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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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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