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Natural Kinds, Naturalistic Epistemology and Philosophical Method Richard Boyd October 2007.

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Presentation on theme: "Natural Kinds, Naturalistic Epistemology and Philosophical Method Richard Boyd October 2007."— Presentation transcript:

1 Natural Kinds, Naturalistic Epistemology and Philosophical Method Richard Boyd October 2007

2 Big Questions Goodman, The New Riddle of Induction + Quine, Natural Kinds and Epistemology Naturalized Renewed interest in philosophical naturalism Naturalism? About kind? About epistemology? About metaphysics? Philosophical naturalism? Relationship between philosophy and (other) sciences?

3 BIG CONCLUSIONS: METAPHYSICS OF KINDS KINDS ARE DISCIPLINE SPECIFIC SOCIAL ARTIFACTS REALITY OF KINDS CONTRIBUTION TO ACCOMMODATION OF DISCIPLINARY PRACTICES TO CAUSAL STRUCTURES REALISM STILL OK NEED TO REFORMULATE MIND INDEPENDENCE: SOCIAL PRACTICES ARE METAPHYSICALLY INNOCENT

4 BIG CONCLUSIONS: EPISTEMOLOGY NO FOUNDATIONS: RELIABILITY OF METHODS IS RADICALLY CONTINGENT NO CONTEXT OF DISCOVERY VS CONTEXT OF CONFIRMATION NO INTERNAL VS EXTERNAL FACTORS NO A PRIORI CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS NO TRANSPARENCY RE: SOURCES OF SCIENTIFIC JUDGMENTS NEEDED: AN EPISTEMOLOGY OF INEXPLICIT INSIGHT, ERROR RE: ACCOMMODATION (ALMOST) ALL EPISTEMOLOGY IS (NATURALISTIC) SOCIAL EPISTEMOLOGY

5 BIG CONCLUSIONS: SEMANTICS AND REPRESENTATION REFERENCE LANGUAGE MEDIATED ACCOMMODATION REFERENCE SOME LY TRUE CONCEPTIONS, LY RELIABLE METHODS ANY A PRIORI (EVEN LY) TRUE/RELIABLE CONCEPTIONS, METHODS. INDEED, CONCEPTUALLY CENTRAL BELIEFS/INFERENTIAL PRACTICES SOMETIMES IRREDEEMABLY FLAWED! TRUTH, REFERENCE ARE EPISTEMIC NOTIONS NEEDED: SEMANTICS OF INSIGHT/ERROR TO GO WITH THE EPISTEMOLOGY OF INSIGHT TRUTH/FALSITY SPECIAL CASES OF SUCCESSFUL/FAILED ACCOMMODATION

6 Background Philosophy of Science, I: Projectibility and Confirmation To a good first approximation: At time, t, in research community, C, T is highly confirmed by evidence, E, T is projectible by standards current in C at t, AND E favors T over all relevant alternatives ( = rival theories also projectible @ C, t) AND E was gathered so as to control for artifacts suggested by theories projectible @ C, t. WHERE: Projectibility = plausibility given the theories best established @ C, t.

7 Background Philosophy of Science, II: Projectibility is Evidential Projectibility, unprojectibility are evidential @ C, t: Theory, T, is projectible already some indirect evidence @ C, t for T T is unprojectible already some indirect evidence @ C, t against T Projectibility comes in degrees T is highly projectible + no highly projectible rival minimal additional evidence required T is highly unprojectible Ignore T altogether

8 Example: Neutrinos Puzzle: β-decay. Neutron gives off electron to become proton E.g,: 3 H 3 He + e - (Tritium to helium 3 + an electron) 1913: discovered that total energy 3 H > energy 3 He + energy e - Energy not conserved?? 1930: Wolfgang Pauli: new particle; 1933: F. Perrin: (almost) massless! Projectible just because preserves conservation of energy Experimental confirmation: 1956: Faint light emissions 15 microseconds apart in tank of CdCl 2 solution near nuclear reactor; predicted by theory of neutrinos (Reines and Cowan).Neutrinos detected! Nobel Prize to Reines 1995. Role of projectibility: Suppose theory of neutrinos predicts flashing lights but no crisis re conservation of energy Then, theory of massless particle not projectible Experiment: no evidence at all for neutrinos! But T highly projectible, so experiment counts as neutrino detection

9 Objectivity: Reliability of Theory Dependent Methods Basic methodological rule: Carefully choose from among relevant alternatives (= theories recommended by best current theories), controlling for effects suggested by best current theories. Why is this rule reliable? In particular, what makes relying on current theories reliable? NOT: Their currency IN FACT: ly their approximate truth Basic rule reliable ly to the extent that current theories are relevantly ly true! So, for any C, t, Methods in C at t are reliable is highly contingent and anything but a priori So, there are no foundational inductive methods!

