For the last forty years, two claims have been at the core of disputes about scientific change: that scientists reason rationally and that science is progressive. For most of this time discussions were polarized between philosophers, who defended traditional Enlightenment ideas about rationality and progress, and sociologists, who espoused relativism and constructivism. Recently, creative new ideas going beyond the polarized positions have come from the history of science, feminist criticism of science, psychology of science, and anthropology of science. Addressing the (...) traditional arguments as well as building on these new ideas, Miriam Solomon constructs a new epistemology of science. After discussions of the nature of empirical success and its relation to truth, Solomon offers a new, social account of scientific rationality. She shows that the pursuit of empirical success and truth can be consistent with both dissent and consensus, and that the distinction between dissent and consensus is of little epistemic significance. In building this social epistemology of science, she shows that scientific communities are not merely the locus of distributed expert knowledge and a resource for criticism but also the site of distributed decision making. Throughout, she illustrates her ideas with case studies from late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century physical and life sciences. Replacing the traditional focus on methods and heuristics to be applied by individual scientists, Solomon emphasizes science funding, administration, and policy. One of her goals is to have a positive influence on scientific decision making through practical social recommendations. (shrink)
At last available in paperback, this book anticipates and explains the post-structuralist turn to empiricism. Presenting a challenging reading of David Hume's philosophy, the work is invaluable for understanding the progress of Deleuze's thought.
Modern empiricism has been conditioned in large part by two dogmas. One is a belief in some fundamental cleavage between truths which are analytic, or grounded in meanings independently of matters of fact, and truth which are synthetic, or grounded in fact. The other dogma is reductionism: the belief that each meaningful statement is equivalent to some logical construct upon terms which refer to immediate experience. Both dogmas, I shall argue, are ill founded. One effect of abandoning them is, (...) as we shall see, a blurring of the supposed boundary between speculative metaphysics and natural science. Another effect is a shift toward pragmatism. (shrink)
In artificial intelligence, recent research has demonstrated the remarkable potential of Deep Convolutional Neural Networks (DCNNs), which seem to exceed state-of-the-art performance in new domains weekly, especially on the sorts of very difficult perceptual discrimination tasks that skeptics thought would remain beyond the reach of artificial intelligence. However, it has proven difficult to explain why DCNNs perform so well. In philosophy of mind, empiricists have long suggested that complex cognition is based on information derived from sensory experience, often appealing to (...) a faculty of abstraction. Rationalists have frequently complained, however, that empiricists never adequately explained how this faculty of abstraction actually works. In this paper, I tie these two questions together, to the mutual benefit of both disciplines. I argue that the architectural features that distinguish DCNNs from earlier neural networks allow them to implement a form of hierarchical processing that I call “transformational abstraction”. Transformational abstraction iteratively converts sensory-based representations of category exemplars into new formats that are increasingly tolerant to “nuisance variation” in input. Reflecting upon the way that DCNNs leverage a combination of linear and non-linear processing to efficiently accomplish this feat allows us to understand how the brain is capable of bi-directional travel between exemplars and abstractions, addressing longstanding problems in empiricist philosophy of mind. I end by considering the prospects for future research on DCNNs, arguing that rather than simply implementing 80s connectionism with more brute-force computation, transformational abstraction counts as a qualitatively distinct form of processing ripe with philosophical and psychological significance, because it is significantly better suited to depict the generic mechanism responsible for this important kind of psychological processing in the brain. (shrink)
This book offers a novel account of the relationship of experience to knowledge. The account builds on the intuitive idea that our ordinary perceptual judgments are not autonomous, that an interdependence obtains between our view of the world and our perceptual judgments. Anil Gupta shows in this important study that this interdependence is the key to a satisfactory account of experience. He uses tools from logic and the philosophy of language to argue that his account of experience makes available an (...) attractive and feasible empiricism. (shrink)
