Katz’s revisability paradox dissolved

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (4):771-784 (2013)
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Abstract

Quine's holistic empiricist account of scientific inquiry can be characterized by three constitutive principles: *noncontradiction*, *universal revisability* and *pragmatic ordering*. We show that these constitutive principles cannot be regarded as statements within a holistic empiricist's scientific theory of the world. This claim is a corollary of our refutation of Katz's [1998, 2002] argument that holistic empiricism suffers from what he calls the Revisability Paradox. According to Katz, Quine's empiricism is incoherent because its constitutive principles cannot themselves be rationally revised. Using Gärdenfors and Makinson's logic of belief revision based on epistemic entrenchment, we argue that Katz wrongly assumes that the constitutive principles are *statements* within a holistic empiricist's theory of the world. Instead, we show that constitutive principles are best seen as *properties* of a holistic empiricist's theory of scientific inquiry and we submit that, without Katz's mistaken assumption, the paradox cannot be formulated. We argue that our perspective on the status of constitutive principles is perfectly in line with Quinean orthodoxy. In conclusion, we compare our findings with van Fraassen's [2002] argument that we should think of empiricism as a stance, rather than as a doctrine.

Author Profiles

Sander Verhaegh
Tilburg University
Allard Tamminga
University of Greifswald

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