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297 Pages·2014·0.93 MB·English
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Alex Wilson A PYRRHONIST EXAMINATION OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE A Dissertation submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Graduate Program in Philosophy York University Toronto, Ontario September, 2014 © Alex Wilson, 2014 Abstract: In the recent literature in the philosophy of science there is much discussion of scientific knowledge, but rarely an explicit account of such knowledge. Employing the Pyrrhonist skeptics modes, I examine the implicit ‘justified true belief’ analysis of scientific knowledge presented by Stathis Psillos, the primitivist account offered by Alexander Bird, and Bas van Fraassen’s voluntarist epistemology. I conclude that all of these positions appear to fail. Psillos’ account relies on a theory of reference that cannot block skeptical challenges to scientific realism, nor can it identify natural kinds in a non- ad hoc manner. Bird’s account also cannot refute skeptical challenges to it, nor can it adequately show how the full truth necessary for knowledge is acquired. Van Fraassen’s voluntarist epistemology attempts to avoid skepticism at the cost of inconsistency. From this representative sample of accounts I argue that there is seemingly no account of scientific knowledge that can as yet withstand Pyrrhonist skeptical scrutiny. In the first chapter of my dissertation, I give an overview of Pyrrhonist skepticism and the neo-Pyrrhonism of Robert Fogelin and Otavio Bueno, respectively. In the second chapter, I exposit Psillos’ semantic realist position, and argue that he gives an implicit justified true belief analysis of scientific knowledge. Moreover, I examine Bird’s primitivist account of knowledge. In chapter three, I discuss van Fraassen’s philosophy of science as stated in constructive empiricism and empiricist structuralism, and his voluntarist epistemology. In chapter four, I argue that all of these different views fail to provide a compelling theory of scientific knowledge. In the fifth chapter, I consider how the traditional Pyrrhonist take on the relation of theory to practice, and the positive ii epistemic additions of Fogelin and Bueno’s neo-Pyrrhonisms. I conclude that the traditional Pyrrhonists were acting inconsistently when they sought out new theories to influence their practice, and that the positive epistemic additions to the skeptical modes of Pyrrhonism fall prey to the modes themselves. iii Acknowledgements: I would like to thank my mother, Louise Wilson, for all of the unconditional love and support she given me throughout the pursuit of my doctoral degree. This dissertation and the completion of my doctoral degree would not have been possible without you. I would also like to thank the members of my dissertation committee, Jagdish Hattiangadi, Henry Jackman, and Dan McArthur. I have learned a great deal from all three of you. In particular, I would like to thank Jagdish, for his sharing his many insightful ideas on this project, and for his patience. Moreover, I wish to thank Dan for introducing me to the works of Stathis Psillos which are the subject of a third of this dissertation. Furthermore, I am grateful to the many friends I have made at York who have helped me intellectually, emotionally, or both: Vanessa Lehan, Olaf Ellefson, Jill Cumby, Mike Tilly, Sean Starrs, Elena Chou, Chris Bailey, Chris Korte, Anne Stebbins, Madeleine Boyer, and many, many more. I am also grateful to Mina Wilson, for help and hindrance. I wish to acknowledge my brothers, but Timothy Wilson in particular, for their support. Antoine Wilson deserves special mention as his short story “Everyone Else” provided an example of inference to the best explanation in this dissertation. Many thanks are due to my roommate of four years, Elizabeth Reid, for putting up with me for so long. I am also grateful to my many friends outside of Canada: Talia Drake, Andrea Reynolds-Yusim, Cerah O’Grady, Joe Rasmussen, Yvonne Zivkovic, and last but not least, Peter Distefano. Particular thanks must go to my Masters thesis advisor, Paul Tang, for his patience and encouragement during my time at York. Although I was a former student, iv he treated me with all of the attention and encouragement he devoted to the students he was currently advising. He set an example of mentorship I can only hope to fully emulate. May he rest in peace. I would also like to thank Cristal del Biondo for her guidance through York University’s byzantine bureaucracy, and for her enduring patience and