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

By P. Dicken

Confident empiricism isn't just a view concerning the objective of technology; it's also a view concerning the epistemological framework within which one should still debate the purpose of technological know-how. this can be the focal point of this e-book – now not with clinical fact, yet with how one may still argue approximately medical fact.

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The first is the most technical, and concerns the probabilistic coherence of an agent’s beliefs. For while van Fraassen argues that logical consistency and probabilistic coherence pretty much exhaust the constraints upon an agent’s rationality, he also maintains that probabilistic coherence is a more substantial constraint than it is usually given credit. More specifically, while most philosophers would accept that an agent’s beliefs should be synchronically coherent – that for any particular moment of time, an agent’s total distribution of credences at that time should satisfy the probability calculus – van Fraassen argues that in addition, an agent’s beliefs should also be diachronically coherent – that for any particular moment of time, an agent’s total distribution of 32 Constructive Empiricism credences at that time will also constrain his total distribution of credences at a later time.

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).

Yet it is no part of the Bayesian machinery – and thus on this view, no part of the epistemological project per se – as to the origin of the beliefs that are to be updated; that is to say, one can assign any prior probability that one likes to a proposition, provided one is prepared to update that probability in the manner specified. Thus, just as with the epistemic voluntarist, Bayesians deny that there is any independent justifications available for our current beliefs; yet they also deny that their position succumbs to a debilitating scepticism, since even if we cannot be completely justified in our beliefs, we can at least be completely justified in our assessments of how much more or less likely our beliefs are, conditional on any new piece of evidence.

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