The World Observed/The World Conceived

The World Observed/The World Conceived

HANS RADDER
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrcvz
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  • Book Info
    The World Observed/The World Conceived
    Book Description:

    Observation and conceptual interpretation constitute the two major ways through which human beings engage the world.The World Observed/The World Conceivedpresents an innovative analysis of the nature and role of observation and conceptualization. While these two actions are often treated as separate, Hans Radder shows that they are inherently interconnected-that materially realized observational processes are always conceptually interpreted and that the meaning of concepts depends on the way they structure observational processes and abstract from them. He examines the role of human action and conceptualization in realizing observational processes and develops a detailed theory of the relationship between observation, abstraction, and the meaning of concepts.

    The World Observed/The World Conceivedwill prove useful to many areas of scholarly study including ontology, epistemology, philosophy of language, philosophy of science, science studies, and cognitive science.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7106-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. 1 OBSERVATION AND CONCEPTUAL INTERPRETATION
    (pp. 1-8)

    Most people will agree that observation and conceptual interpretation constitute two major ways through which human beings engage the world. Questions about the character of observation and the nature of concepts, however, have received far fewer unanimous answers. The same applies to claims about the interaction and possible interdependence of observation and conceptual interpretation. In particular, the claims that observation presupposes conceptual interpretation and that concepts can be abstracted from observations have been the subject of fierce philosophical debates.

    In this book, I take a fresh look at the nature and role of observation and conceptual interpretation. My approach can...

  5. Part 1 The Material Realization and Conceptual Interpretation of Observational Processes
    • 2 THE ABSENCE OF EXPERIENCE IN EMPIRICISM
      (pp. 11-18)

      If one would like to learn something about experience, one would expect the empiricist tradition to be a rich source of information. This natural expectation does not prove to be generally warranted, though. For instance, if one turns to postwar empiricism in the philosophy of science, one finds a remarkable lack of interest in systematically studying scientific observation. Moreover, the claims that are being made about observation turn out to be inadequate.

      It is well-known that, at least by the 1950s and 1960s, the radical empiricism of the early logical positivists had been transformed and weakened. Yet, empiricism remained a...

    • 3 THE CONCEPTUAL ANALYSIS OF OBSERVATION
      (pp. 19-32)

      A number of nonempiricist philosophers have addressed the issue of the nature and role of (scientific and everyday) experience in more substantial ways. Their views are discussed in this and the next three chapters. Here I focus on the conceptual analysis of observation. This approach is illustrated by Norwood Hanson’s sophisticated and still worthwhile account of observation. His most important achievement is the introduction and explication of the idea that observation is theory laden. The idea was introduced in Hanson’sPatterns of Discovery(1972, first edition 1958). In this book, he also uses the locution theory loaded, apparently without differentiating...

    • 4 THE INTERACTION-INFORMATION THEORY OF OBSERVABILITY AND OBSERVATION
      (pp. 33-42)

      While Norwood Hanson’s approach is limited to a conceptual analysis of what we see, Peter Kosso offers a more comprehensive view by taking into account the observational processes through which we see what we see. In his 1989 book,Observability and Observation in Physical Science,he provides a detailed account of a variety of observational processes. As the title of this book indicates, his focus is on physical science. Yet, since he draws heavily on Fred Dretske’s (1981) analyses of ordinary perception, his main results may well be more widely applicable than to physical science alone.

      The basic point of...

    • 5 CONNECTIONIST ACCOUNTS OF OBSERVATION
      (pp. 43-56)

      Connectionism is an interesting, recent approach that is quite prominent in the fields of computational neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and cognitive psychology. It claims to provide an adequate account of (naturalistically conceived) observational processes. Moreover, it explicitly endorses the theory ladenness of observation. Thus, given the discussion in the preceding chapters, connectionism might be seen as a promising candidate for a plausible theory of observation. In this chapter, I examine and test this conjecture.¹

      At its most ambitious, connectionism assumes that most, or even all, cognitive achievements by humans may be successfully modeled by means of connectionist networks (also called neural...

    • 6 A HERMENEUTICAL APPROACH TO PERCEPTION
      (pp. 57-70)

      Among my arguments against reductionist interpretations of connectionist networks are the role of division of labor in making scientific observations and the significance of professional or moral codes and institutional arrangements for reliably realizing observational processes. In more general terms, conceptions of observation exclusively in terms of the activities of isolated individuals are, at best, incomplete. By assuming that observation is always rooted in a common life world, hermeneutical approaches take a similar position.

      Patrick Heelan (1983, 1989) has developed a comprehensive, hermeneutical theory of perception, which is interesting in its own right and illustrates the significance of the social...

    • 7 THE MATERIAL REALIZATION AND CONCEPTUAL INTERPRETATION OF OBSERVATIONAL PROCESSES
      (pp. 71-90)

      I conclude part 1 of this book by presenting a general philosophical account of human observation. I do so on the basis of the results obtained in the preceding five chapters. That is to say, I both use (parts of) the views of the authors discussed and develop the critical points I have made in assessing these views. My account employs three basic notions: the notions of an observational process and its material realization and conceptual interpretation. Hence, the more specific objective of this chapter is to develop and clarify these notions and to vindicate the resulting account of human...

  6. Part 2 How Concepts Both Structure the World and Abstract from It
    • 8 HOW CONCEPTS STRUCTURE THE WORLD
      (pp. 93-98)

      In part 1, I analyze scientific and ordinary observation in terms of the material realization and conceptual interpretation of observational processes. I present many examples and several accounts of how making observations depends on material realization and conceptual interpretation. Part 2 revisits the relationship between materially realized observational processes and conceptual interpretations, but it focuses on different philosophical issues. Its primary subject is how concepts, which have been or might be used in interpreting materially realized observational processes, relate to the world. As in part 1, the account is meant to apply both to everyday and to scientific concepts. My...

