December 14th, 2013
Constructive empiricism (CE), primarily developed by Bas van Fraassen, regards theoretical identities rather than realistically. CE allows an empiricist approach to science without requiring the language and formulation of theory that the positivist uses. When one affirms accepts CE one must believe what the theory says about observables, that is, one must believe that the theory is empirically adequate; but one does not have to believe the whole theory, including what it says about unobservables. Van Fraassen argues that science can be understood without the strong realist approach. Science’s aim becomes set on empirical adequacy rather than the full-blown truth.
Van Fraassen defines an ‘observable’ as:
X is observable if there are circumstances such that, if X is present to us under those circumstances then we observe it.
That which serves as an observation is not necessarily in the scope of philosophy. The limits of observation are a subject for empirical science, and not for philosophical analysis. Thus, a theory is empirically adequate if and only if what it says about the observable things and events in this world is true.
Empiricism set limits on what one is rationally obligated to believe. Van Fraassen makes the distinction between acceptance and belief. There is no commitment, under CE, to believe the truth of the theory but one can accept the empirical data. This is very modest in its commitment to the informative power of a theory.
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November 28th, 2013
ID the Future just put out a new podcast reviewing an interview from The Atlantic discussing the new field in the philosophy of physics–the philosophy of cosmology. The content is from last year but the content isn’t outdated.
On this episode of ID The Future, host David Boze reports on the latest views of a group of cosmologists who want to establish a new philosophy of cosmology to tackle the big questions of the universe. What happened after the Big Bang? Was there something before that to cause the existence of the universe? What are bubble universes?
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November 25th, 2013
The following is an article my PhD mentor, Alasdair Richmond, wrote for The Conversation.
As Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary looms, time travel is everywhere – on the screen, at least. Famously, the Doctor can whizz through the years using a “dimensionally transcendental” machine, the TARDIS, and make changes to the past as and when he likes. But what is time travel – and how much of “Doctor Who” might really be possible?
A handy definition of time travel comes from philosopher David Lewis. Lewis says time travel involves a journey having different durations viewed from outside (in “external time”) or from inside (in “personal time”). Suppose you spend five minutes travelling aboard your machine, as measured by (e.g.) your watch and your memories. On arrival, you find 150 years have elapsed in the outside world. Congratulations, you have time-travelled. Five minutes of your personal time has covered 150 years of external time.
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