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History of Empiricism

History of Empiricism

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Erikson R, Cuthbertson-Johnson B (eds.) 1998 Social Per- to the formation of and to the spectiŠes on . JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, Vol. IV acquisition of . The foil to empiricism is Fineman S 1993 in Organizations. , London Š , which emphasizes instead the importance Franks D D, Gecas V (eds.) 1992 Social Perspecti es on Emotion. to and knowledge of material that is in some JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, Vol. I Franks D D, Smith T S (eds.) 1999 Social PerspectiŠes on independent of experience. The range of em- Emotion. JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, Vol. V piricist positions is vast, from the shocking view that Gordon S L 1981 The of sentiments and emotion. In: all we can think or know about are our sensations to Rosenberg M, Turner R H (eds.) Social : So- the mundane claims that experience plays some role in ciological PerspectiŠes. Basic Books, the formation of some of our concepts and in the Griffiths P 1997 What Emotions Really Are: The Problem of justification of some of our beliefs. Empiricism of Psychological . University of Chicago Press, some form may seem both obviously correct and Chicago, Chap. 6 ! obviously the correct for on the Harre R 1986 The Social Construction of Emotion. Blackwell, grounds that it is clear that one can only find out about New York Hochschild A R 1975 The sociology of feeling and emotions: the world by observing it; but this innocuous looking selected possibilities. In: Millman M, Kanter R M (eds.) thought has been disputed, and in any case many Another Voice. Anchor\Doubleday Press, Garden City, NY forms of empiricism go far beyond it in their claims. It Hochschild A R 1983 The Managed Heart: Commercialization of is also unclear whether empiricism ultimately supports Human Feeling. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA or undermines claims to scientific knowledge. Hochschild A R 1989 The economy of gratitude. In: Franks D D, McCarthy E D (eds.) The Sociology of Emotion: Original Essays and Papers. JAI Press, Greenwich, CT 1. History James W 1902 The of Psychology. Henry Holt and Empiricism is a hardy perennial in the history of Co., New York, Vol. II Kemper T D 1978 A Social Interactional of Emotions. philosophy. It was extensively discussed in antiquity, John Wiley, New York often with considerable hostility. disdained it, Lepenies W 1992 Melancholy and Society. Harvard University partly on the grounds that can only Press, London provide about a realm of appearances less Lutz C 1988 Unnatural Emotions: EŠeryday Sentiments on a important and indeed less real than a more abstract Micronesian Atoll and Their Challenge to Western Theory. realm that we may be able to grasp through a form of University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL thinking that does not depend on experience. Math- Sarbin T R 1986 Emotion and act. In: Harre! R (ed.) The Social ematics was a model of knowledge for many ancient Constuction of Emotion. Blackwell, New York thinkers, and this is perhaps the where empiricism Scheff T J 1979 Catharsis in Healing, Ritual and Drama. University of California Press, Berkeley, CA is least plausible, since mathematical proofs do not Scheff T J 1990 Microsociology: Discourse, Emotion, and Social seem to depend on observation. Nevertheless, em- Structure. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL piricism did have defenders in the ancient world, with Shott S 1979 Emotion and social life: a symbolic interactionist often cited as its first clear exponent. He held . American Journal of Sociology 84: 1317–34 not only that observation is the only source of Smith-Lovin L 1995 The sociology of affect and emotion. In: knowledge about the world but that, insofar as they Cook K S, Fine G A, House J S (eds.) Sociological PerspectiŠes are taken as sources of information about the appear- on . Allyn and Bacon, Boston Š ances of things, the never . Thoits P A 1989 The sociology of emotion. Annual Re iew of Empiricism also had its advocates in the medieval Sociology. 15: 317–42 Thoits P A 1990 Emotional deviance: research agendas. In: period. St. wrote that there is Kemper T D (ed.) Research Agendas in the Sociology of nothing in the which was not previously in the Emotion. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY senses, though by this he meant to endorse only Weigert A J 1991 Mixed Emotions: Certain Steps Toward empiricism and not a strong form of knowl- AmbiŠalence. State University of New York edge empiricism. Concepts can only be formed with Press, Albany, NY the help of sensory images, but some knowledge—for Wentworth W M, Ryan J (eds.) 1994 Social PerspectiŠes on example, some knowledge about God—is available by Emotion. JAI Press, Greenwich, CT, Vol. II means of logical independent of particular . Empiricism is perhaps most strongly D. D. Franks associated with three of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: , , and . These British empiricists developed versions of both concept and knowledge empiricism. In some respects Berkeley (1710, 1713) Empiricism, History of can be seen as attempting to purify Locke’s (1700) view of its nonempiricist elements and Hume (1739, There are almost as many empiricisms as there are 1777) as attempting the same for Berkeley. Both Locke empiricists, but what these views or approaches have and Hume appealed to Newton’s achievements in in common is an emphasis on the importance of for inspiration: Locke presented himself as

