•  569
    Laws and Symmetry
    Oxford University Press. 1989.
    Metaphysicians speak of laws of nature in terms of necessity and universality; scientists, in terms of symmetry and invariance. In this book van Fraassen argues that no metaphysical account of laws can succeed. He analyzes and rejects the arguments that there are laws of nature, or that we must believe there are, and argues that we should disregard the idea of law as an adequate clue to science. After exploring what this means for general epistemology, the author develops the empiricist view of …Read more
  •  500
    Structure: Its shadow and substance
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57 (2): 275-307. 2006.
    Structural realism as developed by John Worrall and others can claim philosophical roots as far back as the late 19th century, though the discussion at that time does not unambiguously favor the contemporary form, or even its realism. After a critical examination of some aspects of the historical background some severe critical challenges to both Worrall's and Ladyman's versions are highlighted, and an alternative empiricist structuralism proposed. Support for this empiricist version is provided…Read more
  •  390
    The False Hopes of Traditional Epistemology
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (2). 2000.
    After Hume, attempts to forge an empiricist epistemology have taken three forms, which I shall call the First, Middle, and Third Way. The First still attempts an a priori demonstration that our cognitive methods satisfy some criterion of adequacy. The Middle Way is pursued under the banners of naturalism and scientific realism, and aims at the same conclusion on non-apriori grounds. After arguing that both fail, I shall describe the general characteristics of the Third Way, an alternative episte…Read more
  •  359
    To save the phenomena
    Journal of Philosophy 73 (18): 623-632. 1976.
  •  351
    On McMullin’s Appreciation of Realism Concerning the Sciences
    Philosophy of Science 70 (3): 479-492. 2003.
    Constructive empiricism is indeed set squarely within a common sense realism that was foreign to much of the empiricist tradition. But I do not see this common sense realism, which I take myself to share with many scientific realists, as harboring or leading to scientific realism. That is in part because of the way I separate the opposition between empiricist and realist understanding of science from other issues that divide us in epistemology. This discussion brought to light our quite differen…Read more
  •  332
    Constructive Empiricism Now
    Philosophical Studies 106 (1): 151-170. 2001.
    Constructive empiricism, the view introduced in The Scientific Image, is a view of science, an answer to the question "what is science?" Arthur Fine's and Paul Teller's contributions to this symposium challenge especially two key ideas required to formulate that view, namely the observable/unobservable and acceptance/belief distinctions. I wish to thank them not only for their insightful critique but also for the support they include. For they illuminate and counter some misunderstandings of Con…Read more
  •  318
    Conditionalization, a new argument for
    Topoi 18 (2): 93-96. 1999.
    Probabilism in epistemology does not have to be of the Bayesian variety. The probabilist represents a person''s opinion as a probability function; the Bayesian adds that rational change of opinion must take the form of conditionalizing on new evidence. I will argue that this is the correct procedure under certain special conditions. Those special conditions are important, and instantiated for example in scientific experimentation, but hardly universal. My argument will be related to the much mal…Read more
  •  296
    Representation: The problem for structuralism
    Philosophy of Science 73 (5): 536-547. 2006.
    What does it mean to embed the phenomena in an abstract structure? Or to represent them by doing so? The semantic view of theories runs into a severe problem if these notions are construed either naively, in a metaphysical way, or too closely on the pattern of the earlier syntactic view. Constructive empiricism and structural realism will then share those difficulties. The problem will be posed as in Reichenbach's The Theory of Relativity and A Priori Knowledge, and realist reactions will be exa…Read more
  •  291
    `World' is not a count noun
    Noûs 29 (2): 139-157. 1995.
