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Scientific perspectivism and its foes

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In this paper I discuss Ron Giere’s scientific perspectivism (2006) and a recent challenge raised by Anjan Chakravartty (SHPS 41, 2010). Scientific perspectivism is meant to be a middle ground between what Giere calls ‘objectivist realism’ and ‘relativism’, but – as foes have noted – the position seems trapped between two strictures. It either (1) collapses into another variant of relativism, or (2) it is not worth pursuing since perspectival knowledge is ultimately reducible to non-perspectival knowledge of objects’ dispositions.

I tackle objection (2), and show that perspectivism is worth pursing after all. Perspectival knowledge does not reduce to knowledge of non-perspectival, dispositional facts about the target system, if we interpret ‘reduce’ in the philosophically interesting, epistemic sense of how we come to know those facts. I draw on Ernest Sosa’s perspectival coherentism to illustrate this point against dispositional realists.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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