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Constructive Empiricism: Epistemology and the Philosophy of by P. Dicken

By P. Dicken

Confident empiricism isn't just a view in regards to the target of technology; it's also a view in regards to the epistemological framework during which one may still debate the purpose of technology. this is often the focal point of this ebook – no longer with medical fact, yet with how one should still argue approximately clinical fact.

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In this chapter, I shall assess these various arguments for epistemic voluntarism. My conclusion will be rather negative. In the case of the Reflection Principle, I shall argue that despite van Fraassen’s various lines of defence, diachronic coherence leads to absurd results; moreover, that those cases that van Fraassen does offer where diachronic coherence appears to be a virtue are in fact better understood as misdescribed instances of the importance of synchronic coherence. More importantly, van Fraassen’s principal case against the justification of our ampliative practices is a sceptical one, and here he faces the delicate balancing act anticipated in the previous chapter.

In Chapter 4, I sketch just such a framework, one based not upon the various standards of rationality that one can bring to bear upon the philosophy of science, but upon the various attitudes that one can hold towards a proposition or theory – a distinction already implicit in van Fraassen’s presentation of constructive empiricism, although as yet insufficiently developed. Thus while much of the following discussion Arguments Concerning Constructive Empiricism 29 will be devoted to criticising his specific views, the guiding premise of this work is that van Fraassen is essentially right, and that one cannot make progress in the philosophy of science without attending to the background epistemological presuppositions that one brings to bear upon the debate.

2 Relativism, scepticism and voluntarism According to van Fraassen’s so-called voluntarist epistemology, rationality is to be considered a matter of permission rather than obligation, where one is rationally entitled to believe anything that one is not rationally compelled to disbelieve (this characterisation can also be found in van Fraassen (2000: 277; 2002: 92, 97)), or to approach the same 24 Constructive Empiricism point from another angle, where an agent can be considered rational in holding a particular combination of beliefs just in case that combination does not sabotage its own possibility of vindication (van Fraassen, 1985: 248; 1989: 157).

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