Must Empiricism Be a Stance, and Could it Be One? How to Be an Empiricist and a Philosopher at the Same Time

Anja Jauernig

in Images of Empiricism

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780199218844
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191711732 | DOI:

Series: Mind Association Occasional Series

 Must Empiricism Be a Stance, and Could it Be One? How to Be an Empiricist and a Philosopher at the Same Time

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This chapter begins by examining van Fraassen's claims that being an empiricist cannot amount to believing a central empiricist dogma (‘naïve empiricism’), but should be understood as consisting in taking the empiricist/empirical stance (‘stance empiricism’). It argues that not all versions of naïve empiricism run into the problems identified by van Fraassen, and that the stance empiricist is in at least as bad a position as the naïve or dogmatic empiricist with respect to the task of providing a ‘ radical critique of metaphysics’, which, according to van Fraassen, is one of the central desiderata for any empiricist position. That is, contrary to what van Fraassen claims, one is not forced to renounce naïve empiricism as a conception of what empiricism is, or could be, and replacing naïve empiricism by stance empiricism does not promise any advantage with respect to the required radical critique of metaphysics. But even if van Fraassen's more specific arguments fail, his proposal that empiricism in particular, and philosophical positions in general, should be understood as stances rather than dogmata merits attention and close scrutiny. Finally, the chapter takes a closer look at the question of whether a philosophical position can possibly consist in a stance, that is, of whether a stance can satisfy the conditions and serve the functions that we expect a philosophical position to satisfy and serve. The answer appears to be that stances cannot fulfill these expectations.

Keywords: naïve empiricism; The Empirical Stance; Bas van Fraassen; value judgements; philosophical positions; stances

Chapter.  22028 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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