Brandeis University
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 1975
Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America
Areas of Specialization
Epistemology
Aesthetics
Areas of Interest
Metaphysics and Epistemology
  •  646
    Keeping things in perspective (review)
    Philosophical Studies 150 (3). 2010.
    Scientific realism holds that scientific representations are utterly objective. They describe the way the world is, independent of any point of view. In Scientific Representation, van Fraassen argues otherwise. If science is to afford an understanding of nature, it must be grounded in evidence. Since evidence is perspectivai, science cannot vindicate its claims using only utterly objective representations. For science to do its epistemic job, it must involve perspectivai representations. I expli…Read more
  •  450
    True enough
    Philosophical Issues 14 (1). 2004.
    Truth is standardly considered a requirement on epistemic acceptability. But science and philosophy deploy models, idealizations and thought experiments that prescind from truth to achieve other cognitive ends. I argue that such felicitous falsehoods function as cognitively useful fictions. They are cognitively useful because they exemplify and afford epistemic access to features they share with the relevant facts. They are falsehoods in that they diverge from the facts. Nonetheless, they are tr…Read more
  •  429
    Understanding and the facts
    Philosophical Studies 132 (1). 2007.
    If understanding is factive, the propositions that express an understanding are true. I argue that a factive conception of understanding is unduly restrictive. It neither reflects our practices in ascribing understanding nor does justice to contemporary science. For science uses idealizations and models that do not mirror the facts. Strictly speaking, they are false. By appeal to exemplification, I devise a more generous, flexible conception of understanding that accommodates science, reflects o…Read more
  •  311
    Understanding: Art and Science
    Synthese 95 (1): 13-28. 1993.
    The arts and the sciences perform many of the same cognitive functions, both serving to advance understanding. This paper explores some of the ways exemplification operates in the two fields. Both scientific experiments and works of art highlight, underscore, display, or convey some of their own features. They thereby focus attention on them, and make them available for examination and projection. Thus, the Michelson-Morley experiment exemplifies the constancy of the speed of light. Jackson Poll…Read more
  •  295
    The legacy of Nelson Goodman
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (3): 679-690. 2001.
    Nelson Goodman was one of the soaring figures of twentieth century philosophy. His work radically reshaped the subject, forcing fundamental reconceptions of philosophy’s problems, ends, and means. Goodman not only contributed to diverse fields, from philosophy of language to aesthetics, from philosophy of science to mereology, his works cut across these and other fields, revealing shared features and connecting links that narrowly focused philosophers overlook. That the author of The Structure o…Read more
  •  250
    "The Legacy of" Two Dogmas"
    American Philosophical Quarterly 48 (3): 267. 2011.
    W. V. Quine is famous, or perhaps infamous, for his repudiation of the analytic/synthetic distinction and kindred dualisms—the necessary/contingent dichotomy and the a priori/a posteriori dichotomy. As these dualisms have come back into vogue in recent years, it might seem that the denial of the dualisms is no part of Quine's enduring legacy. Such a conclusion is unwarranted—not only because the dualisms are deeply problematic, but because "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" haunts even those who want to…Read more
  •  182
    Fiction as Thought Experiment
    Perspectives on Science 22 (2): 221-241. 2014.
    Jonathan Bennett (1974) maintains that Huckleberry Finn’s deliberations about whether to return Jim to slavery afford insight into the tension between sympathy and moral judgment; Miranda Fricker (2007) argues that the trial scene in To Kill a Mockingbird affords insight into the nature of testimonial injustice. Neither claims merely that the works prompt an attentive reader to think something new or to change her mind. Rather, they consider the reader cognitively better off for her encounters w…Read more
  •  150
    Take it from me: The epistemological status of testimony
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2): 291-308. 2002.
    Testimony consists in imparting information without supplying evidence or argument to back one's claims. To what extent does testimony convey epistemic warrant? C. J. A. Coady argues, on Davidsonian grounds, that (1) most testimony is true, hence (2) most testimony supplies warrant sufficient for knowledge. I appeal to Grice's maxims to undermine Coady's argument and to show that the matter is more complicated and context-sensitive than is standardly recognized. Informative exchanges take place …Read more
  •  148
    The epistemic efficacy of stupidity
    Synthese 74 (3). 1988.
    I show that it follows from both externalist and internalist theories that stupid people may be in a better position to know than smart ones. This untoward consequence results from taking our epistemic goal to be accepting as many truths as possible and rejecting as many falsehoods as possible, combined with a recognition that the standard for acceptability cannot be set too high, else scepticism will prevail. After showing how causal, reliabilist, and coherentist theories devalue intelligence, …Read more
  •  142
    Unnatural science
    Journal of Philosophy 92 (6): 289-302. 1995.
  •  133
    Art in the Advancement of Understanding
    American Philosophical Quarterly 39 (1). 2002.
  •  126
    Trustworthiness
    Philosophical Papers 37 (3): 371-387. 2008.
    I argue that trustworthiness is an epistemic desideratum. It does not reduce to justified or reliable true belief, but figures in the reason why justified or reliable true beliefs are often valuable. Such beliefs can be precarious. If a belief's being justified requires that the evidence be just as we take it to be, then if we are off even by a little, the belief is unwarranted. Similarly for reliability. Although it satisfies the definition of knowledge, such a belief is not trustworthy. We oug…Read more
  •  120
    ``Is Understanding Factive?"