Constructive empiricism, the view introduced in The Scientific Image, is a view of science, an answer to the question "what is science?" Arthur Fine's and Paul Teller's contributions to this symposium challenge especially two key ideas required to formulate that view, namely the observable/unobservable and acceptance/belief distinctions. I wish to thank them not only for their insightful critique but also for the support they include. For they illuminate and counter some misunderstandings of Constructive Empiricism along the way. That (...) leaves me free to focus on those two main challenges. (shrink)
In this work, I discuss the role of Husserl’s phenomenology in Paolo Parrini’s positive philosophy. In the first section, I highlight the presence of both empiricist and constructivist elements in Parrini’s anti-foundationalist and anti-absolutist conception of knowledge. In the second section, I stress Parrini’s acknowledgement of the crucial role of phenomenology in investigating the empirical basis of knowledge, thanks to its analysis of the relationship between form and matter of cognition. In the third section, I point out some lines of (...) development of the phenomenological form of empirical realism as revealed in Parrini’s reflection, through a comparison of Husserl’s genetic phenomenology, Mary Hesse’s network model and the tradition of neutral monism. (shrink)
This paper traces the ancestry of a familiar historiographical narrative, according to which early modern philosophy was marked by the development of empiricism, rationalism, and their synthesis by Immanuel Kant. It is often claimed that this narrative became standard in the nineteenth century, due to the influence of Thomas Reid, Kant and his disciples, or German Hegelians and British Idealists. The paper argues that the narrative became standard only at the turn of the twentieth century. This was not due (...) to the influence of Reid, German Hegelians, or British Idealists as they did not endorse the narrative, although Thomas Hill Green may have facilitated its uptake. The narrative is based on Kant’s historiographical sketches, as corrected and integrated by Karl Leonhard Reinhold. It was first fleshed out into full-fledged histories by two Kantians, Wilhelm Gottlieb Tennemann and Johann Gottlieb Buhle. Numerous historians, several of whom were not Kantians, spread it in the English-speaking world. They include Kuno Fischer, Friedrich Ueberweg, Richard Falckenberg, and Wilhelm Windelband. However, the wide availability of their works did not suffice to make the narrative standard because, until the 1890s, the Hegelian account was at least as popular as theirs. Among the factors that allowed the narrative to become standard are its aptness to be adopted by philosophers of the most diverse persuasions, its simplicity and suitability for teaching. (shrink)
In this article, I put forward a basic philosophical claim: empirical scientific knowledge, that is, knowledge generated in experimental and observational practices, presupposes real causation. My discussion exploits two core notions from the philosophical analysis of scientific experimentation and observation: the aim of realizing object-apparatus correlations and the required control of the relevant interactions between environment and experimental or observational system. The conclusion is that, without the notion of real causation, acquiring epistemically sound empirical knowledge is impossible. Several empiricist objections (...) to this conclusion are discussed and refuted. As a consequence, empiricism faces an unsolvable dilemma: either it cannot account for empirical knowledge or it should accept the existence of unobservable but real causal interactions. (shrink)
This book explores the complexity of two philosophical traditions, extending from their origins to the current developments in neopragmatism. Chapters deal with the first encounters of these traditions and beyond, looking at metaphysics and the Vienna circle as well as semantics and the principle of tolerance. There is a general consensus that North-American pragmatism and European Logical Empiricism were converging philosophical traditions, especially after the forced migration of the European Philosophers. But readers will discover a pluralist image of this (...) relation and interaction with an obvious family resemblance. This work clarifies and specifies the common features and differences of these currents since the beginning of their mutual scientific communication in the 19th century. The book draws on collaboration between authors and philosophers from Vienna, Tübingen, and Helsinki, and their networks. It will appeal to philosophers, scholars in the history of philosophy, philosophers of science, pragmatists and beyond. (shrink)
Leading philosophers from both sides of the Atlantic present essays on Wilfrid Sellars's Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind, one of the crowning achievements of 20th-century analytic philosophy. They discuss empiricism, perception, epistemology, realism, and normativity, showing how vibrant Sellarsian philosophy remains in the 21st century.