    The word "world" has in fact many ordinary uses as a count noun; I shall discuss some of them below.(2) There is however also a distinctive philosophical use found in recent ontology (in the sense in which Quine reintroduced this term in analytic philosophy, for theories about what there is). As to this philosophical use, I shall argue that there is no reason to think that it refers to anything, if indeed it is intelligible at all
  •  238
    The physics and metaphysics of identity and individuality Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9463-7 Authors Don Howard, Department of Philosophy and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA Bas C. van Fraassen, Philosophy Department, San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94132, USA Otávio Bueno, Department of Philosophy, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL 33124, USA Elena Caste…Read more
  •  219
    A Defence of Van Fraassen’s Critique of Abductive Inference: Reply to Psillos
    with James Ladyman, Igor Douven, and Leon Horsten
    Philosophical Quarterly 47 (188). 1997.
    Psillos has recently argued that van Fraassen’s arguments against abduction fail. Moreover, he claimed that, if successful, these arguments would equally undermine van Fraassen’s own constructive empiricism, for, Psillos thinks, it is only by appeal to abduction that constructive empiricism can be saved from issuing in a bald scepticism. We show that Psillos’ criticisms are misguided, and that they are mostly based on misinterpretations of van Fraassen’s arguments. Furthermore, we argue that Psi…Read more
  •  213
    Belief and the problem of Ulysses and the sirens
    Philosophical Studies 77 (1): 7-37. 1995.
    This is surely a bit of Socrates' famous irony. He draws the analogy to explain how his friends should regard poetry as they regretfully banish it from the ideal state. But lovers were no more sensible then than they are now. The advice to banish poetry, undermined already by Plato's own delight and skill in drama, is perhaps undermined still further by this evocation of a 'sensible' lover who counts love so well lost. Yet Socrates' image is one of avowed rationality and prudence. The sensible l…Read more
  •  195
    From Vicious Circle to Infinite Regress, and Back Again
    PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1992 6-29. 1992.
    The attempt to formulate a viable empiricist and non-foundationalist epistemology of science faces four problems here confronted. The first is an apparent loss of objectivity in science, in the conditions of use of models in applied science. The second derives from the theory-infection of scientific language, with an apparent loss of objective conditions of truth and reference. The third, often cited as objection to The Scientific Image, is the apparent theory-dependence of the distinction betwe…Read more
  •  192
    Capek on eternal recurrence
    Journal of Philosophy 59 (14): 371-375. 1962.
  •  192
    Science as representation: Flouting the criteria
    Philosophy of Science 71 (5): 794-804. 2004.
    Criteria of adequacy for scientific representation of the phenomena pertain to accuracy and truth. But that representation is selective and may require distortion even in the selected parameters; this point is intimately connected with the fact that representation is intentional, and its adequacy relative to its particular purpose. Since observation and measurement are perspectival and the appearances to be saved are perspectival measurement outcomes, the question whether this “saving” is an exp…Read more
  •  188
  •  186
    Facts and tautological entailments
    Journal of Philosophy 66 (15): 477-487. 1969.
  •  181
    On stance and rationality
    Synthese 178 (1). 2011.
  •  171
    Values and the heart's command
    Journal of Philosophy 70 (1): 5-19. 1973.
  •  164
    Putnam's paradox: Metaphysical realism revamped and evaded
    Philosophical Perspectives 11 17-42. 1997.
    Hilary Putnam's argument against metaphysical realism (commonly referred to as the "model theoretic argument") has now enjoyed two decades of discussion.(1) The text is rich and contains variously construable arguments against variously construed philosophical positions. David Lewis isolated one argument and called it "Putnam's Paradox".(2) That argument is clear and concise; so is the paradoxical conclusion it purports to demonstrate; and so is Lewis' paradox-avoiding solution. His solution inv…Read more
  •  160
    Rovelli’s World
    Foundations of Physics 40 (4): 390-417. 2010.
    Carlo Rovelli’s inspiring “Relational Quantum Mechanics” serves several aims at once: it provides a new vision of what the world of quantum mechanics is like, and it offers a program to derive the theory’s formalism from a set of simple postulates pertaining to information processing. I propose here to concentrate entirely on the former, to explore the world of quantum mechanics as Rovelli depicts it. It is a fascinating world in part because of Rovelli’s reliance on the information-theory appro…Read more