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Preprint: “Reichenbach, Russell, and Scientific Realism”

See here for a preprint of this article, which is scheduled to appear in a Synthese special issue “All Things Reichenbach”, edited by Flavia Padovani and Erik Curiel.

Abstract: This paper considers how to best relate the competing accounts of scientific knowledge that Russell and Reichenbach proposed in the 1930s and 1940s. At the heart of their disagreements are two different accounts of how to best combine a theory of knowledge with scientific realism. Reichenbach argued that a broadly empiricist epistemology should be based on decisions. These decisions or “posits” informed Reichenbach’s defense of induction and a corresponding conception of what knowledge required. Russell maintained that a scientific realist must abandon empiricism in favor of knowledge of some non-demonstrative principles with a non-empirical basis. After identifying the best versions of realism offered by Reichenbach and Russell, the paper concludes with a brief discussion of the limitations of these two approaches.

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Preprint: “A Defense of Truth as a Necessary Condition on Scientific Explanation”

See here for a preprint of my forthcoming article “A Defense of Truth as a Necessary Condition on Scientific Explanation”, Erkenntnis.

Abstract: How can a reflective scientist put forward an explanation using a model when they are aware that many of the assumptions used to specify that model are false? This paper addresses this challenge by making two substantial assumptions about explanatory practice. First, many of the propositions deployed in the course of explaining have a non-representational function. In particular, a proposition that a scientist uses and also believes to be false, i.e. an “idealization”, typically has some non-representational function in the practice, such as the interpretation of some model or the specification of the target of the explanation. Second, when an agent puts forward an explanation using a model, they usually aim to remain agnostic about various features of the phenomenon being explained. In this sense, explanations are intended to be autonomous from many of the more fundamental features of such systems. I support these two assumptions by showing how they allow one to address a number of recent concerns raised by Bokulich, Potochnik and Rice. In addition, these assumptions lead to a defense of the view that explanations are wholly true that improves on the accounts developed by Craver, Mäki and Strevens.

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Working draft of “Russell and Logical Empiricism”

See here for a working draft of my paper, “Russell and Logical Empiricism”. This paper has been written for the Oxford Handbook to Bertrand Russell, edited by Kevin Klement. I aim to discuss how Russell’s own epistemology and metaphysics were shaped through his philosophical interactions with Schlick, Neurath, Carnap and Reichenbach. 

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Preprint of “Concrete models” paper

My paper “Concrete Scale Models, Essential Idealization, and Causal Explanation” is now available through Advance Access at the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. Here is the abstract of the paper:

This paper defends three claims about concrete or physical models: (i) these models remain important in science and engineering, (ii) they are often essentially idealized, in a sense to be made precise, and (iii) despite these essential idealizations, some of these models may be reliably used for the purpose of causal explanation. This discussion of concrete models is pursued using a detailed case study of some recent models of landslide generated impulse waves. Practitioners show a clear awareness of the idealized character of these models, and yet address these concerns through a number of methods. This paper focuses on experimental arguments that show how certain failures to accurately represent feature X are consistent with accurately representing some causes of featureY, even when X is causally relevant to Y. To analyse these arguments, the claims generated by a model must be carefully examined and grouped into types. Only some of these types can be endorsed by practitioners, but I argue that these endorsed claims are sufficient for limited forms of causal explanation.

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Review of volume 1 of Carnap’s Collected Works

See here for a preprint of my review of the first volume of Carnap’s Collected Works, which covers Carnap’s publications up through 1926.

For more information on the Collected Works project, see here and here

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Welcome

This blog will provide updates and commentary on my research and related topics in the philosophy of science.