•  579
    Thabo Mbeki, postmodernism, and the consequences
    South African Journal of Philosophy 34 (4): 441-461. 2015.
    Explanations of former South African President Thabo Mbeki’s public and private views on the aetiology of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country remain partial at best without the recognition that the latter presuppose and imply a postmodernist/postcolonialist philosophy of science that erases the line separating the political from the scientific. Evidence from Mbeki’s public speeches, interviews, and private and anonymous writings suggests that it was postmodernist/postcolonialist theory that ins…Read more
  •  519
    Reply to Israel on the New Riddle of Induction
    Philosophia 40 (3): 549-552. 2012.
    Israel 2004 claims that numerous philosophers have misinterpreted Goodman’s original ‘New Riddle of Induction’, and weakened it in the process, because they do not define ‘grue’ as referring to past observations. Both claims are false: Goodman clearly took the riddle to concern the maximally general problem of “projecting” any type of characteristic from a given realm of objects into another, and since this problem subsumes Israel’s, Goodman formulated a stronger philosophical challenge than the…Read more
  •  455
    Ceteris Paribus Laws: A Naturalistic Account
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 28 (2): 133-155. 2014.
    An otherwise lawlike generalisation hedged by a ceteris paribus (CP) clause qualifies as a law of nature, if the CP clause can be substituted with a set of conditions derived from the multivariate regression model used to interpret the empirical data in support of the gen- eralisation. Three studies in human biology that use regression analysis are surveyed, showing that standard objections to cashing out CP clauses in this way—based on alleged vagueness, vacuity, or lack of testability—do not a…Read more
  •  411
    The epistemology of hedged laws
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 42 (3): 445-452. 2011.
    Standard objections to the notion of a hedged, or ceteris paribus, law of nature usually boil down to the claim that such laws would be either 1) irredeemably vague, 2) untestable, 3) vacuous, 4) false, or a combination thereof. Using epidemiological studies in nutrition science as an example, I show that this is not true of the hedged law-like generalizations derived from data models used to interpret large and varied sets of empirical observations. Although it may be ‘in principle impossible’ …Read more
  •  370
    Manipulationism, Ceteris Paribus Laws, and the Bugbear of Background Knowledge
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 31 (3): 261-283. 2017.
    According to manipulationist accounts of causal explanation, to explain an event is to show how it could be changed by intervening on its cause. The relevant change must be a ‘serious possibility’ claims Woodward 2003, distinct from mere logical or physical possibility—approximating something I call ‘scientific possibility’. This idea creates significant difficulties: background knowledge is necessary for judgments of possibili-ty. Yet the primary vehicles of explanation in manipulationism are ‘…Read more
  •  309
    "Semantic dispositionalism" is the theory that a speaker's meaning something by a given linguistic symbol is determined by her dispositions to use the symbol in a certain way. According to an objection by Kripke, further elaborated in Kusch :156–163, 2005), semantic dispositionalism involves ceteris paribus-clauses and idealisations, such as unbounded memory, that deviate from standard scientific methodology. I argue that Kusch misrepresents both ceteris paribus-laws and idealisation, neither of…Read more
  •  218
  •  196
    The Goodman-Kripke Paradox
    Dissertation, King's College London. 2003.
    The Kripke/Wittgenstein paradox and Goodman’s riddle of induction can be construed as problems of multiple redescription, where the relevant sceptical challenge is to provide factual grounds justifying the description we favour. A choice of description or predicate, in turn, is tantamount to the choice of a curve over a set of data, a choice apparently governed by implicitly operating constraints on the relevant space of possibilities. Armed with this analysis of the two paradoxes, several reali…Read more
  •  108
    Scientific styles, plain truth, and truthfulness
    South African Journal of Philosophy 37 (3): 361-378. 2018.
    Ian Hacking defines a “style of scientific thinking” loosely as a “way to find things out about the world” characterised by five hallmark features of a number of scientific template styles. Most prominently, these are autonomy and “self-authentication”: a scientific style of thinking, according to Hacking, is not good because it helps us find out the truth in some domain, it itself defines the criteria for truth-telling in its domain. I argue that Renaissance medicine, Mediaeval “demonology”, an…Read more
  •  3
    Professional sport, like most human activities undertaken for pay, is subject to Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An athlete’s ’work’ can be...