Nicholas Rescher presents a critical reaction against two currently influential tendencies of thought. On the one hand, he rejects the facile relativism that pervades contemporary social and academic life. On the other hand, he opposes the rationalism inherent in neo-contractarian theory--both in the idealized communicative-contract version promoted in continental European political philosophy by J;urgen Habermas, and in the idealized social contract version of the theory of political justice promoted in the Anglo-American context by John Rawls. Against such tendencies, Rescher's pluralist (...) approach takes a more realistic and pragmatic line, eschewing the convenient recourse of idealization in cognitive and practical matters. Instead of a utopianism that looks to a uniquely perfect order that would prevail under ideal conditions, he advocates incremental improvements within the framework of arrangements that none of us will deem perfect but that all of us "can live with." Such an approach replaces the yearning for an unattainable consensus with the institution of pragmatic arrangements in which the community will acquiesce--not through agreeing on their optimality, but through a shared recognition among the dissonant parties that the available options are even worse. (shrink)
Reminiscences of Peter, by P. Oppenheim.--Natural kinds, by W. V. Quine.--Inductive independence and the paradoxes of confirmation, by J. Hintikka.--Partial entailment as a basis for inductive logic, by W. C. Salmon.--Are there non-deductive logics?, by W. Sellars.--Statistical explanation vs. statistical inference, by R. C. Jeffre--Newcomb's problem and two principles of choice, by R. Nozick.--The meaning of time, by A. Grünbaum.--Lawfulness as mind-dependent, by N. Rescher.--Events and their descriptions: some considerations, by J. Kim.--The individuation of events, by D. Davidson.--On properties, by (...) H. Putnam.--A method for avoiding the Curry paradox, by F. B. Fitch.--Publications (1934-1969) by Carl G. Hempel (p. -270). (shrink)
Contending that only a normative theory of rationality can be adequate to the complexities of the subject, this book explains and defends the view that rationality consists of the intelligent pursuit of appropriate objectives. Rescher considers the mechanics, rationale, and rewards of reason, and argues that social scientists who want to present a theory of rationality while avoiding the vexing complexities of normative deliberations must amend their perspective of the rational enterprise.
Presumption is a remarkably versatile and pervasively useful resource. Firmly grounded in the law of evidence from its origins in classical antiquity, it made its way in the days of medieval scholasticism into the theory and practice of disputation and debate. Subsequently, it extended its reach to play an increasingly significant role in the philosophical theory of knowledge. It has thus come to represent a region where lawyers, debaters, and philosophers can all find some common around. In Presumption and the (...) Practices of Tentative Cognition, Nicholas Rescher endeavors to show that the process of presumption plays a role of virtually indispensable utility in matters of rational inquiry and communication. The origins of presumption may lie in law, but its importance is reinforced by its service to the theory of information management and philosophy. (shrink)
Perfected science is but an idealization that provides a useful contrast to highlight the limited character of what we do and can attain. This lies at the core of various debates in the philosophy of science and Rescher’s discussion focuses on the question: how far could science go in principle—what are the theoretical limits on science? He concentrates on what science can discover, not what it should discover. He explores in detail the existence of limits or limitations on scientific inquiry, (...) especially those that, in principle, preclude the full realization of the aims of science, as opposed to those that relate to economic obstacles to scientific progress. Rescher also places his argument within the politics of the day, where "strident calls of ideological extremes surround us," ranging from the exaggeration that "science can do anything"—to the antiscientism that views science as a costly diversion we would be well advised to abandon. Rescher offers a middle path between these two extremes and provides an appreciation of the actual powers and limitations of science, not only to philosophers of science but also to a larger, less specialized audience. (shrink)
The disagreement of philosophers is notorious. In this book, Rescher develops a theory that accounts for this conflict and shows how the basis for philosophical disagreement roots in divergent 'cognitive values'-values regarding matters such as importance, centrality, and priority. In light of this analysis, Rescher maintains that, despite this inevitable discord, a skeptical or indifferentist reaction to traditional philosophy is not warranted, seeing that genuine value-conflicts are at issue. He argues that philosophy is an important and worthwhile enterprise, notwithstanding its (...) inability to achieve rationally constrained consensus on the issues. Given the nature of the enterprise, consensus is not a realistic goal, and failure to achieve it is not a defect. Accordingly, Rescher argues against the revisionist views proposed by Richard Rorty and Robert Nozick. His discussions are devoted to providing a clear view of why philosophical problems arise and how philosophers address them. (shrink)
The main object of this paper is to provide the logical machinery needed for a viable basis for talking of the ‘consequences’, the ‘content’, or of ‘equivalences’ between inconsistent sets of premisses.With reference to its maximal consistent subsets (m.c.s.), two kinds of ‘consequences’ of a propositional set S are defined. A proposition P is a weak consequence (W-consequence) of S if it is a logical consequence of at least one m.c.s. of S, and P is an inevitable consequence (I-consequence) of (...) S if it is a logical consequence of all the m.c.s. of S. The set of W-consequences of a set S it determines (up to logical equivalence) its m.c.s. (This enables us to define a normal form for every set such that any two sets having the same W-consequences have the same normal form.) The W-consequences and I-consequences will not do to define the ‘content’ of a set S. The first is too broad, may include propositions mutually inconsistent, the second is too narrow. A via media between these concepts is accordingly defined: P is a P-consequence of S, where P is some preference criterion yielding some of the m.c.s. of S as preferred to others, and P is a consequence of all of the P-preferred m.c.s. of S. The bulk of the paper is devoted to discussion of various preference criteria, and also surveys the application of this machinery in diverse contexts - for example, in connection with the processing of mutually inconsistent reports. (shrink)
