Volume 53, 2008
Theory of Knowledge
The Normativity Problem in Naturalizing Philosophy of Science
In the contemporary intellectual scene, one prominent question is this, what made science and its success possible? One tempting strategy for dealing with this question as a philosopher of science is to use science (or more broadly, empirical inquiry) and its methods to investigate the nature of science and its success. This strategy is what used to be called naturalism. For a philosopher of science, it amounts to naturalizing her philosophical inquiry for understanding the nature of science and its success. The project of naturalizing philosophy of science has not been without its own problems. Some of the concerns are as follows. Will
philosophy of science maintain its traditional normative character after going through the process of naturalization? If it does, what form(s) will its normative content take? Can that normative content be secured without appealing to methods other than those usually used in empirical inquiries? In this essay, I will call these issues collectively the problem of normativity. First of all, I’ll look into the two most representative attempts to naturalize philosophy of science, namely L. Laudan’s and R. Giere’s attempts, focusing on the views that could be taken as their answers to the questions constituting the problem of normativity. Then I’ll examine these views in the light of some prominent criticisms and potential problems, and argue that some of those views could be defended by developing one or other additional conceptual arsenals but still others need to be curbed down admitting the apparent weaknesses of their supporting arguments. This reevaluative process will give us a better idea about what have been achieved by the attempts to naturalize philosophy of science and what their limitations are.