Rationalism v empiricism from where does knowledge come
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Rationalism –v- Empiricism From where does knowledge come?. MRes Philosophy of Knowledge (slides available at http:// cfpm.org/mres ). Introduction to the PoK Module. How are you going to demonstrate that you have contributed to what we know in your PhD Thesis?.

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Rationalism v empiricism from where does knowledge come

Rationalism –v- EmpiricismFrom where does knowledge come?

MRes Philosophy of Knowledge(slides available at http://cfpm.org/mres)


Introduction to the pok module

Introduction to the PoK Module

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-2


How are you going to demonstrate that you have contributed to what we know in your phd thesis

How are yougoing to demonstrate that you have contributedto what we knowin your PhD Thesis?

  • Obtaining knowledge about social phenomena is your jobas a Doctoral Student (your contribution to knowledge)…

  • But obtaining knowledge about social phenomena is very VERY hard…

  • …and we still do not fully understand what kind of knowledge we can have of this…

  • …under what circumstances and even…

  • …if this kind can be useful to anyone else.

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Epistemology, Day 2 – seesion 1, http://cfpm.org/mres slide-3


How philosophy might help you

How philosophy might help you

  • It will not tell you what knowledge IS…

  • …nor, indeed, how to get it!

  • But it will…

    • Inform you about what others have thought about these problems (give you ways of thinking about knowledge)

    • Make you aware of some of the difficulties and assumptions behind knowledge

    • It will prepare you for some of the questions and debates that you will face (give you a feel for the academic ‘lanscape’ you inhabit

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Epistemology, Day 2 – seesion 1, http://cfpm.org/mres slide-4


The end product

The End Product…

  • Is that section of your Thesis which explains/defends your approach to knowledge

  • Your assignment is to write the first draft of this section

  • It will be full of guesses and tentative choices, and you will (I hope) change your mind a few times before you finish…

  • But this part of the MRes is to start you on this journey

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Epistemology, Day 2 – seesion 1, http://cfpm.org/mres slide-5


This is hard

This is HARD

  • You can not do this using ‘surface’ methods…

  • …you will have to think things out for yourself, questioning what you are told and writing from the understanding you have gained

  • If you hand in an assignment which is essentially just ‘regurgitating’ bits of text you have read, without questioning them or sorting them out in your own mind

  • I will fail you

  • But, if you have started to think things out for yourself, have done some reading, show some knowledge then…

  • You will pass, even if your arguments are wrong, or naïve, or tentative or partial

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Epistemology, Day 2 – seesion 1, http://cfpm.org/mres slide-6


How to do this

How to do this

  • Don’t worry if you don’t understand at first, if it all seems complex and gobbledegook(a lot is!)

  • Come to ALL the philosophy of knowledge sessions and actively participate

  • Read papers in your field that touch on philosophy and approach, as well as the set books

    • Read a bit, think, discuss it with someone, think, read it again or some more, think…

  • Question (in your /out loud) what you are told

  • Try to be precise, clear and honest as possible in your own thoughts/arguments

  • Come and discuss your thoughts/worries/plans concerning your assignment with me

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Epistemology, Day 2 – seesion 1, http://cfpm.org/mres slide-7


A review of some key terms

A Review of Some Key Terms

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-8


Deduction

Deduction

  • An activity – something one does

  • Generally what happens in an argument

  • Can be statistical, logical, mathematical, computational, linguistic

  • Finding the necessary consequences of other propositions

  • An analytic “unfolding” or “working out” of what is already known

  • Produces a new form of old knowledge

  • If we know A and AB we can deduce B

  • Can be pretty watertight – true by its nature

  • e.g. Working out that not everybody voted

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-9


Induction

Induction

  • Another activity – something one does

  • Usually spotting patterns or facts from observations or data

  • In other words something is learned

  • Finding generalisations from evidence

  • Results in newknowledge

  • S1 was W, S2 was W, S3 was W, …. All Si are W

  • Obviously fallible, i.e. it could be wrong

  • e.g. Discovering that racism is increasing

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-10


The necessary contingent distinction

The necessary– contingent distinction

  • Necessary truths

    • Statements that have to be true

    • For some reason it is not possible that they could be false

    • e.g. Sentient beings exist

  • Contingent truths

    • Statements that just happen to be true

    • If things were different they might not have been true

    • E.g. The UK has a Reigning monarch

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-11


The analytic synthetic distinction

The analytic– synthetic distinction

  • Analytic truths

    • True by definition or deduction

    • Are necessary

    • Abound in mathematics or logic

    • e.g. All bachelors are unmarried

  • Synthetic truths

    • True of the world

    • Are contingent

    • Abound in natural sciences

    • e.g. The Earth orbits the Sun

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-12


The a priori a posterior distinction

The a priori – a posterior distinction

  • a priori knowledge

    • What one knows before taking into account observations or evidence

    • May include necessary/analytic truths, assumptions, given facts, etc.