_Process Philosophy_ surveys the basic issues and controversies surrounding the philosophical approach known as “process philosophy.” Process philosophy views temporality, activity, and change as the cardinal factors for our understanding of the real—process has priority over product, both ontologically and epistemically. Rescher examines the movement’s historical origins, reflecting a major line of thought in the work of such philosophers as Heracleitus, Leibniz, Bergson, Peirce, William James, and especially A. N. Whitehead. Reacting against the tendency to associate process philosophy too closely (...) with this last-named thinker, Rescher writes, “Indeed, one cardinal task for the partisans of process at this particular juncture of philosophical history is to prevent the idea of ‘process philosophy’ from being marginalized through a limitation of its bearing to the work and influence of any one single individual or group.” This book will appeal to both students and professors of philosophy. Those teachers who have not been trained in process philosophy will welcome this new text by one one of North America’s foremost philosophers as a perspicuous and informative introduction. (shrink)
This volume has 41 chapters written to honor the 100th birthday of Mario Bunge. It celebrates the work of this influential Argentine/Canadian physicist and philosopher. Contributions show the value of Bunge’s science-informed philosophy and his systematic approach to philosophical problems. The chapters explore the exceptionally wide spectrum of Bunge’s contributions to: metaphysics, methodology and philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of physics, philosophy of psychology, philosophy of social science, philosophy of biology, philosophy of technology, moral philosophy, social and political (...) philosophy, medical philosophy, and education. The contributors include scholars from 16 countries. Bunge combines ontological realism with epistemological fallibilism. He believes that science provides the best and most warranted knowledge of the natural and social world, and that such knowledge is the only sound basis for moral decision making and social and political reform. Bunge argues for the unity of knowledge. In his eyes, science and philosophy constitute a fruitful and necessary partnership. Readers will discover the wisdom of this approach and will gain insight into the utility of cross-disciplinary scholarship. This anthology will appeal to researchers, students, and teachers in philosophy of science, social science, and liberal education programmes. 1. Introduction Section I. An Academic Vocation Section II. Philosophy Section III. Physics and Philosophy of Physics Section IV. Cognitive Science and Philosophy of Mind Section V. Sociology and Social Theory Section VI. Ethics and Political Philosophy Section VII. Biology and Philosophy of Biology Section VIII. Mathematics Section IX. Education Section X. Varia Section XI. Bibliography. (shrink)
The increasingly lively controversy over scientific realism has become one of the principal themes of recent philosophy. 1 In watching this controversy unfold in the rather technical way currently in vogue, it has seemed to me that it would be useful to view these contemporary disputes against the background of such older epistemological issues as fallibilism, scepticism, relativism, and the traditional realism/idealism debate. This, then, is the object of the present book, which will recon sider the newer concerns about scientific (...) realism in the context of these older philosophical themes. Historically, realism concerns itself with the real existence of things that do not "meet the eye" - with suprasensible entities that lie beyond the reach of human perception. In medieval times, discussions about realism focused upon universals. Recognizing that there are physical objects such as cats and triangular objects and red tomatoes, the medievels debated whether such "abstract objects" as cathood and triangularity and redness also exist by way of having a reality indepen dent of the concretely real things that exhibit them. Three fundamen tally different positions were defended: (1) Nominalism. Abstracta have no independent existence as such: they only "exist" in and through the objects that exhibit them. Only particulars (individual substances) exist. Abstract "objects" are existents in name only, mere thought fictions by whose means we address concrete particular things. (2) Realism. Abstracta have an independent existence as such. (shrink)
The aim of the book is to introduce the reader to some new areas oflogic which have yet to find their way into the bulk of modern logic books written from the more orthodox direction of the mainstream of develop ments. Such a work seems to me much needed, both because of the in trinsic value and increasing prominence of the nonstandard sector of logic, and because this particular sector is of the greatest interest from the standpoint of philosophical implications (...) and applications. This book unites a series of studies in philosophical logic, drawing for the most part on material which I have contributed to the journal liter ature of the subject over the past ten years. Despite the fact that some of these essays have been published in various journals at different times, they possess a high degree of thematic and methodological unity. All of these studies deal with material of substantial current interest in philo sophical logic and embody a fusion of the modern techniques of logical and linguistic-philosophical analysis for the exploration of areas of logic that are of substantial philosophical relevance. (shrink)