At last available in paperback, this book anticipates and explains the post-structuralist turn to empiricism. Presenting a challenging reading of David Hume's philosophy, the work is invaluable for understanding the progress of Deleuze's thought.
Constructive empiricism is not just a view regarding the aim of science; it is also a view regarding the epistemological framework in which one should debate the aim of science. This is the focus of this book -- not with scientific truth, but with how one should argue about scientific truth.
Over the past thirty years Paul Feyerabend has developed an extremely distinctive and influentical approach to problems in the philosophy of science. The most important and seminal of his published essays are collected here in two volumes, with new introductions to provide an overview and historical perspective on the discussions of each part. Volume 1 presents papers on the interpretation of scientific theories, together with papers applying the views developed to particular problems in philosophy and physics. The essays in volume (...) 2 examine the origin and history of an abstract rationalism, as well as its consequences for the philosophy of science and methods of scientific research. Professor Feyerabend argues with great force and imagination for a comprehensive and opportunistic pluralism. In doing so he draws on extensive knowledge of scientific history and practice, and he is alert always to the wider philosophical, practical and political implications of conflicting views. These two volumes fully display the variety of his ideas, and confirm the originality and significance of his work. (shrink)
The work of Jacques Derrida is often characterized as anti-scientific, and his philosophy of language taken to mean we are sealed off from empirical reality, confined to our metaphysical prison. This position is reinforced by the fact that his forerunners, Heidegger and Nietzsche, did diminish the importance of the sciences, and argued that we are enclosed within the limits of language. Today, philosophy continues to deconstruct the nature/culture distinction, and challenge the meaning of materialism, but in recent decades has realized (...) that this work requires, in addition to a critique of the modern concept of science, a rehabilitation of the sciences outside their metaphysical definition. The fact that Derrida continues to be understood as an anti-science thinker has led to the exclusion of his work from this project. In this paper, I show that Derrida, while deconstruction the metaphysical concepts of science, nature and empiricism, in fact takes the mathematical sciences as an important force of deconstructing, and develops an interpretation of empiricism that points to a non-metaphysical understanding of it. From this perspective, Derrida's work is useful for thinking through the relation of the human to language and nature in the age of globalization and anthropogenic climate change. (shrink)
Originally published in 1986. All students of social science must confront a number of important philosophical issues. This introduction to the philosophy of the social sciences provides coherent answers to questions about empiricism, explanation and rationality. It evaluates contemporary writings on the subject which can be as difficult as they are important to understand. Each chapter has an annotated bibliography to enable students to pursue the issues raised and to assess for themselves the arguments of the authors.
Constructive empiricism implies that if van Fraassen does not believe that scientific theories and his positive philosophical theories, including his contextual theory of explanation, are empirically adequate, he cannot accept them, and hence he cannot use them for scientific and philosophical purposes. Moreover, his epistemic colleagues, who embrace epistemic reciprocalism, would not believe that his positive philosophical theories are empirically adequate. This epistemic disadvantage comes with practical disadvantages in a social world.