10 The Naturalistic Epistemology of Objectivity, I: Context of Discovery and Context of Confirmation? Rule for objective testing: Test T under circumstances where its most likely to go wrong if its not (relevantly, approximately) true. Rule for identifying such circumstances: Refer to alternative projectible theories. When is rule reliable? Simple answer: @ (C, t,) just when often enough te truth is among projectible alternatives. Naturalistic answer: @ (C, t), just when, often enough, te truth is among alternatives actually proposed and publicized as projectible. Whats implied? Appropriately reliable cognitive/conceptual structures Appropriate social structures of scientific communication Appropriate patterns of funding, encouragement of research directions,… No distinction: contexts of discovery and of confirmation

11 The Naturalistic Epistemology of Objectivity, II: Characterizing Appropriateness for Cognitive/Conceptual Structures How do background theories @ (C, t ) inform projectibility judgments? Simple answer: Theories explicitly accepted @ (C, t) provide reasons to identify some alternatives as plausible; others as implausible. Naturalistic answer: Indirectly: @ (C, t) explicit theories interact with, inform, and are informed by, tacit commitments, conceptual structures, trained intuitions, etc. All these determine judgments of relative plausibility. Whats the relevant analogue to approximate truth for tacit commitments, conceptual structures, trained intuitions, etc.? Accommodation thesis: The relevant analogue is accommodation of conceptual, linguistic and methodological practices to causal structures. Natural kinds provide an example of accommodation.

12 An Accommodationist Theory of Reference and Natural Kinds Key idea (Locke, Goodman, Quine, Putnam, …): Successful inductive/explanatory practice requires accommodation between linguistic, conceptual, taxonomic resources and relevant causal factors. Referential hypotheses: Hypotheses about how language-world relations contribute to accommodation in particular disciplinary matrices. Natural kinds are social/linguistic artifacts The kind natural kind is itself a natural kind in the theory of how accommodation is achieved.

13 Reference For terms t i in a matrix M and families, F i, of properties: t 1F 1. t iF i. t nF n Satisfying Epistemic Access and Accommodation Conditions

14 Epistemic Access and Accommodation Epistemic access condition: There is a systematic causally sustained tendency for what is predicated of ti within M to be approximately true of things which satisfy F i, i=1,..,n. Accommodation condition: This fact, and the causal powers of things possessing F 1,..,F n, explain how the use of t 1,..,t n in M contributes to whatever tendency there is for the accommodation demands of M to be satisfied Remark: Accommodation sometimes requires that F i s be homeostatic property clusters.

15 Metaphysical Lesson: The Reality of Kinds Dont ask Is X a natural kind? Ask instead To what extent/how does the deployment of X contribute to accommodation in discipline D? Realism? Kinds are social constructions Theyre real if we are and if they correspond to relevant causal structures Mind independence? Beaver dams are social constructions but theyre real Real issue: Do minds/social practices make causal reality? Realist answer: (2N2C) Human social practices make no non-causal contribution to causal structures. No one here but us animals!

16 Kinds, Modality and Modal Intuitions Received view (term t; refers to K in actual world, w; w other possible world) Actual world uses of t refer in w to K Ks definition in w is the same as its definition in w Intuitions = reliable guide to Ks definition, modal properties Problems For HPC K: definition is a clustering: an actual causal process Its historically and situationally individuated members of the cluster vary Same variation across possible worlds Trans-world individuation: context dependent, depends on trans-world individuation of disciplines individuation often ambiguous; often breaks down altogether for (even modestly) distant possible worlds BUT, intuitions deliver determinate (hence false) judgments Philosophically interesting phenomena are HPC: knowledge, rationality, reference, justification, goodness, representation, mentality, personhood,…

17 Appropriateness for Cognitive/Conceptual Structures: Truth and Reliability as Special Cases of Accommodation. Approximate truth = special case of accommodation ly governed by Tarski-style compositional semantics via accommodation accomplished through use of natural kind terms Reliability of particular methods reliability with respect to approximate truth Representational function of projectibility judgments, intuitions, research styles, hunches, etc.: = causal contributions (+/-) to reliability of practices via alignment with causal structures, where +/- contributions are determined by overall inferential/practical architecture (cf. natural kinds) Representational function ( computational role) may be distributed not localized (e.g., projectibility judgments distributed over colleagues, referees) Needed: A better representational theory of insight.

