Term Paper: Philosophy of Science as Developed

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[. . .] The world's real circumstances, unlike numbers or abstract Ps or not-Ps, are always in a state of flux. (Boyd, 2004)

Empiricists stressed the need to verify statements with sensory data in all possible situations, thus providing one of the founding philosophies of the sceintific method of experimentation. Hume, stressed that all the materials of thinking, also known as perceptions are derived either from sensation or "outward sentiment" or from reflection otherwise known as "inward sentiment." Hume divided perceptions into two categories, distinguished by their different degrees of force and vivacity. Our "more feeble" perceptions, ideas, were ultimately derived from our livelier impressions. One can only imagine a horse after one has seen a horse in life, or at least a picture of one. (Morris, 2001)

Hume calls ideas feebler because of his copy thesis; he argues that all ideas are ultimately copied from impressions. That is, for any idea we select, we can trace the component parts of that idea to some external sensation or internal feeling. Thus, ideas are always once removed from the truth -- an idea of a horse is inferior when produced from a copy, as opposed to the sight of a real thing. (Feiser, 2004)

In dealing with abstract notions of morality, this becomes problematic -- how can one prove if God exists, as one cannot prove by Hume's observable criteria that God does not exist, according to the central tenant of verifiable theory? God, and even abstract political concepts such as democracy and the inalienable rights of human beings cannot be verified in Hume because they cannot be proven true or false as theories in absolute. But although somewhat limited, the empiricist, logical positivist theory of verifiability in science is a bracing and refreshing reminder of the limits of the ability of philosophy to define in the abstract 'the good' and the 'moral' outside of situations in life.

Works Cited

Boyd, Richard. "Confirmation, Semantics and the Interpretation of Scientific Theory." http://www.rpi.edu/~eglash/eglash.dir/SST/boyd.htm

Feiser. James. "David Hume (1711-1776): Metaphysics and Epistemology." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/h/humeepis.htm

Logic: The Verifiability Theory of meaning. Theology Web. 11 Dec 2004


Logical Positivism. Fact web assembled by W. Payne. 11 Dec 2004


Morris, William Edward, "David Hume," The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2001 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = . [END OF PREVIEW]

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