[hist-analytic] Carnap on Philosophy
Baynesr at comcast.net
Baynesr at comcast.net
Mon Aug 24 12:52:08 EDT 2009
Much depends on where you place epistemology in philosophy.
Metaphysical positions are taken not because they possess the
mark of truth or evidence but because one position is better than
another. Take nominalism. There is no empirical evidence that can
be adduced that will decide whether nominalism is preferable to
realism. It is not an empirical issue. It is a matter of which position
is most "productive" with respect to "fitting" all that needs to be
considered in getting the "big picture" (the point of metaphysics).
On my position, and that of others, epistemology is subsumed
under metaphysics, rather than the other way around, which would
be the case if epistemology ("How do you know") had veto power
of metaphysics ("What is there?"). In addition there is a certain
ambiguity in what the point of asking the "How do you know?"
question. It has to do with the nature of epistemology, which is
not of a uniform cloth, so to speak.
We can consider the question "What is knowledge?" That I take to
be a secondary question, comparable to "What is explanation in
science?" The debates over this latter question do not have
what I've called a veto over what scientists might come up with.
Similarly with metaphysics. These "meta-epistemological questions"
fail to constain metaphysics. The metaphysician will often say that
"metaepistemology" concerns what we should call 'knowledge' and
what knowledge is; this is of some linguistic and semantical
interest but the linguistic turn need not be taken. Few metaphysicians
take the "linguistic turn."
C. D. Broad investigated the "perceptual situation" in search of an
analysis of perceptual knowledge; he did not, as for exampel Dretske
did in his excellent work Seeing, analyse the senses of 'see'. So when
Bruce asks about how we ascertain the truth of metaphysical sentences
I sense a sort of epistemologist trap, as if to say that metaphysics
is to be placed on an epistemological leash. But if your interest is not
"meta-epistemology" or if you are like the philospher of science not
particularly taken with how to formalize a scientific explanation then the
right question is a metaphysical one concerning epistemology, not
an epistemological question about metaphysics.
The question then is: "What is the metaphysics of perception?" Now
you can reject this entirely, but if you don't then you will end up doing
metaphysics of epistemology (the phrase is Sellars's). Descartes lives
in the heart and souls of many meta-epistemologists. Descartes looked
for some mark of certainty. This was the general approach: find
something about true propositions that carries the "mark" of truth. The
argument moves towards "criteria" or some "criterion." Similarly in
debates over truth. Those who took the linguistic turn found the "mark"
of truth in a meta-linguistic concept, a semantic concept, a concept
which is language relative. But I reject these approaches. I side with
philosophers who say that epistemology is about knowledge and
knowledge is, properly, viewes as a relationship between mind and
the world. "Ascertaining" the "truth" of metaphysical sentences is a
side issue, just as ascertaining what constitutes the logical form
of a scientific explanation is an important side issue in philosophy
of science. A metaphysical issue in philosophy of science would be
something like whether causation can be treated in terms of laws,
say using either inductive statistical or deductive nomological forms
of explanation. There is no empirical determination of the outcome
of these issues. Whether, for example, causation is singular or a
matter treated within the compass of regularity views will not be decided
on an evidential basis, nor is it a pseudo-question.
I am not dismissing meta-epistemology or the need for models of
explanation in science; I am saying that epistemology will not resolve
metaphysical questions, once you admit their legitimacy. I don't want
to move any closer to pragmatism than I am now, but there are what
in economics called "decision variables." You can codify interesting
"laws" in macroeconomics but when you introduce a variable like
'interest rate' then you introduce something that suggests that
characterizations of laws in terms of truth must be carefully constructed.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Bruce Aune" <aune at philos.umass.edu>
To: Baynesr at comcast.net
Cc: hist-analytic at simplelists.com
Sent: Sunday, August 23, 2009 6:24:37 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Re: Carnap on Philosophy
I wonder if Steve would answer a question I put to him weeks ago:
How, by what method or procedure, are true metaphysical propositions
ascertained? What shows them to be true?
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