Posts Tagged ‘empiricism’


In bartley, critical rationalism, empiricism, fideism, quine, van fraassen on 12/08/2011 at 11:18 am
Empiricism in the philosophy of science, even in its modern variants, takes observation reports of phenomenal states as a reliable route to knowledge. The problem for empiricists is as follows: Why adopt the theory (T1) that observation reports are a reliable way to sort out true from false theories and not adopt the theory (T2) that theories are a reliable way to sort out true from false observation reports? If the empiricist rejects T1 and adopts T2, the empiricist rejects empiricism and becomes a Kantian; however, this does not address the problem, for why should the Kantian adopt T2 and reject T1? The epistemological pendulum swings back.

If a basic statement and theory are incoherent, then observation reports cannot inform us that theories are wrong and theories cannot inform us that observation reports are wrong. Either the theories or observation reports are wrong — or both. Neither T1 nor T2 should be adopted a priori, for they effectively annihilate one another: all we can see is an incoherence between T1 and T2.

Furthermore, even after we recognize an incoherence between an observation report and a theory, this ‘recognizing’ is relative to a given system of logic, background assumptions, language, and cognitive framework: we are even fallible in recognizing incoherence. Whatever method or route we follow that leads to preferring one over the other will either not rest on an Archimedean point, or will not be known to rest on an Archimedean point. All is theory-laden and subject to error. We must admit that it is possible to change the logic we employ, statements we adopt, theories we accept, methods we follow, language we use, or the cognitive frameworks we inhabit, for none of them are privileged.


Stating the Obvious

In fallibilism on 20/07/2011 at 1:46 am

We may certainly define truth by reference to the criteria of efficacy; such a definition is not self-contradictory and does not lead into an infinite regress; nevertheless, it is arbitrary; to accept it requires an act of faith and therefore the principle credo ut intelligam operates over the entire field of knowledge; this is hardly more than to say that we are incapable of producing an epistemological absolute or that our intelligence is finite: not exactly a world-shaking discovery. (Leszek Kolakowski, Religion: If There Is No God– : On God, the Devil, Sin, and Other Worries of the So-Called Philosophy of Religion, p. 79)


Quick Follow-Up

In critical rationalism, empiricism, fideism on 19/07/2011 at 9:13 am

The comments over at Feser’s blog are fairly amusing. The theist’s side is wanting, so they give the tu quoque: the empiricist’s is unfounded as well. I can only shrug and let them fight it out amongst themselves.

That said, it’s a good example of two groups operating within the justificationist meta-context, and generally falling all over themselves–one comment even relates to my previous post and CR in general, if you’re able to slog through the whole thread:

The OFloinn says,

What has been discounted was Popper’ larger program of discrediting the certainty of scientific knowledge, reducing it from knowledge to opinion, however well-educated the opinion was. It’s inadequacy can be seen by considering two falsified theories: Heliocentrism, falsified by the lack of stellar parallax by Aristotle, Archimedes, et al.; Maxwell’s electromagnetism, falsified by the existence of permanent magnets. These two examples indicate the inadequacies of Popperian irrationalism.

I sometimes wonder how some people are able to think and breathe at the same time without choking.



In empiricism, induction, justificationism on 19/07/2011 at 6:49 am

There is endless conjecture, and certainty is not to be counted upon (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason)

Some people treat evidence as something that accumulates over time, like sap from a tree. Once enough evidence is collected, you need only synthesize it into syrup, and then you’ve proved your point. “I have X amount of evidence for Y, therefore you ought to believe Y, otherwise you are behaving irrationally.” So the story goes.

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A Very Short Argument Against Empiricism

In empiricism, skepticism on 15/07/2011 at 5:42 am
  1. The ambition of empiricism is to reduce all relevant matters of fact to sensory qualities.
  2. Sensory qualities, even if assumed that they can be known immediately, do not justify matters of fact outside sensory qualities.
  3. The ambition of empiricism to reduce all matters of fact outside sensory qualities to sensory qualities is impossible.

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Serious and Trivial Problems

In empiricism on 15/06/2011 at 3:09 pm

A chess problem is genuine mathematics, but it is in some way ‘trivial’ mathematics. However ingenious and intricate, however original and surprising the moves, there is something essential lacking. Chess problems are unimportant. The best mathematics is serious as well as beautiful — ‘important’ if you like, but the word is very ambiguous, and ‘serious’ expresses what I mean much better.

I am not thinking of the ‘practical’ consequences of mathematics. … The ‘seriousness’ of a mathematical problem lies, not in its practical consequences, which are usually negligible, but in the significance of the mathematical ideas which it connects. We may say, roughly, that a mathematical idea is ‘significant’ if it can be connected, in the natural and illuminating way, with a large complex of other mathematical ideas. (G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician’s Apology, p. 88-9)

This insight into ‘serious’ and ‘trival’ problems in mathematics is, I think, analogous to science: the depth and breadth of scientific theories is of a different kind than the kind of puzzles that occupy our day-to-day lives. “Where did I park the car?” is a practical problem for me, but it is an unimportant problem for science.

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