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Critical Fundamentalism, conducted in a scientifically enlightened way, would both influence, and be influenced by, scientific research. It would have the capacity to contribute to science by clarifying fundamental scientific problems and suggesting possible scientific solutions; and it would of course be influenced by the results of scientific research.

This two-way integration of Critical Fundamentalist philosophy and science would amount, in all but name, to natural philosophy! The above story about the inevitable decline of philosophy is thus a nonsense. The successful establishment and pursuit of the natural sciences, the social sciences, logic and linguistics does not impoverish philosophy, properly pursued as Critical Fundamentalism, at all.

The vital need for rational imaginative and critical thinking about fundamental problems remains undiminished. It is needed so that science, and so that academic enquiry as a whole, can meet elementary requirements of rationality. Rationality demands that one keeps alive thinking about the fundamental problems one seeks to solve.

The self-mutilation of philosophy by the adoption of Continental philosophy or analytic philosophy — which results in philosophy failing to do what it most needs to do — is entirely unnecessary. Why, then, did it happen? In part, perhaps, because of a failure to appreciate just how vital, how necessary, it is to keep alive influential rational thinking about fundamental problems, especially as specialisation becomes more and more rampant.

Instead of seeking to counteract the evils of rampant specialisation, academic philosophy has tended, in the 20th century, to seek out eagerly, even desperately, its own specialised niche. There is, however, a far more important reason for the failure of philosophy to keep alive the spirit of Critical Fundamentalism over the decades and centuries.

This failure stems from the failure of philosophy to solve one of its most fundamental problems: the problem of induction. I began by indicating how Newton killed off natural philosophy with his false claim, in the third edition of his Principia , to have derived his law of gravitation from the phenomena by induction without appealing to metaphysical hypotheses. Subsequent natural philosophers concluded that they must follow Newton in ignoring metaphysics and philosophy, and attending only to evidence in considering what laws and theories should be accepted and rejected.

The outcome was science , decisively dissociated from philosophy.

The crucial tenet of this conception is that, in science, no thesis about the Universe must be accepted as a part of scientific knowledge independent of evidence , let alone in violation of evidence. In the end it is evidence that decides what is accepted as scientific knowledge. But this Newtonian conception of science bequeathed to philosophy a fundamental problem about the nature of science that, for most philosophers, remains unsolved down to today.

It can be put like this. However much evidence we gather in support of a law or theory, it cannot verify the law or theory, or even render its probability greater than zero. This is because any physical law or theory makes infinitely many predictions, not just about the past and present, but about the future too, and possible states of affairs that have not, as yet, occurred and might never occur.


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We must always be infinitely far away from verifying all these infinitely many predictions of the theory. Put another way, however well-established a theory is by evidence, there will always be infinitely different theories that agree about the evidence we have gathered so far, but disagree, in different ways, about predictions for phenomena that we have not yet observed, because they are in the future, or because they concern possible states of affairs or experiments not yet created. Physics makes a big, highly problematic assumption about the nature of the Universe. Evidence cannot verify a theory.


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  6. It cannot even select a theory — since infinitely many disunified rivals will always fit the available evidence equally well, or even better. Science, in deciding what theory to accept or reject, attends not just to evidence, but to two considerations: 1 evidence, and 2 the simplicity, unity or explanatory character of the theory in question. This view has the great merit of doing better justice to what actually goes on in science. The empirically successful but horribly disunified versions of Newtonian theory, just considered, are ruled out.

    But there is still a problem. If physics, in particular, persistently accepts unified theories only, even though endlessly many disunified rivals are available that fit the available facts just as well, or even better, this must mean, whether it is acknowledged or not, that physics makes a big, highly problematic assumption about the nature of the Universe. It means that physics makes the big assumption: the Universe is such that all disunified theories are false. There is some kind of underlying unity in nature. This assumption is implicitly accepted as a part of scientific knowledge since theories that conflict with it — those that are disunified — are rejected or not even considered whatever their empirical success might be.

    This assumption of underlying unity is, however, accepted independently of evidence , even in a sense in violation of evidence in that it clashes with endlessly many disunified theories even more empirically successful than the theories we accept. The current orthodox conception of science, inherited from Newton, and still taken for granted by scientists today, that science must appeal only to evidence , and must not make metaphysical assumptions about the nature of the universe independently of evidence, is untenable, and must be rejected.

    W hat do we put in its place?