Our world is enormously sophisticated and nature's complexity is literally inexhaustible. As a result, projects to describe and explain natural science can never be completed. This volume explores the nature of complexity and considers its bearing on our world and how we manage our affairs within it.Rescher's overall lesson is that the management of our affairs within a socially, technologically, and cognitively complex environment is plagued with vast management problems and risks of mishap. In primitive societies, failure to understand how (...) things work can endanger a family or, at worst, a clan or tribe. In the modern world, man-made catastrophes on the model of Chernobyl can endanger millions, possibly even risking the totality of human life on our planet. Rescher explains "technological escalation" as a sort of arms race against nature in which scientific progress requires more powerful technology for observation and experimentation, and, conversely, scientific progress requires the continual enhancement of technology. The increasing complexity of science and technology (and, in consequence, of social systems) along with problems growing faster than solutions confront us with major management and decision problems.This study is the first of its kind. There have been many specialized studies of complexity in physics and computation theory, but no overall analysis of the phenomenon. Although Rescher offers a sobering outlook, he also believes that complexity entails mixed blessings: our imperfect knowledge provides a rationale for putting forth our best efforts. Rescher urges us to gear the conduct of life's practical affairs to the demands of a complex world. This highly readable and accessible volume will be of interest to those interested in philosophy, the philosophy of science, science policy studies, and future studies. (shrink)
This book by distinguished philosopher Nicholas Rescher seeks to clarify the idea of what a conditional says by elucidating the information that is normally transmitted by its utterance. The result is a unified treatment of conditionals based on epistemological principles rather than the semantical principles in vogue over recent decades. This approach, argues Rescher, makes it easier to understand how conditionals actually function in our thought and discourse. In its concern with what language theorists call pragmatics--the study of the norms (...) and principles governing our use of language in conveying information--Conditionals steps beyond the limits of logic as traditionally understood and moves into the realm claimed by theorists of artificial intelligence as they try to simulate our actual information-processing practices.The book's treatment of counterfactuals essentially revives an epistemological approach proposed by F. P. Ramsey in the 1920s and developed by Rescher himself in the 1960s but since overshadowed by the now-dominant possible-worlds approach. Rescher argues that the increasingly evident liabilities of the possible-worlds strategy make a reappraisal of the older style of analysis both timely and desirable. As the book makes clear, an epistemological approach demonstrates that counterfactual reasoning, unlike inductive inference, is not a matter of abstract reasoning alone but one of good judgment and common sense. (shrink)
This book is a study in the methodology of philosophical inquiry. It expounds and defends the thesis that systematization is the proper instrument of philosophical inquiry and that the effective pursuit of philosophy's mission calls for constructing a doctrinal system that answers our questions in a coherent and comprehensive manner.
A reprint of the popular 1969, Prentice-Hall edition, the principal innovation of this philosophical introduction to value theory is its focus upon values as they are dealt with in everyday life situations, and have sometimes been studied by sociologists and social psychologists, rather than upon value as has been standard in the philosophical tradition.
Nicholas Rescher presents an original pragmatic defense of the issue of objectivity. Rescher employs reasoned argumentation in restoring objectivity to its place of prominence and utility within social and philosophical discourse. By tracing the source of objectivity back to the very core of rationality itself, Rescher locates objectivity's reason for being deep in our nature as rational animals. His project rehabilitates the case for objectivity by subjecting relativistic and negativistic thinking to close critical scrutiny, revealing the flaws and fallacies at (...) work in the deliberations of those who dismiss objectivity as obsolete and untenable. Rescher takes to task the cultural relativism of contemporary social science and social theory, as well as that of liberalistic political correctness and the postmodern aversion to the normative. In holding such relativistic thinking up to the light of rational argument, he demonstrates that a rejection of objectivity is in fact unreasonable. Rescher further reveals that a relativistic apathy to truth and rightness actually destroys, in effect, the very conception it presumably elucidates. (shrink)
Epistemic logic is the branch of philosophical thought that seeks to formalize the discourse about knowledge. Its object is to articulate and clarify the general principles of reasoning about claims to and attributions of knowledge. This comprehensive survey of the topic offers the first systematic account of the subject as it has developed in the journal literature over recent decades. Rescher gives an overview of the discipline by setting out the general principles for reasoning about such matters as propositional knowledge (...) and interrogative knowledge. Aimed at graduate students and specialists, Epistemic Logic elucidates both Rescher's pragmatic view of knowledge and the field in general. (shrink)
Cost, expected benefits, and risks are paramount in grant agencies' decisions to fund scientific research. In _Cognitive Economy,_ Nicholas Rescher outlines a general theory for the cost-effective use of intellectual resources, amplifying the theories of Charles Sanders Pierce, who stressed an “economy of research.” Rescher discusses the requirements of cooperation, communication, cognitive importance, cognitive economy, as well as the economic factors bearing on induction and simplicity. He then applies his model to several case studies and to clarifying the limits imposed (...) on science by economic considerations. (shrink)
Nicholas Rescher examines a number of controversial social issues using the intellectual tools of the philosopher, in an attempt to clarify some of the complexities of modern society, technology, and economics. He elucidates his thoughts on topics such as: whether technological progress leads to greater happiness; environmental problems; endangered species, costly scientific research on the frontiers of knowledge, medical/moral issues on the preservation of life; and crime and justice, among others.