PHIL 203: WEEK 2
Wittgenstein said the only things we can actually talk about are our thoughts/statements
made. This is because every time you talk about something, you are skewing it, so you
are not experiencing what it really is, but your personal bias interpretation of it.
The Vienna Circle thought this was a really prominent idea.
They said: Stop Metaphysical Enquiry. “Metaphysical statements are nonsense”. It means
Wittgenstein says the only thing you can meaningfully read into is language.
Popper: HIS METHOD OF VERIFICATION
Analytic a priori (is ok)
Synthetic (Absolutely must be a test to verify it is true)
Ex. God exists. – What test could we possibly perform to verify that? No test.
Popper did not defend the verification. He really did not like Vitkensteign.
Popper became known as the official opposition to the Vienna Circle.
If P, then Q = Not Q then not P
Therefore not Q
Ex. If you pass the exam, you pass the course. You don’t pass the exam. You don’t pass
Reverse = If you don’t pass the course, you don’t pass the exam. (DEDUCTION).
All theories are tentative.
You can never confirm anything.
You can only disconfirm repeatedly.
Blog Topic: Do you agree with Popper (and Hume) that it is not possible to infer from observation
I agree. Observation is subjective because you are using your own set of senses, which
are unique and one of a kind.
To infer, would be to create an objective truth, or reality. By classifying a fact as
universally correct and undeniably repeated, you are assuming that your subjective
observations are the exact same as everyone else’s, which of course is not the case.
It would be impossible to have both: an objective truth, and infer facts from personal
To infer is to create a universal statement. Which would be objective.
A statement like “all birds have wings” would be fallacious, as there is always a
possibility that a bird you have not seen, does not. You can say, for example, most birds
have wings. Even so, you can only say this if you’re certain that you’ve observed more
birds than not, and that your senses have not failed you in this observation.
The world is not full of standards; it is full of abnormalities, accidents, and most of all it
is constantly changing.
In order to infer, the information would need to be constant (which would not be
possible), and therefore the information would have to be constantly updated. Who could
possibly decide how often the facts we believe to be true need to be updated? I doubt it
would even be possible to observe as fast as the rate of change.
But, if you don’t infer, you can’t deduce, so then what would reality be?
To answer that rhetorical question, (pun intended), reality cannot be determined through
induction nor deduction, which cannot provide us with an objective truth. This is because
both rely on subjective observations. Which brings me to my conclusion, that our best
hope is to strive for a subjective reality, which cannot be accomplished through objective
The Vienna Corcle said that you can’t talk about anything becaused your own thoughts
because reality is so incredibly subjective. Popper didn’t support this nothing. He
believed in observation and deduction. I do not believe in induction, therefore I am
agreeding with the argument by the Vienna Circle, but I am also agreeing with the
conclusion Popper has made. Does the Vienna Circle believe in induction? If so, how do
they explain their reasoning? Both Popper and the Vienna Circle are analytic (true by definition) -> NOT BY
Do you agree with Popper (and Hume) that it is not possible to infer from observation
Induction = synthetic a posteriori; induction relies on inference
Do you agree with Popper (and Hume) that it is not possible to infer from observation
Inference = synthetic – go into the world and look (use your senses).
Vienna Circle says – You can only talk about your thoughts.
Popper thinks this is going too far.
I agree with the Circle. Your reality is based on your thoughts. Matter and your thoughts
are both changing at different speeds and cannot clash the same all the way through.
Popper supports deduction: Modus Ponens, but he does not support synthetic observation.
You can infer definitions – which are objective.
Hume bashed induction: viscious circle of induction explaining an induction. Nature is
not uniform. Popper agreed with Hume.
BACK TO NOTES…
The more vague the statement, the less chance it has of being falsified.
Ad Hoc Addition:
Adding something to a theory that cannot be tested. This is bad.
A theory is falsifiable if and only if after the theory for any synthetic statement it is either
consistent with the theory, or it contradicts it. If everything is consistent in it, it is not
falsifiable. Then it cannot be a scientific theory. PHIL 203: WEEK 3
Popper agrees with Hume about induction and one step further to say a new method
is needed – deduction cannot prove a theory
Principle – More falsifiable theory is better, cannot question/falsify a theory in its
entirety at one time, Quine’s web like theories
- theory laden of observation
- lack of theory to make observations in fledging theories
- cannot test a fledgling theory
- N – Newton Mechanics, I – given circumstance, P – the planet
- N+I = P so, N+I if P then P = N+I
|Ways to falsify will all be taken
Comes to a point where the specific theory becomes falsified and we have to change
We want to avoid dogmatism
Ad hov – cannot be tested PHIL 203: WEEK 4
(You, yourself are unable to observe anything in a purely objective way).