This interdisciplinary new work explores one of the central theoretical problems in linguistics: learnability. The authors, from different backgrounds---linguistics, philosophy, computer science, psychology and cognitive science-explore the idea that language acquisition proceeds through general purpose learning mechanisms, an approach that is broadly empiricist both methodologically and psychologically. Written by four researchers in the full range of relevant fields: linguistics, psychology, computer science, and cognitive science, the book sheds light on the central problems of learnability and language, and traces their implications (...) for key questions of theoretical linguistics and the study of language acquisition. (shrink)
Kant contends that necessity is a criterion of the a priori—that is, that all knowledge of necessary propositions is a priori. This contention, together with two others that Kant took to be evident—we know some mathematical propositions and such propositions are necessary—leads directly to the conclusion that some knowledge is a priori. Although many contemporary philosophers endorse Kant’s criterion, supporting arguments are hard to come by. Gordon Barnes provides one of the few examples. My purpose in this chapter is to (...) articulate and examine his argument. I have two goals in doing so. The first is to uncover several significant gaps in the argument. The second is to show that it suffers from a common defect in rationalist arguments. If the argument were successful against empiricist accounts of modal knowledge, it would apply with equal force to extant rationalist accounts of such knowledge. Hence, the cost of refuting modal empiricism is modal scepticism. (shrink)
Introduction: The empiricists and their context -- Empiricism and the empiricists -- The intellectual background to the early modern empiricists -- Martin Luther and the Reformation -- Aristotelian cosmology and the scientific revolution -- Aristotelian/scholastic hylomorphism and the rise of mechanism -- The Royal Society of London -- Francis Bacon (1561-1626) -- The natural realm : the idols of the mind -- Idols of the tribe -- Idols of the cave -- Idols of the marketplace -- Idols of the (...) theatre -- Knowledge and experience : induction introduced -- Aristotelian/scholastic syllogisms : deductions dismissed -- Baconian empiricism : induction introduced -- Conclusion: Bacon the empiricist -- Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) -- The natural realm : Hobbes's materialistic mechanism -- The importance of motion -- Sensation and the mind -- Knowledge and experience : definitions and the euclidean method -- Two kinds of knowledge and proper ratiocination -- The method of analysis and the method of synthesis -- Conclusion: Hobbes, the empiricist -- Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) -- The natural realm : Gassendi's atomism -- The basic principles of Gassendi's atomism -- Atomistic sensation -- Knowledge and experience : the middle way to knowledge -- The sceptics are partly correct -- Knowledge regained? -- Conclusion: Gassendi. the empiricist -- Robert Boyle (1627-1691) -- The natural realm : Boyle's mechanism (corpuscularianism) -- The basic principles of Boyle's mechanism (or corpscularianism) -- Sensation and the mind -- Knowledge and experience : mechanism and the cautious experimenter -- The excellency of mechanism -- Experimentation and the status of mechanism -- Conclusion: Boyle, the empiricist -- John Locke (1632-1704) -- The natural realm : Locke's mechanism -- Against innatism -- Ideas and the tabula rasa -- Primary and secondary qualities, and our confused idea of substance -- Locke on power -- Knowledge and experience : Locke's epistemology -- Indirect realism, or the representational theory of perception -- The certainty of knowledge -- The origin of knowledge -- The extent of knowledge -- Conclusion: Locke, the empiricist -- Isaac Newton (1642-1727) -- The natural realm : Newton's principia -- A world of forces : universal gravitation -- What kind of quality is gravity? -- Mechanism and action at a distance -- Knowledge and experience : rules for the study of natural philosophy -- The four rules -- Whither natural philosophy -- Conclusion: Newton, the empiricist -- George Berkeley (1685-1753) -- The natural realm : Berkeley's idealism -- The world contains only souls and ideas -- Esse est percipi : two arguments for idealism/immaterialism -- Against the primary/secondary quality distinction -- Knowledge and experience : Berkeley's common sense epistemology -- Against the representational theory of perception -- Defeating the skeptic, and returning to common sense -- Mechanism, newtonianism, and instrumentalism : Berkeley on the new science -- Responses to popular objections -- Conclusion: Berkeley, the empiricist -- David Hume (1711-1776) -- The natural realm : Hume's psychological approach -- Ideas and impressions -- The principles of association -- Knowledge and experience : Hume's semi-scepticism -- Relations of ideas vs. matters of fact -- From matters of fact to cause and effect : Hume's first question -- Knowledge of cause and effect : Hume's second question -- The problem of induction : Hume's third question -- Hume's positive account of causation : induction regained -- Conclusion: Hume, the empiricist -- Empiricism and the empiricists : summary and conclusion. (shrink)
