Philosophical Standardism

Philosophical Standardism: An Empiricist Approach to Philosophical Methodology

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Philosophical Standardism
    Book Description:

    Philosophical Standardismis ideal for bringing one of the field's preeminent scholars into the classroom. In this novel empirical treatment of fundamental issues in philosophy, Nicholas Rescher propounds an unorthodox approach to philosophical doctrines that is predicated on the idea of standardism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7218-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-2)
    (pp. 3-6)

    The object of the book is to propound an unorthodox approach to philosophical doctrines that is predicated on the idea of standardism, namely, the policy of interpreting the generalizations of the field not as making their claims universalistically (i.e., exceptionlessly), but rather as making themstandardistically, that is, as stating how matters stand “normall” or “as a rule.” (Such generalizations are not to be confused with merely statistical generalizations such as “Most but not all XS are Ys.”) Such a standardistic approach to its generalizations abandons the necessitarian pretentions of traditional philosophizing in favor of a more modest and cautious...

  5. ONE How Standardism Works
    (pp. 7-32)

    To be viable, contentions in everyday discourse will ordinarily have to be framed asprovisoedassertions. They will generally be subject to implicit qualifications and reservations that relate to what happenscustomarilyorordinarilyorstandardlyorother things being equal(ceteris paribus) or the like. We often say things like “humans can reason” or “birds can fly,” realizing full well that the claim as it stands is inaccurate and imprecise, which is to say strictly incorrect. In ordinary life we get by with saying how things runnormallyoras a rulebecause our interlocutors can in general supply...

  6. TWO The Standardistic Approach to Philosophical Issues
    (pp. 33-68)

    Philosophical standardism is based on two leading ideas: (1) that tenable generalizations in philosophy are in general not rigid but flexible (porous, permeable, fuzzy, or the like) in that they admit of exceptions; (2) that where this occurs—when exceptions are realized—this fact is explicable, that is, there is an explanatory rationale for categorizing those anomalous cases as actual exceptions, so that the normative force of these generalizations survives substantially intact despite those violations. But what is it about the inherent problem situation of philosophy that grounds the appropriateness of taking this standardistic view of its generalizations?

    The problems...

  7. THREE Standardism and the Theory of Knowledge
    (pp. 69-80)

    The idea of construing philosophical generalizations standardistically may appear strange at first sight since this is certainly not how philosophers, traditionally intent on universality and necessity, have usually thought of their generalizations. Nevertheless, much is to be said for such an approach. Let us consider some concrete examples, beginning with one taken from the theory of knowledge. (This chapter’s line of thought was initially discussed in Rescher 1991, 59–74.)

    Since the time of Plato’sTheaetetus(201c ff.), a prominent role has been played in the history of philosophical epistemology by the doctrine at issue in the following thesis:


  8. FOUR Standardism and Ethics
    (pp. 81-116)

    The case for a standardistic approach to philosophical issues is greatly strengthened by examining the implications of the role of luck in matters of morality. For example, consider the case of the lucky villain who burglarizes his grandfather’s house when the latter is on a long journey. Unbeknownst to him, however, the old gentleman has meanwhile died and made him his heir. The property he “steals” is thus his own; legalistically speaking, he has in fact done nothing improper—an undeservedly benign fate has averted the wrong his actions would otherwise have committed. In his soul or mind—in his...

  9. FIVE Standardistic Ontology
    (pp. 117-128)

    Standardism also has a useful role to play in the sphere of ontology in providing a natural and efficient resource for conceptualizing the world’s furniture. For any sensible and viable realism demands a standardistic approach to the knowability of real things, based on the supposition that our view of them, while full of gaps, can appropriately be rounded out in the “normal” way—that is, in line with our standard conception of the sort of thing at issue. We have little choice but to construe our claims about the nature of experientiable reality in standardistic terms of reference geared to...

  10. SIX Standardism and Philosophy of Nature
    (pp. 129-138)

    The applicability of our scientific “laws of nature” is generally limited to ideal conditions subject to provisos precluding the intrusion of “disturbing factors.” Such idealizations block the physical system at issue from external perturbations (see Cartwright 1983 and Hempel 1988). In consequence, we approximate reality through calculations that use such laws in a normalcy-coordinated way—envisioning circumstances where the real situationapproximates(at least roughly) to those ideal conditions. The applicative implementation of our scientific theories involves a reference to (contextually) normal conditions in a way that evokes the spirit of standardism.

    But standardism also has another, even deeper rationale...

  11. SEVEN Standardism, Reflexivity, and Metaphilosophy
    (pp. 139-154)

    Standardism finds its foothold in philosophy because of the chaotic nature of the world. But what about metaphilosophy—the philosophical study of philosophy itself? Surely here the situation is different. Whatever the nature of the world, the situation in philosophy should, after all, be orderly and rational. (Even a theory of inebriation should itself be sober.) Thus if standardism is also to find a foothold in metaphilosophy, it must be through something other than the chaotic complexity of the phenomena. And this is indeed so. The case for standardism in metaphilosophy rests not on chaos but on reflexivity.

    Reflexivity is...

  12. EIGHT The Problem with Far-Fetched Hypotheses in Philosophy
    (pp. 155-174)

    Our concepts generally develop against the background of an understanding of how things work in the world (or better, are taken by us to work); they are tied to a view of the realities of nature and to the empirical detail of actually existing practices. Anyone genuinely concerned for the philosophical elucidation of concepts as we actually use them must accordingly bear in mind that the conceptual scheme that is their native habitat is not an abstract logicians’ tool for dealing with the endless ramifications of an infinite spectrum of theoretical possibilities, but an historically developed product arising within the...

  13. NINE Standardism in Empiricist Perspective
    (pp. 175-204)

    People’s empirical—experientially shaped—view of the world unavoidably sets the problem stage for their philosophical deliberations. Insofar as a doctrinal position is articulated in terms of a conceptualized vision of “the normal and ordinary course of things”—as there is good reason to think that in natural and human affairs it must be—a philosophical standardism of cautiously interpreted generalizations is not only possible but appropriate. On standardism’s approach, the adequacy test of our philosophical theorizing lies in the systemic conformity of our explanatory theories with the substance of our experience (where “experience” is not construed narrowly as observation...

    (pp. 207-212)
    (pp. 213-214)