(Keynotes 2015)

Barry Smith Metaphysics After Darwin

Listen to the keynote on YouTube.

There is a continuous line of development which leads from the metaphysics of Aristotle to the biological classifications of Linnaeus. This line, on one common conception, was broken by the work of Darwin, who showed how Aristotelian realism and the metaphysics based thereon were no longer tenable. I will challenge this common conception, and argue that — precisely as a result of Darwin’s work — we are today living in a golden age of Aristotelian classification. I will conclude by drawing out the implications of this argument for our understanding of the relations between philosophy and science.

Alan Richardson Disillusionment, Inconvenience, and Scientific Philosophy: Logical Empiricism and Philosophical Modernism

This paper reports on a late stage of the development of scientific philosophy–logical empiricism in its European phase.  The paper seeks to approach the vexed question of the “political” or “social” project of logical empiricism by dissociating it from grand transhistorical narratives of Enlightenment and placing it firmly into a philosophical modernism deeply informed by Weber’s views of science and its social value.

Dale Jacquette Brentano and the Ambiguities of Scientific Philosophy

Franz Brentano proposes to make philosophy scientific.  But in what exact sense?  Empiricism is not monolithic, and there are different empiricist ideologies as well as styles of prioritizing experience and perception in philosophy, especially in epistemology and metaphysics.  Brentano understands his work in philosophical psychology as scientific in the sense that it is experience-grounded in its epistemology, philosophical methodology and metaphysics.  Brentano’s concept of scientific philosophy is nevertheless at odds with competing positivistic paradigms in the philosophy of science that were also beginning to gather momentum at roughly the same time, that exclude precisely the inner perception (innere Wahrnehmung) that Brentano develops from Aristotle’s De anima, and on which he relies for the phenomenological ‘observation’ of states of mind that are meant to make his philosophical psychology empirical and by that standard scientific.  Whether Brentano’s contributions to philosophy are actually scientific depends essentially on whether the experiential evidence on which science builds can include or must exclude Brentano’s faculty of inner perception as non-public, subjective, private, unverifiable, and by that contrary criterion unscientific.  Brentano’s philosophy, at the forefront of opposition to prevailing philosophical trends in the later nineteenth century, is properly scientific only if Brentano’s phenomenological or descriptive psychological consideration of the structures and contents of thoughts is properly scientific.  Which is to say, only if the category of inner perception is not a misnomer, but a genuine mode of perception in a scientifically respectable sense of empirical observation, of which it makes sense to speak as experiential.  This is a perennial problem for science, philosophy, and scientific philosophy that conspicuously arises in Brentano’s philosophical psychology.  Brentano at different times tries to follow empiricism in two historically important but ideologically incompatible metaphysics, (naïve realist) Aristotelian and (idealist) British Enlightenment empiricisms, highlighting another crucial ambiguity in the possibilities for exact interpretation of his philosophy as scientific.