Naïve view of observation: it is public aka we can all see it, therefore the naïve
observer thinks that seeing through the senses is theory-free.
Observations are influenced by:
1- Basic beliefs (what exists in the world)
2- We often make our observations using tools
3- Observation statements must be made in the language of some theory
Objective means not influenced by your subjective states. PHIL 203: WEEK 5
- Myth of pure observation
- There is no such thing as theory-free observation
The scientists’ subjective interests DO NOT affect the observations. He talks about
subjective (interests, preferences, tastes) vs. judgmental values (conceptual
framework through the lenses we’ve made). (Our paradigm)
*Paradigm and Conceptual Framework are synonyms
Our beliefs affect what we see. These are not preferences. Ex. The duck/rabbit
picture: if you’ve never seen a duck before, you will never see it in this picture.
Synthetic: New things we learn through observation; ex. The grass is green.
Ideas of Relativism and Realism:
(Kuhn was charged with relativism.)
Ex. It’s true for you, but not for me.
From this follows that people could never have a false belief.
It is self-defeating.
We lose the concept of truth, and reduce it to the concept of belief.
(The view in the textbook is a relativistic position).
Example of a relativistic view:
Scientific views are true or refer only in the context of a framework or paradigm.
You might say: As long as all of my experiences do not seem crazy relative to “my
cloud” then it’s okay. The idea of jumping clouds (and beliefs) develops. BUT: the
thing grounding clouds to the world is “description” (developed by the positivists),
and this is not thought to be a strong enough anchor. A better anchor would be
“causal” (this was developed by the Vienna Circle). They were anti-realists about unobservable entities (ex. protons, electrons, etc). They said it’s not non-sense to
talk about them, as talking about ethics would be.
Scientific Realist: There are framework-independent scientific facts
Scientific Relativism: There are no framework-independent scientific facts
The idea of “Natural Kinds”:
The realist has to believe in natural kinds.
The way that nature is carved at it’s joints. It is something that pertains directly to
nature. It is not tampered with humans. An example is chemicals.
There are two versions of relativism:
1. Realist Relativism
There are framework-dependant scientific facts
We can still aspire to objectivity
This is the view of the textbook
Constructivism in SSK
2. Anti-Realist Relativism
There are no framework-dependant scientific facts
Distinctions in Objectivity:
1. Realist Objectivity
2. Relativist (realist relativism)
Atomistic Model of the Knower (crucial for the realist)
- Individual people are in a causal relationship with the world
- Idiosyncratic features any individual has: community, social position, gender,
etc has no bearing on the causal relationship and will not influence the
knowledge they get in any way - We all know things in roughly the same way (the individual knower is
What justifies the atomistic model of the knower? - The objectivist view of
Scientific theories describe the way the world really is. How do they do this? They
do this through correspondence. This is why the correspondence theory of truth is
so important. They are also committed not just to the observable elements, but the
unobservable as well. Their defense=unobservable become observables when our
tools improve. Unobservable ex. = Gravity; you infer it.
Scientific theories do not determine metaphysical properties or entities. Sometimes
they accept the observable, but not the unobservable. You’ve kind of given up on
truth in a way. How do we evaluate theories? Replace truth with the notion of
utility; the best theories are not the ones that are most true, but rather the ones that
are most useful – allow us to explain, get along in the world, etc.
Correspondence Theory of Truth (important for the scientific realist):
The correspondence theory of truth states that the truth or falsity of a statement
is determined only by how it relates to the world and whether it accurately
describes (i.e., corresponds with) that world. The theory is opposed to the
coherence theory of truth which holds that the truth or falsity of a statement is
determined by its relations to other statements rather than its relation to the world.
A proposition is true if and only if it depicts a state of affairs that really exists in the
world. Ex. the cat is on the map. A problem = the liar’s paradox. Ex. This sentence is
false. Suppose the sentence is true…THEN IT IS FALSE. Suppose it’s false…THEN IT’S
TRUE. To avoid this problem one must separate our object language (use to talk
about the world, ex. If P then Q, ex. It is raining. ) And Meta language (you talk about
the sentences themselves, ex. “If P then Q” - That is a conditional, ex. “It is raining” –
is a three-word sentence).