kindness. Moreover, I wish to thank Kim Eisner for her invaluable logistical support and for sustaining me with her cynical humor. Finally, my deepest debt of gratitude is to Dr. George Jack Stanley for believing in me from the very beginning. v Table of Contents: Chapter 1: Introduction 1 Chapter 2: Stathis Psillos and Alexander Bird: Two Scientific Realist Accounts of Scientific Knowledge 42 2.1 The “No Miracles Argument” 45 2.2 Psillos’ Semantic Realism 49 2.2.1 A Summary of Psillos’ Scientific Realism 49 2.2.2 Psillos’ Three Stances of Scientific Realism 50 2.3 The Circularity of the “No Miracles Argument” 55 2.4 Underdetermination 60 2.5 The Pessimistic Meta-Induction and the Causal-Descriptive Theory of Reference 70 2.5.1 The Pessimistic Meta-Induction 70 2.5.2 The Descriptive Theory of Reference 71 2.5.3 The Causal Theory of Reference 72 2.5.4 The Causal-Descriptive Theory of Reference 78 2.5.5 The Luminiferous Ether and The Electro-Magnetic Field 79 2.5.6 Reference to Abstracta 83 2.6 Theories of Truth 86 2.6.1 The Correspondence Theory of Truth 86 2.6.2 The Correspondence Theory of Truth and Our Indirect Access to the World 87 vi 2.6.3 Correspondence and Our Mediated Access to the World 91 2.7 Truth-likeness 94 2.7.1 Psillos’ Intuitive Approach 94 2.8 Psillos’ Account of Scientific Knowledge 99 2.8.1 Psillos’ (1999) Account of Scientific Knowledge 100 2.8.2 Psillos’ (2009) Account of Scientific Knowledge 103 2.8.3 Psillos’ (2011) Account of Scientific Knowledge 108 2.9 Alexander Bird 109 2.9.1 Scientific Knoweldge as Unanalyzable 109 2.9.2 Bird on Truth 111 2.9.3 Bird on Belief 112 2.9.4 E=K 112 2.9.5 Bird and The Causal Theory of Reference 116 2.10 Conclusion 119 Chapter 3: Bas van Fraassen’s Anti-realist Account of Scientific Knowledge 120 3.1 van Fraassen’s Epistemology 121 3.1.1 Probabilism and Knowledge 121 3.2 van Fraassen on Theory Change 125 3.2.1 The Seeming Incoherence of Scientific Theory Change 125 3.2.2 Voluntarism and Scientific Theory Change 127 3.3 Constructive Empiricism 130 3.3.1 Observability 131 vii 3.3.2 The Inference to the Best Explanation 134 3.3.3 The Scientific Realist Demand for Explanation 136 3.3.4 Putnam’s Ultimate Argument for Scientific Realism 139 3.3.5 The Empirical Content of Theories 140 3.3.6 Underdetermination 142 3.3.7 Unification and Conjunction 143 3.3.8 Metaphysical Baggage 147 3.3.9 Constructive Empiricism and Skepticism 149 3.3.10 Empiricist Methodology 150 3.3.11 The Pragmatic Virtues 153 3.3.12 Explanation 157 3.4 Empiricist Structuralism 160 3.5 Conclusion: van Fraassen and Knowledge 162 Chapter 4: A Pyrrhonist Examination of Psillos, Bird, and van Fraassen 164 4.1 Psillos 165 4.1.1 Psillos’ Three Stances of Scientific Realism 167 4.1.2 The “no miracles argument” 169 4.1.3 Chang and Stanford contra Psillos 172 4.1.4 Voluntarism and Psillos’ Causal-Descriptive Theory of Reference 182 4.1.5 The Voluntarist Theory of Reference and Scientific Realism 193 4.1.6 The Pessimistic Meta-Induction 196 viii 4.2 Underdetermination 199 4.2.1 Theoretical Virtues 203 4.3 Truth 207 4.3.1 Psillos’ Success Argument 209 4.32 Truth-likeness 216 4.3.3 Background Knowledge 218 4.4 Psillos’ Account of Scientific Knowledge and Facticity 219 4.5 Alexander Bird 223 4.5.1 The Primitive Account of Knowledge and The Mode of Hypothesis 225 4.5.2 Bird and Scientific Methodology 225 4.5.3 The Inference to the Only Explanation 230 4.5.4 Bird and The Causal Theory of Reference 233 4.5.5 Full Truth, Approximate Truth, and Facticity 235 4.6 Bas van Fraassen 236 4.6.1 van Fraassen and The Empirical Stance 237 4.6.2 Ladyman’s Dilemma 239 4.6.3 Nagel on What Counts as Experience 241 4.6.4 van Fraassen and Observability 242 4.6.5 van Fraassen and Justification 245 4.6.6 The Darwinian Explanation for the Success of Science 248 4.6.7 van Fraassen and Theory Change 251 ix 4.6.8 Psillos’ Defense of The Inference to the Best Explanation 253 4.6.9 Metaphysical Baggage 254 4.6.10 Empiricist Structuralism and Instrumentalism 256 4.6.11 Voluntarist Reference? 257 4.6.12 Facticity and van Fraassen 259 4.7 Conclusion 260 Chapter 5: Neo-Pyrrhonism and Scientific Knowledge 263 5.1 Pyrrhonism and Practice 264 5.1.1 The Relation of Theory to Practice 264 5.1.2 A Pyrrhonist Examination of Methodism 270 5.2 Fogelin and Bueno 273 5.2.1 Fogelin 273 5.2.2 Bueno 278 5.3 Conclusion 280 Bibliography 282 x

voluntarist epistemology attempts to avoid skepticism at the cost of inconsistency. 2.5 The Pessimistic Meta-Induction and the Causal-Descriptive Theory of .. different circumstances, it is unclear what the real taste of honey is.
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