The Empirical Stance

The Empirical Stance

Bas C. van Fraassen
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    The Empirical Stance
    Book Description:

    What is empiricism and what could it be? Bas C. van Fraassen, one of the world's foremost contributors to philosophical logic and the philosophy of science, here undertakes a fresh consideration of these questions and offers a program for renewal of the empiricist tradition. The empiricist tradition is not and could not be defined by common doctrines, but embodies a certain stance in philosophy, van Fraassen says. This stance is displayed first of all in a searing, recurrent critique of metaphysics, and second in a focus on experience that requires a voluntarist view of belief and opinion.Van Fraassen focuses on the philosophical problems of scientific and conceptual revolutions and on the not unrelated ruptures between religious and secular ways of seeing or conceiving of ourselves. He explores what it is to be or not be secular and points the way toward a new relationship between secularism and science within philosophy.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12796-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-xii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xx)

    When Sophocles depicts Oedipus in conflict with Tiresias the prophet, he shows us the tensions between science and religion in embryo. The king whose intellect had saved the city, the puzzle solver, represents the increasingly secular progressive forces against blind tradition. Or so at least it seems to the king himself. But this king is blind to his own condition and ends the play blinded entirely by his self-inflicted wounds. The situation is not without its irony or its tragedy. Nor is it a historical accident of ancient Greece, of course. We have found ourselves in this tension in every...

  5. LECTURE 1 Against Analytic Metaphysics
    (pp. 1-30)

    Let us begin with a statement that I am sure you must have heard before:

    You are right if you take it that I am serious about this. But what do I mean? When Pascal died, a scrap of paper was found in the lining of his coat. On it was written “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, not the God of the philosophers.” Pascal was a contemporary of Descartes in the seventeenth century, and the God who appears in Descartes’Meditations on First Philosophywas the paradigmatic philosophers’ God. He is of course omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent, and...

  6. LECTURE 2 What Is Empiricism and What Could It Be?
    (pp. 31-63)

    If we reject metaphysics, the speculative art, is there something left to do in philosophy? There is indeed a strong antimetaphysical tradition in philosophy, namely, empiricism. Is that simply a thing of the past, something we have long left behind in our philosophical journey of the past two thousand years? I do not believe so, and I propose to enter on a quest: What is empiricism, and what could it be, if it is to be a viable philosophy today?

    Empiricism is not a single, specific philosophical position, but there is a tradition of philosophical positions that we call empiricist....

  7. LECTURE 3 Scientific Revolution/Conversion as a Philosophical Problem
    (pp. 64-110)

    How shall we develop the empirical stance, to continue the empiricist tradition? The problems I’ll address in the remaining lectures all belong to epistemology: the realm of knowledge, belief, and opinion. That realm has throughout been the empiricists’ central philosophical concern. If we cannot today accept the epistemologies of any of our empiricist predecessors it is because we—all of us in Western culture—have come to see ourselves and our relation to nature quite differently than we did before. In this lecture and the next I will take as focal point a question that belongs very specifically to the...

  8. LECTURE 4 Experience: (Epistemic) Life Without Foundations
    (pp. 111-152)

    A change in view is properly called radical or revolutionary only if the posterior view is absurd relative to the prior one. We do in fact see our past punctuated by radical change, by conversions that could not have been ratifiable or justifiable by prior lights. So why do we not see those changes as simply irrational, as a matter for the psychopathology of everyday life rather than philosophy? In some cases we do; more so perhaps when we see such changes in others’ history and especially when we shared the prior view but resisted that change. In certain other...

  9. LECTURE 5 What Is Science—and What Is It to Be Secular?
    (pp. 153-196)

    The empiricist tradition was in the past thoroughly entangled with the materialism from which I dissociated it. Empiricists have also by and large, in the past, displayed a specifically secular orientation, often enough with reason to think of the religious as allied with superstition and opposition to science. Does the empirical stance allow for anything other than a secular orientation?

    Given that the natural sciences loom so large in empiricist thinking, the answer might be thought to turn on the relation between science and religion. I think that is a mistake, at least as the subject is commonly understood and...

  10. Appendix A. Scientific Cosmology
    (pp. 197-200)
  11. Appendix B. A History of the Name “Empiricism”
    (pp. 201-225)
  12. Appendix C. Bultmann’s Theology Is Not a Philosophy
    (pp. 226-230)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 231-260)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 261-274)
  15. Index
    (pp. 275-282)