  • a postioriknowledge

    • What one knows aftertaking into account observations and evidence

    • May include laws and explanations of natural or social phenomena

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-13


The context of discovery context of justification distinction

The context of discovery – context of justification distinction

  • The context of discovery:

    • The situation/context where an item of knowledge is discovered or hypothesised

    • When and how knowledge is learnt

  • The context of justification:

    • The situation/context where the knowledge is justified, established or verified

    • When and how knowledge is established as reliable

      e.g. Fleming discovered penicillin when he accidentally let a culture be contaminated by mould but … it was justified as knowledge as the result of further experiment and observation by many

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-14


The idea of causation

The Idea of Causation

One event (A) causes another (B) if

  • B always follows A

  • A is necessary to B occurring

  • And (generally) there is some mechanism connecting A to B

    E.g Does smoking cause Cancer

Event A

Event B

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-15


Exercise thinking of some examples

Exercise:thinking of some examples

  • A deduction

  • An induction

  • A necessary truth

  • A contingent truth

  • An analytic truth

  • A synthetic truth

  • Causation

  • A priori knowledge

  • A postiori knowledge

  • A context of discovery for some knowledge

  • A context of justification for some knowledge

With someone else think of an example of the following (one we have not mentioned yet):

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Epistemology, Day 2 – seesion 1, http://cfpm.org/mres slide-16


The rationalist empiricist debate

The Rationalist/Empiricist Debate

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-17


Descartes two ways to truth from the general to the particular

General Principles

Reason

Specific Truths

Contingent facts and observations

Descartes’Two Ways to Truth:from the general to the particular

“There are and can be only two ways of searching into and discovering truth. The one flies from the senses and particulars to the most general axioms, and from these principles, the truth of which it takes for settled and immovable, proceeds to judgement and the discovery of middle axioms. And this way is now in fashion. …

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-18


Descartes two ways to truth from the particular to the general

Reason

Contingent facts and observations

Specific Truths

General Principles

etc…

Specific Truths

Contingent facts and observations

Descartes’Two Ways to Truth:from the particular to the general

…The other derives axioms from the senses and particulars, rising by a gradual and unbroken ascent, so that it arrives at the most general axioms last of all. This is the true way, but as yet untried."

Francis Bacon (1620), First Book of Aphorisms

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-19


Rationalism

Rationalism

  • A Philosophical position – something one believes – about where knowledge comes from

  • Knowledge arises from reasoning

  • Is the position that the way to knowledge is from the general to the particular

  • Requires some general a prioritruths which it views as necessary (usually)

  • Characterised by deduction

  • The general principles gives meaning to the observations by relating them

  • E.g. Descartes’“I think therefore I am”

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-20


Empiricism

Empiricism

  • A Philosophical position – something one believes – about where knowledge comes from

  • Knowledge arises from observation

  • Is the position that the way to knowledge is from the particular to the general

  • Requires some particular a posteriortruths (perceptions) which are contingent

  • Characterised by induction

  • The general principles arise from the process of relating observations

  • E.g. Galileo’s “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them”

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-21


A brief account of some of the arguments

A brief account of some of the arguments

Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-22


Recap of induction

Recap of Induction

Supposed structure:

  • The 1st swan is white

  • The 2nd swan is white

  • … etc.

  • Therefore all swans are white

  • Relies on there being observable patterns

  • Produces (fallible) generalisations

  • A source for hypotheses and theories

  • A natural thing to do

  • Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-23


    The problem of induction

    The Problem of Induction

    • HumeA Treatise Concerning Human Understanding

    • Although one does repeatedly observe a particular conjunction (or sequence) of events…

    • …this never guarantees that this will always be the case.

    • Thus there are no causal laws

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-24


    Some difficult questions about induction

    Some difficult questions about induction

    • What are these facts?

      • Are they states of the world?

      • Are they statements in language?

      • Are they something else (propositions)?

    • How do we select these facts?

    • Why did we look for these facts?

    • What conceptual framework did we use to construct our generalisations about them?

    • What background assumptions are there common to all these facts?

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-25


    Popper s falsificationism

    Popper’s Falsificationism

    • Induction never proves anything

    • Hypotheses can only be disproved by observing a counter-example (a black swan)

    • We rely on hypotheses more as they survive attempts to disprove them

    • If there is constant innovation of hypotheses and attempts to disprove them then knowledge will progress

    • Hypotheses that are not amenable to being falsified (unfalsifiable hypotheses) are dubious

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-26


    Comments on popper s falsificationism

    Comments on Popper’s Falsificationism

    • History of science does not fully support it (e.g. Michelson-Morley experiment)

    • How does one know whether the counter-example shows the main hypothesis is wrong or merely an auxiliary assumption?

    • Marks a switch from the context of discovery to the context of justification

    • Results in an evolutionary picture of the development of knowledge (evolutionary epistemology)

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-27


    Lakatos core and protective belt

    Lakatos’Core and Protective Belt

    • Research programs as key entities

      • These have a core of fundamental frameworks, methods and assumptions that characterises them

      • And a belt of less fundamental hypotheses, observations, techniques

    • In the face of counter-examples research programs change things in the belt and preserve the core

    • Some programs are more successful than others (the “degenerate programs”)

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-28


    Exercise considering programmes

    Exercise: considering programmes

    For your own field/area of work decide:

    • What key deductive techniques does it use/rely upon (are there any not used)?

    • What key inductive techniques does it use/rely upon (are there any not used)?

    • Do these tend to be used in any particular order, if so what order?

    • What are the core assumptions/tenants of your field (i.e. if you don’t hold to them you do not really belong in this field)?

    • Are claims effectively falsifiable, if so how?

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Epistemology, Day 2 – seesion 1, http://cfpm.org/mres slide-29


    In the social sciences

    In the Social Sciences

    • One is usually dealing with meaningful behaviour

    • Meaning is (almost always) an a priori given but not always agreed upon

    • The context (or scope) of the induction or falsification is of great importance

    • Falsification is difficult since it is easy to adjust the belt to protect any hypotheses

    • Coherency with other thought often as important (to academics) as evidence

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-30


    Summary of session

    Summary of Session

    • Both reason and evidence are needed for good generalisations about the world

    • But how these are combined is important

    • When and how to use/mix induction and deduction is still a big issue in all fields

    • Care and awareness are needed with any a priori assumptions and frameworks…

    • …although ultimately these are unavoidable

    • A key decisions is what to do if some evidence seems to conflict with a hypothesis

    Rationalism –v- Empiricism. MMUBS Mres Philosophy of Knowledge http://cfpm.org/mres slide-31


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