[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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