Empiricism is the doctrine that all knowledge has a strictly observational basis. Rationalism is the doctrine that least some knowledge has non-observational, purely conceptual basis. In the present work, empiricism is carefully considered and found to have four dire shortcomings: -/- (1) Empiricism cannot account for our knowledge of what doesn't exist, let alone what cannot exist. -/- (2) Empiricism cannot account for our knowledge of dependence-relations, given (1), coupled with the fact that 'P depends on (...) Q' is equivalent with 'not-Q either necessitates or is dispositive of not-P.' -/- (3) Empiricism cannot account for our knowledge of the past, the future, or the possible, given (2), coupled with the fact knowledge of any of these domains requires knowledge of conditional truths (truths of the form "if P, then Q") and therefore of dependence-relations. -/- (4) Empiricism cannot by itself apprise us of any truths, given (3), coupled with the fact that knowledge of conditional truths is necessary to recognize the truths implicit in any body of sensory data. -/- The arguments of key empiricists are closely examined. Special attention is paid to George Berkeley's arguments for idealism ('to be is to be perceive/conceived'). It is shown that, although Berkeley's arguments fail, profound insights are embedded in the very sophisms that vitiate those same arguments, the three most important ones being: -/- (i) That data-modelling and truth-identification at least sometimes coalesce, -/- (ii) That scientific theories are at least sometimes capable of being represented as interpreted formal calculi, and -/- (iii) That when theoretical terms are defined contextually, as opposed to directly, otherwise unintelligible assertions acquire scientific significance. -/- Further, it is shown that, even though Berkeley's arguments for idealism fall through, he himself deserves credit for identifying the principle in terms of which the fallacies in those arguments are to be understood, namely: -/- (*) It is not sensory experience alone that yields awareness of the outside world, but sensory experience coupled with awareness on the subject's part of relational invariances holding among the objects of those awareness. -/- Thus, perceptual knowledge is knowledge of invariances. And, to make a point hinted at in Berkeley's work, knowledge of laws is meta-perceptual knowledge, given that laws of nature are invariances holding among the invariances holding among the objects of perception. (shrink)
According to Bas van Fraassen, scientific realists and anti-realists disagree about whether accepting a scientific theory involves believing that the theory is true. On van Fraassen’s own anti-realist empiricist position, accepting a theory involves believing only that the theory is correct in its claims about observable aspects of the world. However, a number of philosophers have argued that acceptance and belief cannot be distinguished and thus that the debate is either confused or trivially settled in favor of the realist. In (...) addition, another set of philosophers have argued that van Fraassen’s empiricist position appeals to an unmotivated distinction between observable and unobservable aspects of the world. This paper aims to reconstruct a van Fraassen-style empiricism about scientific acceptance that avoids these two objections – reconstructed empiricism. (shrink)
This volume has two primary aims: to trace the traditions and changes in methods, concepts, and ideas that brought forth the logical empiricists’ philosophy of physics and to present and analyze the logical empiricists’ various and occasionally contrary ideas about the physical sciences and their philosophical relevance. These original chapters discuss these developments in their original contexts and social and institutional environments, thus showing the various fruitful conceptions and philosophies behind the history of 20th-century philosophy of science. Logical Empiricism (...) and the Natural Sciences is divided into three thematic sections. Part I surveys the influences on logical empiricism’s philosophy of science and physics. It features chapters on Maxwell’s role in the worldview of logical empiricism, on Reichenbach’s account of objectivity, on the impact of Poincaré on Neurath’s early views on scientific method, Frank’s exchanges with Einstein about philosophy of physics, and on the forgotten role of Kurt Grelling. Part II focuses on specific physical theories, including Carnap’s and Reichenbach’s positions on Einstein’s theory of general relativity, Reichenbach’s critique of unified field theory, and the logical empiricists’ reactions to quantum mechanics. The third and final group of chapters widens the scope to philosophy of science and physics in general. It includes contributions on von Mises’ frequentism; Frank’s account of concept formation and confirmation; and the interrelations between Nagel’s, Feigl’s, and Hempel’s versions of logical empiricism. (shrink)
This book sets the empiricist philosophers in context and examines their various approaches to philosophy. It concentrates primarily on the major figures - Bacon, Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley and Hume - but also discusses the unjustly neglected French philosopher Pierre Gassendi and devotes a chapter to the Royal Society of London for the Improving of Natural Knowledge, which was founded in the 1660s.
