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Formal Philosophy-37

Allard Tamminga (University of Groningen) gave a talk called «Katz’s Revisability Paradox Dissolved».

Abstract: 
Quine's holistic empiricist account of scientific inquiry can be characterized by three constitutive principles: noncontradiction, universal revisability and pragmatic ordering. We show that these constitutive principles cannot be regarded as statements within a holistic empiricist's scientific theory of the world. This claim is a corollary of our refutation of Katz's [1998, 2002] argument that holistic empiricism suffers from what he calls the Revisability Paradox. According to Katz, Quine's empiricism is incoherent because its constitutive principles cannot themselves be rationally revised. Using Gärdenfors and Makinson's logic of belief revision based on epistemic entrenchment, we argue that Katz wrongly assumes that the constitutive principles are statements within a holistic empiricist's theory of the world. Instead, we show that constitutive principles are best seen as properties of a holistic empiricist's theory of scientific inquiry and we submit that, without Katz's mistaken assumption, the paradox cannot be formulated. We argue that our perspective on the status of constitutive principles is perfectly in line with Quinean orthodoxy. In conclusion, we compare our findings with van Fraassen's [2002] argument that we should think of empiricism as a stance, rather than as a doctrine.

  • Alchourrón C. E., Gärdenfors P., Makinson  D.  On the Logic of Theory Change: Partial Meet Functions for Contraction and Revision // Journal of Symbolic Logic. 1985. Vol. 50, №2. P. 510–530.
  • van Fraassen B. The Empirical Stance. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.
  • Katz J. J. Realistic Rationalism. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 1998.
  • Katz J. J. 2002. Mathematics and Metaphilosophy //  Journal of Philosophy. 2002. Vol 99, №7. P. 362–390. 
  • Tamminga A., Verhaegh S. Katz’s Revisability Paradox Dissolved // Australasian Journal of Philosophy. 2013. Vol. 91, № 4. P. 771–784.