    In Adrian Haddock, Alan Millar & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Epistemic Value, Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 322--30. 2009.
  •  113
    Construction and Cognition
    Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 24 (2): 135-146. 2009.
    _The Structure of Appearance_ presents a phenomenalist system which constructs enduring visible objects out of qualia. Nevertheless Goodman does not espouse phenomenalism. Why not? In answering this question this paper explicates Goodman’s views about the nature and functions of constructional systems, the prospects of reductionism, and the character of epistemology.
  •  111
    The Relativity of Fact and the Objectivity of Value
    The Harvard Review of Philosophy 6 (1): 4-15. 1996.
  •  109
  •  108
    Interpretation and understanding
    Erkenntnis 52 (2): 175-183. 2000.
    To understand a term or other symbol, I argue that it is generally neither necessary nor sufficient to assign it a unique determinate reference. Independent of and prior to investigation, it is frequently indeterminate not only whether a sentence is true, but also what its truth conditions are. Nelson Goodman's discussions of likeness of meaning are deployed to explain how this can be so.
  •  106
    Reorienting aesthetics, reconceiving cognition
    Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 58 (3): 219-225. 2000.
  •  99
    Creation as reconfiguration: Art in the advancement of science
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 16 (1). 2002.
    Cognitive advancement is not always a matter of acquiring new information. It often consists in reconfiguration--in reorganizing a domain so that hitherto overlooked or underemphasized features, patterns, opportunities, and resources come to light. Several modes of reconfiguration prominent in the arts--metaphor, fiction, exemplification, and perspective--play important roles in science as well. They do not perform the same roles as literal, descriptive, perspectiveless scientific truths. But to…Read more
  •  98
    Nominalism, realism and objectivity
    Synthese 196 (2): 519-534. 2019.
    I argue that constructive nominalism is preferable to scientific realism. Rather than reflecting without distortion the way the mind-independent world is, theories refract. They provide an understanding of the world as modulated by a particular theory. Truth is defined within a theoretical framework rather than outside of it. This does not undermine objectivity, for an assertion contains a reference to the framework in terms of which its truth is claimed.
  •  94
    Interpretation and Identity: Can the Work Survive the World?
    with Nelson Goodman
    Critical Inquiry 12 (3): 564-575. 1986.
    Predictions concerning the end of the world have proven less reliable than your broker’s recommendations or your fondest hopes. Whether you await the end fearfully or eagerly, you may rest assured that it will never come—not because the world is everlasting but because it has already ended, if indeed it ever began. But we need not mourn, for the world is indeed well lost, and with it the stultifying stereotypes of absolutism: the absurd notions of science as the effort to discover a unique, prep…Read more
  •  86
    Education and the Advancement of Understanding
    The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 3 131-140. 1999.
    Understanding, as I construe it, is holistic. It is a matter of how commitments mesh to form a mutually supportive, independently supported system of thought. It is advanced by bootstrapping. We start with what we think we know and build from there. This makes education continuous with what goes on at the cutting edge of inquiry. Methods, standards, categories and stances are as important as facts. So something like E. D. Hirsch’s list of facts every fourth grader should know is slightly silly. …Read more
  •  80
    The Function of Knowledge
    Analysis 81 (1): 100-107. 2021.
    Human beings are epistemically interdependent. Much of what we know and much of what we need to know we glean from others. Being a gregarious bunch, we are prone to venturing opinions whether they are warranted or not. This makes information transfer a tricky business. What we want from others is not just information, but reliable information. When we seek information, we are in the position of enquirers not examiners. We ask someone whether p because we do not ourselves already know whether p. …Read more
  •  78
    Considered Judgment
    New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1996.
    The book contains a unique epistemological position that deserves serious consideration by specialists in the subject."--Bruce Aune, University of Massachusetts.
  •  77
    Making Manifest: The Role of Exemplification in the Sciences and the Arts
    Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 15 (3): 399-413. 2011.
    Exemplification is the relation of an example to whatever it is an example of. Goodman maintains that exemplification is a symptom of the aesthetic: although not a necessary condition, it is an indicator that symbol is functioning aesthetically. I argue that exemplification is as important in science as it is in art. It is the vehicle by which experiments make aspects of nature manifest. I suggest that the difference between exemplars in the arts and the sciences lies in the way they exemplify. …Read more
  •  75
    Lawlikeness and the end of science
    Philosophy of Science 47 (1): 56-68. 1980.
    Although our theories are not precisely true, scientific realists contend that we should admit their objects into our ontology. One justification--offered by Sellars and Putnam--is that current theories belong to series that converge to ideally adequate theories. I consider the way the commitment to convergence reflects on the interpretation of lawlike claims. I argue that the distinction between lawlike and accidental generalizations depends on our cognitive interests and reflects our commitmen…Read more
  •  73
    Can Belief Be Justified Through Coherence Alone?
    In Matthias Steup, John Turri & Ernest Sosa (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology, Blackwell. pp. 244-273. 2013.