenges associated with the practice turn. (shrink)
A Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 1999 Academic debates about pluralism and truth have become increasingly polarized in recent years. One side embraces extreme relativism, deeming any talk of objective truth as philosophically naïve. The opposition, frequently arguing that any sort of relativism leads to nihilism, insists on an objective notion of truth according to which there is only one true story of the world. Both sides agree that there is no middle path. In Truth in Context, Michael Lynch argues (...) that there is a middle path, one where metaphysical pluralism is consistent with a robust realism about truth. Drawing on the work of Hilary Putnam, W.V.O. Quine, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, among others, Lynch develops an original version of metaphysical pluralism, which he calls relativistic Kantianism. He argues that one can take facts and propositions as relative without implying that our ordinary concept of truth is a relative, epistemic, or "soft" concept. The truths may be relative, but our concept of truth need not be. (shrink)
This article is the editors’ introduction to the transcript of a lecture that Harold Garfinkel delivered to a seminar in 1993. Garfinkel extensively discusses the relevance of Aron Gurwitsch’s phenomenological treatment of Gestalt theory for ethnomethodology. Garfinkel uses the term “misreading” to signal a respecification of Gurwitsch’s phenomenological investigations, and particularly his conceptions of contextures, functional significations, and phenomenal fields, so that they become compatible with detailed observations and descriptions of social actions and interactions performed in situ. Garfinkel begins with (...) Gurwitsch’s demonstrations with line drawings and other abstract examples, and suggests how they can be used to suggest original procedures for investigating the vicissitudes of embodied practical actions in the lifeworld. This introduction to the lecture aims to provide some background on the scope of Gurwitsch’s phenomenological critique and elaboration of Gestalt theory and Garfinkel’s “misreading” of it in terms of his own conceptions of indexicality and accountability, and ethnomethodological investigations of the production of social order. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss three different kinds of disagreement that have been, or could reasonably be, characterized as deep disagreements. Principle level disagreements are disagreements over the truth of epistemic principles. Sub-principle level deep disagreements are disagreements over how to assign content to schematic norms. Finally, framework-level disagreements are holistic disagreements over meaning not truth, that is over how to understand networks of epistemic concepts and the beliefs those concepts compose. Within the context of each of these kinds of (...) disagreement it is not possible for the parties to the dispute to rationally persuade one another through only offering epistemic reasons for their conflicting points of view. However, in spite of the inability to rationally persuade, we explore how it may nevertheless be possible to rationally navigate each of these varieties of deep disagreement. (shrink)
Pluralism about truth is the view that there is more than one way for a proposition to be true. When taken to imply that there is more than one concept and property of truth, this position faces a number of troubling objections. I argue that we can overcome these objections, and yet retain pluralism's key insight, by taking truth to be a multiply realizable property of propositions.
Can we give objective reasons for our most basic standards of reason-- our fundamental epistemic principles? I argue, against several forms of skepticism about reason, that we can, but that the reasons we can give for epistemic principles are ultimately practical, not epistemic.
ABSTRACTDemocracies, Dewey and others have argued, are ideally spaces of reasons – they allow for an exchange of reasons both practical and epistemic by those willing to engage in that discourse. That requires that citizens have convictions they believe in, but it also requires that they be willing to listen to each other. This paper examines how a particular psychological attitude, “epistemic arrogance,” can undermine the achievement of these goals. The paper presents an analysis of this attitude and then examines (...) four arguments for how its adoption – especially by the powerful – undermines the ideal of democracy as a space of reasons. (shrink)
In this paper, we offer a brief, critical survey of contemporary work on truth. We begin by reflecting on the distinction between substantivist and deflationary truth theories. We then turn to three new kinds of truth theory—Kevin Scharp's replacement theory, John MacFarlane's relativism, and the alethic pluralism pioneered by Michael Lynch and Crispin Wright. We argue that despite their considerable differences, these theories exhibit a common "pluralizing tendency" with respect to truth. In the final section, we look at the underinvestigated (...) interface between metaphysical and formal truth theories, pointing to several promising questions that arise here. (shrink)
Reflexivity is a well-established theoretical and methodological concept in the human sciences, and yet it is used in a confusing variety of ways. The meaning of `reflexivity' and the virtues ascribed to the concept are relative to particular theoretical and methodological commitments. This article examines several versions of the concept, and critically focuses on treatments of reflexivity as a mark of distinction or source of methodological advantage. Although reflexivity often is associated with radical epistemologies, social scientists with more conventional leanings (...) often speak of reflexivity as a methodological tool, substantive property of social systems, or source of individual enlightenment. Radical and conventional social scientists alike tend to stress the importance of being reflexive, as opposed to being unreflexive, but they do not share a coherent conception of what `being reflexive' means or entails. As an alternative to reflexive self-privileging, I recommend an ethnomethodological conception of reflexivity as an ordinary, unremarkable and unavoidable feature of action. The ethnomethodological conception does not support a particular theoretical or methodological standpoint by contrasting it to an `unreflexive' counterpart. It has little value as a critical weapon or source of epistemological advantage, which, in the present context, can have advantages of its own for promoting peace and epistemic democracy. (shrink)
