April 30th, 2013
The primary difference between realism, constructive empiricism (CE), and anti-realism is where these approaches rest on the spectrum of ontology and explanation. Realism takes theoretical commitments of science to be real, and not just [disguised] abbreviations for observational claims, or useful fictions we create to organize observations. Anti-realism is contrary to realism. Instead of ‘X is an unobservable and X is real’, a la realism, anti-realism purports, ‘X is an unobservable and X is non-real.’ Both schools will recognize that, yes, X is an unobservable but they disagree on the ontic category. The category of ontology becomes muddled, if not superfluous, when referring to unobservable entities. An electron is a useful fiction. Thus, whatever X, if X is commonly referred to what is considered to be an electron, then X is a useful fiction for understanding the consequent state of affairs.
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October 5th, 2012
In this post I’ll be responding to R.A. Fumerton’s “Inferential Justification and Empiricism” in The Journal of Philosophy 73/17 (1976).
In this paper Fumerton argues for the empiricist’s version of foundationalism. He draws important distinctions between senses of how one may be inferentially justified. His argument is matched against another argument, which proceeds from observations about what we do and do not infer. His primary contention is that is that one can never have a noninfterentially justified belief in a physical-object proposition. One must always justify one’s beliefs in propositions about the physical world by appealing to other beliefs or basic beliefs; a thesis I disagree with.
I will be faithful to knowledge being defined as a justified true belief. The task that is of concern in this paper is to examine the coherence of inferential reasoning in a foundationalist’s system. A problem with inference to the best explanation (IBE) is that it has the potential to create an infinite regress. With inferential reasoning, in an attempt to justify a belief in proposition P there may be an appeal to another proposition (or set of propositions) E, and by either explicitly or implicitly appeal to a third proposition, that E confirms or makes P probable. The challenge of inferential justification challenges one of two propositions:
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May 1st, 2012
I am approaching the world as a realist. (For a background of my epistemology please see: My Evidentialist Epistemology). What I mean by this is that the external reality is how it appears to be to an observer making an epistemic inquiry, the measurements from science accurately depicts reality. This is in contrast to instrumentalism, which suggests that our inquiry of the world, scientifically, do not accurately depict reality but as useful fictions. An instrumentalist is more concerned about data fitting theories and predictions than with an accurate depiction of reality.
For the realist-evidentialist, the ontology of the world determines one’s epistemology. They congruently correspond. It is important to note the order of entailment. Antecedently, reality determines our epistemology. It would be illicit to reverse the term order and as Roy Bhaskar notes, it would be the epistemic fallacy. I am not advocating a naïve realism where reality acts on the human mind without personal inquiry nor am I advocating postmodern anti-realism where one can construct whatever type of reality is desired. I am advocating a form of critical realism.
Lorenzo Valla’s (1406-1457) interrogative (interrogatio) form of inquiry. Valla’s mode of inquiry yield results that are entirely new, giving rise to knowledge that cannot be derived by an inferential process from what was already known. Valla transitioned from not only using this method for historical knowledge but also applied it as “logic for scientific discovery.”
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April 28th, 2012
There seem to be good objections raised against empiricism and inferentially justified beliefs:
(A) That we seldom if ever consciously infer propositions about objects from propositions about experiences.
(B) That most people, if challenged as to their justification for believing propositions about the external world, would seldom if ever offer as their reasons or evidence propositions about experiences.
(C) That it is quite meaningless, that it makes no sense to search for evidence justifying a belief in the existence of a physical object that is before one under optimum conditions of perception.
Certainly, (A) may be true but is agreeably not critical to the empiricist’s defense. Both (B) and (C) may be true or false to a certain degree but is hardly relevant to the validity of an empiricist’s foundationalism. The concern is the logical order of justification rather than psychological or historical order.
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April 27th, 2012
What if it were the case that justification of our beliefs in propositions describing physical objects is always inferential and that it is always from propositions about the nature of our experiences that such inferences are made.? If this is true, there are two conditions that must be satisfied concerning inferential belief in physical objects:
(1) Statements about experience must count as reasons or evidence for statements about objects.
(2) Statements about experience must in some, no doubt rather obscure, sense be accepted by those who make statements about objects.
Maybe there’s reason to doubt (1) and (2) by simply suggesting that that it is not always the case that most people are always in the “appropriate, sophisticated, phenomenological frame of mind.” This is certainly true to an extent; so let us refer to this handicap as H. It may be the case person S is intoxicated with alcohol and his phenomenological apprehension may be malfunctioning or that S realizes that his phenomenological apprehension of the external world is not as it should be and is capable of recognizing malfunction.
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