18 The Naturalistic Epistemology of Objectivity, III: Sources of Background Theories, Concepts,… Which theories, doctrines, etc. determine projectibility judgments @ (C, t)? Simple answer: The most fundamental findings in C at t. Naturalistic Answer: Complicated story involving two important factors. Plurality of sources Disciplinary diversity Borrowed expertise (auxiliary hypotheses, instrumentation,…) Unrefereed common knowledge (or error) Each of these limited individual critical expertise Social certification of expertise By universities, journals, academies, etc Relative prestige of research institutions, groups Each factor socially orchestrated No viable internal/external distinction

19 Naturalistic Epistemology, III, contd: Objectivity and Social Embedding When are scientific methods objective? Simplistic (but common answer): When presupposition free Simple naturalistic answer: When background theories, methods, etc are ly true, reliable, … More sophisticated naturalistic answer: Depends also on the political economy of science @ (C, t) When are scientists confident about a finding? 1. Published in major journal 2. From respected author or research group 3. Results relatively unsurprising When do scientists subject a finding to special scrutiny? Failure of one or more of above. When are such practices reliable? When 1-3 reliably indicate approximate truth When not? Social ideology in science. E.g., literature on race, intelligence, IQ When corrected? Science and external political struggles.

20 The Naturalistic Epistemology of Objectivity, IV: Conceptual Analysis and Critiques of Scientific Judgment How to understand, criticize the conceptual/inferential structures of science? Simple (logical empiricist) answer: Formally rationally reconstruct concepts scientists actually use. Simple naturalistic answer: Analyze the concepts scientists actually use as approximations to real definitions (cf. causal descriptive theories of reference) More complicated naturalistic answer: Acknowledge malignant conceptual meanings = massively mistaken concepts central to scientific communication & practice. Conceptual meaning of term q at (C, t) = cognitive/inferential commitments regarding q with which one must engage in order to understand literature, practice. Two sorts of engagement: Uncritical: Acceptance. Think: ordinary sophisticated practitioner Critical: Special stance for historian or philosopher of science

21 Malignant Conceptual Meanings: Human Sociobiology PREMISE:: Early human behaviors of kind B had evolutionary function F. CONCLUSION: The underlying, innate and relatively nonmalleable (perhaps unconscious) motive of contemporary behaviors of kind B is ly to accomplish F. Such inferential patterns define the human sociobiological literature, are presupposed in the writing/reading of articles. Their inappropriateness follows from principles all their authors acknowledge. Daly, M. and M. Wilson. 1997. "Child Abuse and Other Risks of not Living with Both Parents," in L. Betzig ed. 1997. Human Nature: A Critical Reader. New York: Oxford University Press: PREMISE: In early humans evolutionary function of child rearing was to enhance survival of own/relatives children CONCLUSION: …we should expect parental feeling to vary as a function of the prospective fitness value of the child in question to the parent. NB: In contemporary societies. Malignant meanings!

22 Metaphilosophical Conclusion: Nonreductionist Philosophical Naturalism Quine: Philosophy is empirical and continuous with the empirical sciences Simple (REDUCTIONIST) reading: metaphysics physics; epistemology individual perceptual, cognitive psychology Correct (NONREDUCTIONIST!) reading: Philosophy continuous with empirical sciences including social, cognitive and linguistic architecture and political economy of science. No distinctly philosophical methods Philosophical/linguistic/modal intuitions = trained judgments sources of a priori knowledge FINAL CONCLUSION: ALL THIS PHILOSOPHY IS NOT JUST CONTINUOUS WITH, BUT AN ESSENTIAL COMPONENT OF, SOUND SCIENTIFIC PRACTICE.

23 Postscript: Clarifying Foundationalism (An Approximation) Let F = some set of foundational beliefs. M F = {methods justifiable either a priori or by reference to members of F} Foundationalism in domain D with respect to F = Whenever p (in D) is known its justifiable ultimately from premises in F using methods in M F. Foundationalism is more or less radical/modest depending on choice of F Modest foundationalism: Take F = {q| q is a priori or q is (true and) commonsensical and could be doubted only as a philosophical exercise} NOTE: Modest foundationalism for D Research in D is (pre-D) common sense iterated. Theory-dependence of scientific methods For scientific D, no version of even modest foundationalism is true. Science is not pre-scientific common sense iterated!


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