This article critically examines the relations between epistemics in conversation analysis and linguistic and cognitivist conceptions of communicative interaction that emphasize information and information transfer. The epistemic program adheres to the focus on recorded instances of talk-in-interaction that is characteristic of CA, explicitly identifies its theoretical origins with ethnomethodology, and points to implications of its research for the social distribution of knowledge. However, despite such affiliations with CA and ethnomethodology, the EP is cognitivist in the way it emphasizes information exchange (...) as an underlying, extrasituational ‘driver’ in social interaction. To document how the EP draws upon cognitivist conceptions of information and knowledge, we review examples from the corpus of transcripts analyzed in key publications on epistemics. Our re-analysis casts doubt upon the way EP analysis invokes an underlying order that supposedly drives the evident sequential organization of those transcripts. (shrink)
Imagine you had the functions of your smartphone miniaturized to a cellular level and accessible by your neural network. Reflection on this possibility suggests that we should not just concern ourselves with whether our knowledge is extending “out” to our devices; our devices are extending in, and with them, possibly the information that they bring. If so, then the question of whether knowledge is “extended” becomes wrapped up with the question of whether knowing is something we do, or something we (...) can share with, or outsource to, instruments. And that in turn raises the two questions of this paper: First, to what extent does such technology put pressure on the idea that we might have more than one conception of knowledge? And second, what is the value of states that fit these conceptions of knowledge? (shrink)
Is truth objective or relative? What exists independently of our minds? The essays in this book debate these two questions, which are among the oldest of philosophical issues and have vexed almost every major philosopher, from Plato, to Kant, to Wittgenstein. Fifteen eminent contributors bring fresh perspectives, renewed energy, and original answers to debates of great interest both within philosophy and in the culture at large.
Minimalists generally see themselves as engaged in a descriptive project. They maintain that they can explain everything we want to say about truth without appealing to anything other than the T-schema, i.e., the idea that the proposition that p is true iff p. I argue that despite recent claims to the contrary, minimalists cannot explain one important belief many people have about truth, namely, that truth is good. If that is so, then minimalism, and possibly deflationism as a whole, must (...) be rejected or recast as a profoundly revisionary project. (shrink)
Are most people sincere when they share misinformation and conspiracies online? This question, while natural and important, is difficult to answer for obvious reasons. But it also applies poorly to one of the main vehicles for misinformation—memes. And it can be ambiguous; as a result, we should be mindful of two distinctions. First, a distinction between belief and a related propositional attitude, commitment. And second, the distinction between the propositional content of an attitude and what I will call its political (...) meaning. I will suggest that these distinctions not only can help us understand how we communicate online, but they also suggest a lesson about what we should be focusing on when fighting misinformation. (shrink)
According to alethic functionalism, truth is a higher-order multiply realizable property of propositions. After briefly presenting the views main principles and motivations, I defend alethic functionalism from recent criticisms raised against it by Cory Wright. Wright argues that alethic functionalism will collapse either into deflationism or into a view that takes true as simply ambiguous. I reject both claims.
Why does reason matter, if in the end everything comes down to blind faith or gut instinct? Why not just go with what you believe even if it contradicts the evidence? Why bother with rational explanation when name-calling, manipulation, and force are so much more effective in our current cultural and political landscape? Michael Lynch's In Praise of Reason offers a spirited defense of reason and rationality in an era of widespread skepticism--when, for example, people reject scientific evidence about such (...) matters as evolution, climate change, and vaccines when it doesn't jibe with their beliefs and opinions. In recent years, skepticism about the practical value of reason has emerged even within the scientific academy. Many philosophers and psychologists claim that the reasons we give for our most deeply held views are often little more than rationalizations of our prior convictions. _In_ _Praise of Reason_ gives us a counterargument. Although skeptical questions about reason have a deep and interesting history, they can be answered. In particular, appeals to scientific principles of rationality are part of the essential common currency of any civil democratic society. The idea that everything is arbitrary--that reason has no more weight than blind faith--undermines a key principle of a civil society: that we owe our fellow citizens explanations for what we do. Reason matters--not just for the noble ideal of truth, but for the everyday world in which we live. (shrink)
Like William James before him, Huw Price has influentially argued that truth has a normative role to play in our thought and talk. I agree. But Price also thinks that we should regard truth-conceived of as property of our beliefs-as something like a metaphysical myth. Here I disagree. In this paper, I argue that reflection on truth's values pushes us in a slightly different direction, one that opens the door to certain metaphysical possibilities that even a Pricean pragmatist can love.