Pamphilus’ introductory letter opens contradictory ways of reading Hume’s Dialogues. The first, suggested by Pamphilus' claim to be “mere auditor” to the dialogues, which were “deeply imprinted in [his] memory,” is the empiricist reading. This traditional reading could, and has, gone several ways, including to such conclusions as Philo forces upon Cleanthes, shocking Demea; e.g., that the design of the mosquito and other “curious artifices of nature,” which inflict pain and suffering on all, bespeaks an utterly careless and insensate, if (...) not malign creator. Pamphilus' preface also opens a more philosophical reading implied in his consideration of the ancient literary form of dialogue. This second interpretive path suspects more design in writing, and more revealed in it, than the simple empiricist reading(s) allow. Dialogically elucidating the Dialogues confronts us with the limits of empiricism in moral and religious philosophy. Hume's last work, if read philosophically, exhibits the vacancy of empiricism. (shrink)
Experimental natural philosophy was a mid-seventeenth-century development in which physical enquiry proceeded by connecting phenomena in an experimentally guided fashion, as opposed to attempting to account for them in terms of some underlying micro-corpuscular structure. The approach proved fruitful in two areas: Boyle’s experiments on the air pump and Newton’s experiments on the prism. This chapter argues that Lockean empiricism, which was subsequently taken to embody the principles behind Newtonianism, was an outcome of these developments and that it was (...) worked into an epistemological doctrine only when Locke encountered Malebranche’s vindication of the sole legitimacy of micro-corpuscularian explanation. The chapter reveals a form of empiricism—empiricism as a successor to, and refinement of, seventeenth-century experimental natural philosophy—which is intimately tied up with natural-philosophical practice, and is quite distinct from the speculative epistemology to which it is reduced in the rationalism and empiricism debates. (shrink)
According to modal empiricism, our justification for believing possibility and necessity claims is a posteriori. That is, experience does not merely play an enabling role in modal justification; it isn’t simply that experience explains how, say, we acquire the relevant concepts. Rather, the view is that modal claims answer to the tribunal of experience in roughly the way that claims about quarks and quails answer to it. One serious objection to modal empiricism is the problem of empirical conservativeness: (...) it doesn’t seem that experience can distinguish between modal claims. And if experience can’t manage that, it’s hard to see how it can provide evidence for one claim over the other. So if modal empiricism is true, we ought to be modal skeptics. On the assumption that we shouldn’t be modal skeptics, we should reject modal empiricism. I have two aims here: first, to reply to this objection to modal empiricism; second, to sketch a modal epistemology that fits with the reply I offer. (shrink)
This book compares attitudes to empiricism in language study from mid-twentieth century philosophy of language and from present-day linguistics. It focuses on responses to the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle, particularly in the work of British philosopher J. L. Austin and the much less well-known work of Norwegian philosopher Arne Naess.
Realism and empiricism have always been contradictory tendencies in the philosophy of science. The view I will sketch is a synthesis, which I call Contrastive Empiricism. Realism and empiricism are incompatible, so a synthesis that merely conjoined them would be a contradiction. Rather, I propose to isolate important elements in each and show that they combine harmoniously. I will leave behind what I regard as confusions and excesses. The result, I hope, will be neither contradiction nor mishmash.
In this paper, I defend an empiricist account of modality that keeps a substantive account of modal commitment, but throws out the metaphysics. I suggest that if we pair a deflationary attitude toward representation with a substantive account of how scientific models are constructed and put to use, the result is an account that deflates the metaphysics of modal commitment without deflating the content of modal claims.