Problem: Statements are not correspondent. Ex. the king of France is bald. There is
no king of France. Therefore is this statement true or false? Problem: Scientific theories. They are general propositions about ideal conditions
that never obtain in the real world. In what sense do these statements correspond to
the world when the world never gives us a specific example of it?
Miracle Argument: (Hume supports it too)
Realism is the only philosophy that doesn’t make the success of science a miracle.
Modus Tolens Argument: If the theories of science were not true, their success
would be miraculous. There are no miracles. Therefore, the theories must be true.
(This is a basic realist argument).
When we can uncover the exact same thing through different ways.
REBUT from the anti-realist: Don’t forget…your experiments are rigged because you
are developing tools to prove your hypothesis. Your tool is set up to do something,
and it does, it doesn’t prove anything about what is really out there.
Under determination Argument:
This is an anti-realist argument. Ex. For any set of data there are empirically
equivalent rival theories that explain the data equally but make different hypothesis
about the unobservable. They are saying that you cannot make ontological beliefs
based on these claims. You cannot “suppose”, meanwhile the realist would.
*The anti-realists have history on their side. We have been wrong in the past, how
do we know we are right now? The standard realist response is: The unobservable
becomes observable over time, and empirical evidence is not the only factor. The
anti-realist agree this is true, however…the realist will choose the simpler theory
and the anti-realist will question why the simpler theory is chosen to explain reality,
and whether this is the best option. Reality is not necessarily simple.
BLOG: On a scientific realist view whether or not a proposition represents whether
something is true or not about the world is independent to what they believe. Ex.
Geeks are smarter than jocks; does it represent something true about the world,
independent from what they believe? Why or why not? PHIL 203: WEEK 6
SOCIAL CONSTRUCTIVISM & FEMINIST THEORIES
Philosophical view: Objectivity is Possible
Scientific Realists: (We won’t be looking at this view)
- Social factors are not relevant
- Believe in Natural Kinds
- There is one correct description of reality
Scientific Anti-Realists: (We won’t spend much time on this view)
- They are not actually disagreeing with the realists in that many ways
Other Anti-Realists: (We’ll mainly focus on this view)
- They are not hyper-conservative
- Liberal metaphysically
- Weak social constructivists: 1. Strong Programme, 2. Feminist Empiricism
- Do not believe in Natural Kinds
- Support Social Constructivism
Non-Philosophical View: No Objectivity is Possible (We won’t be looking at this
- Strong Social Constructivism
- (Usually found in sociology departments)
- In this view, what constitutes ontology is a consensus idea about something
- These people are realists in all entities in scientific theory, but in a really
different way: Only in the sense that they are social constructs
- “Anti-Scientific Realists”
Social Constructivism: Social Factors are relevant. The belief exists that science
and technology are social. Scientific change is an activity; it is not static. If something cannot be ignored or wished away, it is real for a social constructivist. We construct
social realities. If something has causal powers, it is real. A construct is a
generalization on the basis of a bunch of observations and other things.
Laboratory Environment: A laboratory is a very un-natural place. You create a
highly artificial environment. Things are created like genetically modified animals,
equipment and situations which you would never find in the real world. Almost
never scientists actually study nature, but rather this scientific constructed object.
Material and Social Environments: These are constructed. Our government will
not take on any big project if it’s not supported by some group of scientists, and we
don’t usually have access to that information. Technological advances construct our
Scientific Ideas: These are constructed. These depend on funding, which brings
about interest from scientists, which results in media, bringing the general public to
talk about it, and finally the funding boards in Universities to fund the area further.
Construction of Nature: It is a very radical position: the view that it is agreement
that makes something true. They call it Neo-Kantian. (He never said anything like
this, but it stems from the phenomenal-nominal distinction).
Strong Programme: Founded by philosophers in Scotland around the time the
Feminist Empiricism was happening. It arose in opposition to the feminist (sort of).
In the feminist view, there is a strong tendency to pick on scientific theories that
were examples of bad science where things went wrong. Bias, sexist wrongs, etc. If
objectivity is the goal, we should investigate all scientific claims and preserve
judgment whether we think they’re good or bad.
Four tenets for the sociology of scientific knowledge:
1. It would be causal, which is, concerned with the conditions that bring about
belief or states of knowledge…
2. It would be impartial with respect to truth and falsity