Sociologists, philosophers and historians of science are gradually recognizing the importance of visual representation. This is part of a more general movement away from a theory-centric view of science and towards an interest in practical aspects of observation and experimentation. Rather than treating science as a matter of demonstrating the logical connection between theoretical and empirical statements, an increasing number of investigations are examining how scientists compose and use diagrams, graphs, photographs, micrographs, maps, charts, and related visual displays. This paper (...) focuses on diagrams in biology, and tries to demonstrate how diagrams are an integral part of the production of scientific knowledge. In order to disclose some of the distinctive practical and analytical uses of diagrams, the paper contrasts the way diagrams and photographs are used in biological texts. Both diagrams and photographs are shown to be “constructions” that separately and together mediate the investigation of scientific phenoman. (shrink)
Hammersley asserts that “radical” strands of ethnomethodology and constructionism in science and technology studies (STS) take an anti-representationalist approach which denies that “science produces representations referring to objects or processes that exist independently of it.” In this ‘Comment,’ I argue that ethnomethodology is distinct from both constructionist and post-constructionist research programs in STS, and that Hammersley presents a binary choice between being for or against the general proposition that scientific representations correspond to independent realities. He suggests that STS studies should (...) “suspend” the philosophical question of whether scientific representations correspond to their worldly referents. Perhaps this is good advice for proponents of STS who promote a “turn to ontology” or propose to do “empirical philosophy,” but ethnomethodologists take a deflationary approach to the topics of philosophical inquiry. (shrink)
In lectures and writings in the decades following the publication of Studies in Ethnomethodology , Harold Garfinkel, the founder of ethnomethodology, developed what he called a “misreading” of the phenomenological writings of Aron Gurwitsch, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others. Garfinkel’s “misreading” included a selective and creative treatment of themes that Gurwitsch drew from Gestalt psychology, such as figure-ground, Gestalt contexture, and the phenomenal field. Rather than identifying these themes with visual perception demonstrated with picture-puzzles (for example, of animals hidden in foliage) (...) and line drawings of reversible figures, Garfinkel used them to demonstrate praxeological and interactional phenomena: organizations of embodied activity that constitute fields of collective action. Phenomenal fields, for Garfinkel, are formed through embodied work performed in concert with the actions of others. Although Harvey Sacks, the founder of Conversation Analysis, did not explicitly mention Gurwitsch, phenomenology or Gestalt psychology in his writings and transcribed lectures, some of his writings on the sequential organization of conversation seem informed, if only indirectly through his relationship with Garfinkel, by Gurwitsch’s treatment of visual and auditory phenomena. Both Garfinkel and Sacks devised innovative ways to transpose Gestalt phenomena from perceptual psychology to social formations. (shrink)
Many philosophers take understanding to be a distinctive kind of knowledge that involves grasping dependency relations; moreover, they hold it to be particularly valuable. This paper aims to investigate and address two well-known puzzles that arise from this conception: (1) the nature of understanding itself—in particular, the nature of “grasping”; (2) the source of understanding’s distinctive value. In what follows, I’ll argue that we can shed light on both puzzles by recognizing first, the importance of the distinction between the act (...) of coming to understand and the state of understanding; and second, that coming to understand is a creative act. (shrink)
The answers to the questions in the title depend on the kind of pluralism one is talking about. We will focus here on our own views. The purpose of this article is to trace out some possible connections between these kinds of pluralism. We show how each of them might bear on the other, depending on how certain open questions are resolved.
Moral relativism is an attractive position, but also one that it is difficult to formulate. In this paper, we propose an alternative way of formulating moral relativism that locates the relativity of morality in the property that makes moral claims true. Such an approach, we believe, has significant advantages over other possible ways of formulating moral relativism. We conclude by considering a few problems such a position might face.