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    Natural philosophy redux

    In order to answer that question, it is vital to appreciate that the specific version of the metaphysical assumption of unity, accepted by physics at any stage in its development, exercises a profound influence over both the search for new theories and the acceptance of existing theories. And yet this assumption is a pure conjecture, the specific version of which, accepted at any given time, is almost bound to be false — as the historical record indicates in that metaphysical ideas, from corpuscular to string theory, have changed radically a number of times since the 17th century.

    The new kind of science we require explicitly acknowledges the existence of this substantial, influential and highly problematic metaphysical assumption of unity, and subjects it to sustained scrutiny, alternatives being developed and criticised, in an attempt to improve the specific version of the assumption that is accepted. Aim-oriented empiricism, as I have called this new conception of science, represents the metaphysical assumption in the form of a hierarchy of assumptions.

    As we go up this hierarchy, assumptions become less and less substantial, and so more and more likely to be true, and more and more nearly such that their truth is required for science, or the pursuit of knowledge to be possible at all. In this way, we create a framework of assumptions and associated methods high up in the hierarchy, very likely to be true, within which much more substantial assumptions and associated methods low down in the hierarchy can be critically assessed and, we might hope, improved. At the top of the hierarchy, we have the assumption that the Universe is partially knowable ; it is such that we can continue to acquire knowledge of our local circumstances sufficient to make life possible.

    If this assumption is false, we have had it, whatever we assume. It cannot harm and might well help the search for knowledge to make this assumption, whatever the Universe is like.

    The Problems of Philosophy

    Even though we have no reason to suppose the assumption true, nevertheless we are justified, on narrowly pragmatic grounds, in accepting this assumption as a part of our scientific knowledge. Next down in the hierarchy is the assumption that the Universe is meta-knowable ; it is such that we can formulate a conjecture about it that is true, and such that accepting the conjecture makes it possible for us, as we improve our knowledge, to improve methods for the improvement of knowledge.

    The Universe is such, in other words, that there can be something like positive feedback between improving knowledge, and improving knowledge about how to improve knowledge. Successive theories in physics have brought ever-greater unity to ever-wider ranges of phenomena. Next down there is the assumption that the Universe is comprehensible in some way or other. There is something , inherent in all phenomena, that is responsible for the way that events occur, in terms of which everything can, in principle, be explained and understood. This ubiquitous something might be God, or a cosmic purpose one that all events occur in order to fulfil , or a unified pattern of physical law.

    Granted meta-knowability, comprehensibility is a good assumption to adopt since, if true, it makes it possible for us to hone in on that version of comprehensibility that leads to the greatest success in improving knowledge. We put forward various sorts of explanatory theories; if one sort proves to meet with particular empirical success, meta-knowability justifies us in concentrating on theories that are explanatory in this particular sort of way. Soran died peacefully at home on 1 st September Reader, Soran Abortion, Killing and Maternal Moral Authority. Hypatia 23 1 : Reader, Soran.

    In Pazifismus: Ideengeschichte, Theorie und Praxis. Bleisch, Barbara. Journal of Political Philosophy 14 3 : Needs-centered Ethics. Journal of Value Inquiry Making Pacifism Plausible. Journal of Applied Philosophy 17 2 : New Directions in Ethics. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 3, No 4 On her first day, a senior colleague took her to lunch—a friendly welcome, she assumed, until he started telling her his thoughts on why she was the only woman in the department. Many people have doubted that women are capable of doing good philosophy, he mused, and this book offered no counterevidence.

    Until then, Anderson had never really considered the role of gender in her career. She later learned that there were fewer women in academic philosophy than in either math or astrophysics, and a sense of the way inequality was built into that pipeline propelled her interest in feminist philosophy. Like her idea of relational equality, this model resisted the temptation to flatten human variety toward a unifying standard.

    In doing so, it helped expand the realm of free and reasoned economic choice. Consider a couple who has worked for years to run a family restaurant and is offered a corporate buyout, worth more than they could earn by keeping it open.

    Reading Groups - The Philosophy, Politics & Economics Program

    Traditional economists and many philosophers would say, Take the money! That would maximize value. Maybe you can use it to start a new restaurant. It ran with, rather than against, moral intuition.

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    Because values were plural, it was perfectly rational to choose to spend evenings with your family, say, and have guilt toward the people you left in the lurch at work. The theory also pointed out the limits on free-market ideologies, such as libertarianism. In ethics, it broke across old factional debates.

    I. THE QUESTION OF LITERATURE AND PHILOSOPHY

    Traditionally, the discipline is taught through a-priori thought—you start with basic principles and reason forward.