Voluntarism about beliefs is the view that persons can be free to choose their beliefs for non-epistemic (truth-related) reasons (cf. Williams 1973). One problem for belief voluntarism is that it can lead to Moore-paradoxality. The person might believe that -/- a.) there are also good epistemic reasons for her belief, or that b.) there are no epistemic reasons one way or the other, or that c.) there are good epistemic reasons against her belief. -/- If the person is aware of (...) the fact that she chose her belief for non-epistemic reasons, then she would believe one of the following three things (using "evidence" as a term for all kinds of epistemic reasons): -/- a.) I believe that p but not because of the good evidence in favour of it; b.) I believe that p but that has nothing to do with the evidence; c.) I believe that p but the evidence speaks against it. -/- We could add a fourth case in which the person suspends belief on the subject matter despite the evidence: -/- d.) The evidence supports "p" but I have no view on the matter. -/- All the different versions a-d are somehow Moore-paradoxical. They constitute different ways of mistrusting one's own belief (cf. Wittgenstein 1958, p.190). Given that one cannot, for conceptual reasons, mistrust one's beliefs, it follows that a person cannot be in one of the above predicaments described by a-d. Hence, voluntarism about beliefs is false, at least if we are dealing with cases in which the person is aware of the fact that she chose her belief for non-epistemic reasons. It won't help to focus on cases in which the person is not aware of that fact, either because she has forgotten the genesis of her belief or because the process of belief acquisition was unconscious. -/- Bas van Fraassen's conception of a stance (cf. van Fraassen 2002)-a mix of commitments, values, goals-gives us reason to rethink the possibility of voluntarism. Might we be free to choose our stances for non-epistemic reasons? I argue here that the answer is negative. First, it is not clear at all whether stances can be objects of choice, properly speaking. And: Can we make sense of the idea of a free choice here? Furthermore, I argue that similar problems of Moore-paradoxality would arise for voluntarism about stances. If one does not want to completely devalue the idea of a stance, one should avoid voluntarism. (shrink)
It is argued that, contrary to prevailing opinion, Bas van Fraassen nowhere uses the argument from underdetermination in his argument for constructive empiricism. It is explained that van Fraassen’s use of the notion of empirical equivalence in The Scientific Image has been widely misunderstood. A reconstruction of the main arguments for constructive empiricism is offered, showing how the passages that have been taken to be part of an appeal to the argument from underdetermination should actually be interpreted.
Beginning with a group of essays on education, the author shows the constricting and limiting effects of empirical assumptions. In his essays on values, he makes it clear that the ethics of empiricism so pervade modern moral philosophy that it can find no place for the notion of absolute value.
James Ladyman has argued that constructive empiricism entails modal realism, and that this renders constructive empiricism untenable. We maintain that constructive empiricism is compatible with modal nominalism. Although the central term 'observable' has been analyzed in terms of counterfactuals, and in general counterfactuals do not have objective truth conditions, the property of being observable is not a modal property, and hence there are objective, non-modal facts about what is observable. Both modal nominalism and constructive empiricism require (...) clarification in the face of Ladyman's argument. But we also argue that, even if Ladyman were right that constructive empiricism entails modal realism, this would not be a problem for constructive empiricism. (shrink)
Professor Monro presents an original view of ethics based on empiricism, which leads him to a subjectivist position about moral values. He starts by examining the central problem in moral philosophy: are moral statements objectively true, or are they expressions of preference? The first view conflicts with the empiricist beliefs current in modern thought; the opposing naturalistic theory seems to lead to moral scepticism. After discussing both views, the author presents a detailed defence of the subjectivist position. In the (...) course of his argument he gives a detailed analysis and criticism of the 'universalisability thesis', the theory that moral aspirations differ from others in being applicable to all men, and that it is this that makes them moral. He then offers an alternative account of the nature of moral attitudes. The author illustrates his explanations with straightforward analogies and examples. His clear exposition of the fundamental concepts arising in his argument makes this a book for students as well as for professional moral philosophers. (shrink)