    • 9 THE EXTENSIBILITY OF CONCEPTS TO NOVEL OBSERVATIONAL PROCESSES
      (pp. 99-106)

      Herman Koningsveld argues that concepts structure the world, a big philosophical claim about which much more could be, and has been, said. I think that, ultimately, Koningsveld’s Kantian claim is convincing. To conclude, however, that the full meaning of concepts can be explained on the basis of an analysis of particular processes in which those concepts have been learned is another matter. Yet this is Koningsveld’s view, since he claims that the meaning of concepts is constituted by the appropriate method of observing the entities denoted by these concepts (1973, 11). In contrast, I argue that concepts not only structure...

    • 10 EXTENSIBLE CONCEPTS, ABSTRACTION, AND NONLOCALS
      (pp. 107-118)

      Concepts both structure the world and abstract from it. Concepts structure the world because they specify one or more particular domains of application and a particular set of conditions of (ir)relevancy. Consequently, any successful extension of the concept to a substantially novel domain will lead to a (smaller or larger) shift in its structuring meaning component. The meaning of the concept of a mammal, to mention a familiar example, changed slightly when it was extended to the new domain of the whales. And the meaning of the concepts of thob, urve, and raig will change if a successful performance of...

    • 11 WIDER PHILOSOPHICAL IMPLICATIONS
      (pp. 119-128)

      The notions of extensible concepts, abstraction, and nonlocals have several fundamental and far-reaching philosophical implications. Here I discuss some of these implications, including their relation and relevance to other philosophical issues and views, to further clarify and vindicate the claim that concepts both structure the world and abstract from it.

      A central conclusion from the discussion of extensible concepts is that they are abstract and that their meaning is nonlocal because it does not coincide with the meaning of a fixed set of local processes in which the concepts have been used so far. Put differently, the meaning of extensible...

    • 12 ABSTRACTION, FORMALIZATION, AND DIGITIZATION
      (pp. 129-137)

      In chapter 10, I briefly mention the idea of a proposition as an abstract entity presupposed in formal logic and formal semantics. Often, being formal and being abstract are seen as closely related to each other, and the same applies to the processes of formalization and abstraction (see, e.g., Franklin 1994). This raises the question of the relationship between formalization and the specific notion of abstraction introduced in the previous chapters. I examine this relationship by means of a discussion and assessment of John Haugeland’s account of formal systems and the formal concepts they include. He closely connects formal and...

    • 13 ARISTOTELIAN ABSTRACTION AND SCIENTIFIC THEORIZING
      (pp. 138-144)

      In contemporary philosophical discourse, the notion of abstraction plays a less prominent role than it did in the past. No doubt this has to do with the increased currency of approaches that emphasize the structuring activities of human beings, either in a Kantian or in a more contextualized form. Nevertheless, exceptions to this trend occur. One such exception is Nancy Cartwright. Significantly enough, she places herself explicitly within the empiricist tradition. Thus the first sentence of her 1989 book,Nature’s capacities and their measurement, reads, “Science is measurement.”¹ As I note in chapter 10, from an empiricist point of view...

    • 14 ABSTRACTION AND THE EXTENSION OF ACTOR NETWORKS
      (pp. 145-153)

      Bruno Latour’s work contains many examples of successful and unsuccessful extensions of scientific knowledge claims to novel situations. According to his philosophical interpretation, such attempted extensions should be seen as the core of scientific practice. Heterogeneous “actor networks” and the “translation” of the results of the interactions within these networks constitute two basic notions of his account of “science in action” (Latour 1987). A result, such as a particular knowledge claim, has been translated when the original actor network that sustained it in the first place has been successfully extended to a new situation. Generally speaking, such a translation involves...

    • 15 MEANING FINITISM AND THE SOCIOLOGY OF SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE
      (pp. 154-162)

      The open-ended nature of the meaning of concepts has also been stressed by some authors within the sociology of scientific knowledge. It is instructive to point out some agreements and disagreements between their views and the ones proposed here. Barry Barnes, David Bloor, and John Henry advocate what they call a sociological, finitist account of the meaning of concepts, in particular those concepts that attempt to classify “natural kinds.” They write, “The future applications of terms are open-ended. This is merely a reformulation of the central tenet of finitism. On a finitist account there is nothing identifiable as ‘the meaning’...

    • 16 PRODUCT PATENTING AS THE EXPLOITATION OF ABSTRACT POSSIBILITIES
      (pp. 163-178)

      Thus far, the question of how concepts structure the world and abstract from it is addressed as follows. Chapters 8 through 11 provide the basic answer to this question and thus constitute the core of part 2 of this book. Next, chapters 12 through 15 develop the account of abstraction and the nonlocal meaning of concepts by means of a critical discussion of several alternative views on the issues in question. These other views—regarding formalization, Aristotelian abstraction, extension of actor networks, and meaning finitism—are of a quite general philosophical nature. Hence the relevant chapters aim to position my...

  7. 17 EPILOGUE: EXPERIENCE, NATURALISM, AND CRITIQUE
    (pp. 179-186)

    The principal aim of part 1 of this book is to explain and vindicate a general theory of observation, both in everyday life and in science. Observing the world requires the material realization and conceptual interpretation of observational processes. What is observable and what it is that we observe at a particular moment depend, among other things, on the available conceptual interpretations. In this sense, these conceptual interpretations can be said to structure the world. In part 2, however, I show that concepts also abstract from the world. Extensible concepts are abstract entities. They possess a nonlocal meaning that transcends...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 187-200)
  9. REFERENCES
    (pp. 201-212)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 213-220)