What Does it Mean to Orient Oneself in Science? On Ernst Mach’s Pragmatic Epistemology

In Friedrich Stadler (ed.), Ernst Mach - Life, Work, Influence. Dordrecht, Paesi Bassi: Springer. pp. 525-536 (2019)
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The paper aims to investigate some aspects of Ernst Mach’s epistemology in the light of the problem of human orientation in relation to the world (Weltorientierung), which is a main topic of Western philosophy since Kant. As will be argued, Mach has been concerned with that problem, insofar as he developed an original pragmatist epistemology. In order to support my argument, I firstly investigate whether Mach defended a nominalist or a realist account of knowledge and compare his view to those elaborated by other pragmatist thinkers, such as W. James, H. Vaihinger and H. Poincaré. Secondly, the question of what does it mean, for Mach, to orient ourselves in science is addressed. Finally, it will be argued that, although Mach tried to keep his epistemology restricted to a mere operational and economical account of science, that question involves the wider plane of practical philosophy.
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