Tuesday, 26 September 2017

An open letter to Lawrence Krauss

Dear Lawrence Krauss,

I write to you with no expectation that you will take what I say seriously. Why take time out of your busy schedule to read the words of someone you have never heard of? And I know I am late to the party--several years, in fact. I may be flogging a dead horse; however, I believe it is important to write this letter due both to your status as a 'public intellectual' and your extensive history dismissing the value of philosophy.

You are immensely popular, and claim that you speak from a position of authority. As you said in your article, 'The Consolation of Philosophy', 'I do claim however to have some expertise in the impact of philosophy on my own field.' (source) However, speaking as a 'public intellectual' carries with it a responsibility: you have repeatedly denigrated philosophy in ways that would make anyone familiar with the discipline blush in embarrassment on your behalf. In this respect you have failed to uphold a core obligation as a 'public intellectual': given what you say, it's reasonable to conclude either you're speaking genuinely out of ignorance (and therefore lack the requisite expertise to speak about the impact of philosophy on physics), or (by your own admission) intentionally saying provocative, explosive, patently absurd things in order to get attention. Neither reflects positively on your work as a 'public intellectual'.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

An overview of Carnap's motivations for demarcation

It's appropriate that any criticisms of a position accurately reflect the position that has been advanced, rather than a pale imitation of the real thing.

Following this rather pablum observation that criticism must aim true, in this post, I set out what I think is a brief but fair reconstruction from some of my notes of a number of Carnap's motivations for his demarcationist programme. I then provide a short assessment of the Carnapian programme, cutting off at the legs two objections unfairly raised against it: (1) Carnap's criteria are self-refuting, for they are neither empirically meaningful nor analytic; (2) the criteria are parasitic on the analytic/synthetic distinction, and this distinction cannot be maintained.

In a later post, I'll show how the unstated differences between Carnap and Popper in the relatively neglected Carnap/Popper dispute is a core and open question in the demarcationist project, namely both Carnap and Popper present to different attempts at answering the question of what function demarcation criteria should serve.

Since I'm not a Carnap scholar, though, I'd like to preface my notes by making it clear that any corrections in my exegesis on Carnap are appreciated.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

A far better objection to normative demarcation criteria

These are follow-up notes on my previous post on how to present plausible objections to normative demarcation criteria. In it, I present a brief overview of a problem related to the value problem in epistemology, then illustrate two ways of framing any 'final value' to normative demarcation criteria by examining 'early' and 'later' Karl Popper's views on the subject. I end by presenting the mature objection raised by Paul Feyerabend that targets both views held by 'early' and 'later' Popper.

Friday, 11 August 2017

One obviously poor and one disputable good objection to normative criteria of demarcation

Some notes for the benefit of getting something coherent together. I present one patently poor--but popular--objection to 'normative' demarcation criteria. This objection can be put as follows: there is a disjunct between the normative rule and historical adherence to the rule. It is often (mistakenly) attributed to Imre Lakatos, Paul Feyerabend and Thomas Kuhn. I then show why this objection is misdirected against all proposed solutions to normative problems of demarcation.

I then present the more nuanced objection seen in Lakatos, Feyerabend and (implicitly) Kuhn's writings. This objection was thought to be the death knell of normative demarcation criteria distinct from history of science. The objection runs as follows: there is a disjunct between what we ought to do in the long-term based on these normative criteria and what we ought to do in the short-term based on a desire to avoid falsehoods and preserve truths. The traditional normative demarcation project seen in, for example, Karl Popper, is therefore 'superseded' by the 'historical' turn in Lakatos, et al.

I explain how clarifying the more subtle objection is enough to show that it is overstated. Thus, Popper's solution doesn't succumb to this form of objection, although there are ways to improve Popper's approach--specifically by incorporating insights by Feyerabend, Lakatos and Kuhn. Furthermore, no other proposed ahistorical solution to the normative problem similarly succumbs to similar objections. The traditional ahistorical project isn't superseded by the historical turn per se; rather, the two play different functions in philosophy of science with different areas of focus.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Can a bad argument against a pessimistic meta-induction help to improve the pessimistic meta-induction?

There must be something wrong with the following argument against one version of the pessimistic meta-induction. I call this argument the historical pessimistic meta-induction (hereafter referred to as 'HPMI'), in order to contrast it with the more common scientific pessimistic meta-induction (hereafter referred to as 'SPMI').

In brief, the usual framing of the SPMI is over-generative: the structure of the SPMI and the plausibility of the premises in the argument applies to other disciplines other than the natural sciences, including the discipline of history. This produces a similar HPMI that undermines the very plausibility of a core premise in the SPMI: due to a history of incompatible interpretations of the historical data, we lack any reason to accept the premise that there is a long history of incompatible mature scientific theories that were at one time successful.

This result is, however, manifestly absurd: we do not lack any reason to accept this premise in the SPMI. In fact, scientific realists and anti-realists alike have reason to accept this premise in the SPMI (or variations thereof). This premise is simply not in dispute. Therefore the structure of the SPMI must be modified in order to skirt this reductio. I include a reconstruction of the SPMI and where it may go wrong in over-generating the HPMI, as well as how to reframe one core premise in the SPMI to bypass several objections.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Prognostic practitioners and transient underdetermination

I wrote these notes on the problem of transient underdetermination in seventeenth century cosmology for a previous post on epistemic counter-closure, but the more I thought about it, the more I realised that it wasn't an appropriate example: ever since Pierre Duhem, the cosmological dispute between heliocentric and geocentric models been historically understood in philosophy to primarily be a case of underdetermination rather than epistemic counter-closure. Introducing any instances of apparent inferential knowledge predicated on false basis beliefs produces additional confusion rather than clarity.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Draft of slides for upcoming talk and conferences

Tomorrow I will be presenting a talk on a possible solution to the demarcation problem at the Advanced Research Seminar at King's College London. The tentative title is as follows: 'Some suitable demarcation criteria: A novel approach to rehabilitating and extending demarcation criteria by adopting a temporal logic'.

This talk is an extension of the one I gave at NNPS 2017. (As an aside: I wish to thank Dr Ben Martin of University College London for his helpful commentary, as well as the comments from other philosophers during the Q&A). Shorter versions of this talk will be presented next month at SILFS 2017 and ECAP 9 in late August.

It seems only appropriate to post a revised (but far from finalised) draft of the slides. They are now available here. Any constructive (or destructive) criticism is welcome.


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