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Naturalism The world we live in. Supplementary Reading A Field Guide to Recent Species of Naturalism Alex Rosenberg The British Journal for the Philosophy.

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Presentation on theme: "Naturalism The world we live in. Supplementary Reading A Field Guide to Recent Species of Naturalism Alex Rosenberg The British Journal for the Philosophy."— Presentation transcript:

1 Naturalism The world we live in

2 Supplementary Reading A Field Guide to Recent Species of Naturalism Alex Rosenberg The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science > Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar., 1996), pp A Field Guide to Recent Species of Naturalism Alex Rosenberg The British Journal for the Philosophy of ScienceVol. 47, No. 1 (Available on JSTOR.)

3 Where should philosophy start? Answers tend to assume that there are some things that we know or that there is some source of evidence about how things stand– and they go on from those things, or that source, to various kinds of philosophical explanation. Examples of extremely secure claims: – Principles of logic. – Simple sensory reports (external/public). – Simple sense experience reports (internal/private). Logical empiricism tried to give an account of science grounded in logic and observations—since the observations are largely taken for granted, the empiricists focused on the logical side, examining logical relations between observations and scientific theories.

4 After logical empiricism The logical ambitions of the LEs failed– no formal account of induction is possible. This is strongly suggested by Goodman’s Grue/Bleen puzzle, as well as the failure of every attempt to formalize the relation between observations and the theories those observations are evidence for. So what’s a philosopher of science to do?

5 Godfrey-Smith’s Proposal Go naturalistic. What is it for philosophy to be ‘naturalistic’? – Continuity with the sciences (=?) (Quine on naturalized epistemology, philosophy of space-time as a reflective examination of physical theories of space-time and their epistemology…) – Opposed to ‘abstract objects’ (in naturalism about mathematics). – Descriptive rather than prescriptive. Sometimes we think of nature as a matter of what is, in a purely descriptive sense of ‘is’; in this sense, norms would not be part of naturalistic philosophy– this seems to fit with Quine’s epistemological project.

6 Naturalism in science In what sense is science said to be naturalistic? – Methodological naturalism: The notion that a scientific account of anything must rely on natural hypotheses, as opposed to super-natural ones. – Metaphysical naturalism: The metaphysical doctrine that there is nothing but nature/ natural things (i.e., given methodological naturalism, there is nothing that cannot be studied by scientific means). (Query: supposing this is true, how would we know?)

7 Another division As we noted above, some forms of naturalism are purely descriptive in their contents. The main example GS considers is Quine and his naturalized epistemology. But this leads to some difficult questions: there doesn’t seem to be room in Quine’s turn to science for philosophical questions about (for example) evidence, justification, standards of argument. Psychology does study the senses and our reasoning faculties– but it studies how they work under various circumstances, not how they should work or how we should apply or employ them.

8 Normative Naturalism GS prefers normative naturalism (a phrase due to Laudan): For a normative naturalist, questions about justification are acceptable topics, but our starting point for thinking about such issues includes what the sciences tell us about human senses and how they work. In general, the idea is not to replace philosophy with science (and philosophical questions with scientific questions), but to draw on science to inform our approach to philosophical questions.

9 What sort of norms? Instrumental norms are straightforward; GS proposes that they be the starting point here. An instrumental norm takes the form of an ‘if- then’: If your goal is X, then you should… Merely naturalistic claims can support such conditionals, so long as the description of the goal is itself naturalistic.

10 Again about getting started One tendency of naturalism is to focus our attention on simpler, more modest starting points for philosophy. If we begin with the kinds of claims humans actually manage to agree about– the most familiar, easily checked and settled claims– one important group of such claims are simple descriptive claims about the sensible and measureable features of public objects. Science has grown out of such claims, through systematic refinement of measurements and observations and mathematical systematization of some of the results.

11 Who isn’t a naturalist? A much more ambitious view of the aim of philosophy of science holds that philosophers lay the foundations for science. In a sense, such a view could be naturalistic– that is, a philosophical view of nature could, in principle provide such foundations. But it’s contrary to the spirit of naturalism, since it puts philosophy on a kind of pedestal: science only gets its ‘credentials’ from the higher-ranking philosophers.

12 Locke’s vision John Locke had a much more modest understanding of what philosophy could do. Rather than lay foundations for science, Locke thought that philosophers should try to ‘clear the underbrush’ by identifying confusions and mistakes of various kinds that needed to be avoided in order for a good scientific account to be produced.

13 Again on the role of observation Theory and observation: different forms of ‘theory- ladenness’. Guided: our theories tell us what and how to observe. Evaluated: theories tell us what observations to ‘take seriously’. Language: theories affect (provide?) the language of observations. Impact: theories shape/affect what we actually observe. (does this produce a circularity in testing?)

14 In


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