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Newton’s underlaborer, ‘clearing ground a little, and whose motto was that ‘the of an expression is removing some of the rubbish, that in the way to its method of verification.’ On this view, the experi- knowledge.’ Part of that ground-clearing operation ences that would confirm a claim also tell us what it consisted of a vigorous rejection of the claim that we means, and a claim which no course of observation are born with innate knowledge, a characteristic point could either confirm or refute is either a mere definition of dispute between empiricists and rationalists (cf or metaphysical nonsense. Empiricism in this century Mackie 1976). Hume characterized his own project has also been promoted by themselves, in more ambitiously, as an attempt to do for the human movements such as operationalism in the physical (‘moral philosophy’) what Newton had done sciences and in psychology. Another for the physical sciences (‘’), by influential empiricist strain in this period has been providing a theory that explained the creation and , especially as developed by the American behavior of . Berkeley was less influenced by the triumvirate of , Charles Saunders model of natural philosophy, aiming instead to com- Pierce, and , and more recently in a radical bat and to support theism. The result was form that rejects definitions and meanings by Willard an exceptionally lucid and defense of - Van Orman Quine (1951). ism, the view that the only things that exist are and their contents. Locke had not taken this step, 2. Concept Empiricism hoping to hold on to a material world even if our knowledge of its must be severely limited, but Empiricism about concepts is the view that our Berkeley argued that only was compatible concepts derive in some sense from our . with the principles of empiricism. Hume was an idealist Hume offered what has come to be a canonical version too, but made less of a fuss than Berkeley about this of this position, arguing that all our ideas are copies of aspect of their , in part because Hume preceding impressions, meaning roughly that every wished to avoid , even of a negative sort. concept is a faint image of the experiences that cause it. In the nineteenth century, carried Thus, to take a favorable example, our of the forward the of British Empiricism from color blue is supposed to a faint image of the particular Hume, including his idealism, though in Mill’s (1872) blue experiences we have enjoyed. For Hume, the copy hands the position is normally referred to as ‘phenom- was not just a fundamental about our enalism.’ Mill held that physical objects are ‘per- cognitive economy but also a powerful philosophical manent possibilities of sensation’: to say that there is a tool. Constructively, the copy principle is supposed to tree in the quad at a certain is to say either that allow us to analyze the content of an idea or concept, someone is having an appropriate arboreal experience since by tracing ideas back to their source impressions at that time or that they would have had one if they we determine what that content really is. Destruc- had been in the quad. Berkeley famously preferred to tively, the copy principle is supposed to expose empty account for the of the tree when no human is talk or thought, since if a putative idea has no possible observing it by appealing to God’s constant obser- source impression, it must be devoid of content. The vation, but in one or two passages he clearly presages copy principle obviously requires some general de- Mill’s counterfactual alternative, which appeals to marcation between impressions and ideas. Hume possible human observations rather than to actual draws it subjectively, in terms of the relative ‘force and divine observations. vivacity’ of , recognizing the of Mill went beyond his British precursors, however, in this , but trusting that we all understand his treatment of , the most obvious the difference between the vividness of what one sees candidate for nonempirical knowledge. Most empiri- as compared with faintness of and imagin- cists have adopted the strategy of admitting that pure ation. mathematics is nonempirical but denying that it Hume’s most famous applications of his copy provides worldly knowledge, claiming instead that it principle were destructive, part of his program to tells us only about the logical consequences of our expose the emptiness of metaphysics. Thus, although definitions. Mill, however, maintained that mathe- he allowed that we do have an idea of the ‘necessary matics, however pure, is empirically based, an in- connection’ that is supposed to glue causes to their ductive from pervasive regularities in our effects, the source impression reveals this idea to be experience, such as those involving the manipulation purely subjective. For that impression is merely the of objects. feeling of expectation of a familiar effect when we see Twentieth-century empiricism remained inspired by a familiar cause, something that is obviously only in science. Logical positivists and logical empiricists saw our minds. We cannot conceive one thing making empiricism both as a way to understand scientific another thing happen: all we can conceive is a claims and as a way to make philosophy itself more of objects. Indeed although Hume often did write as if scientific and less metaphysical (cf. Ayer 1936). They we could conceive of external objects, he seems to have especially pushed the conceptual side of empiricism, held that the copy principle rules out conception of for example, in the verifiability theory of meaning, these too.

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Hume’s antimetaphysical fervor was taken up by subatomic particles does not include as part of its the logical positivists of the first half of the twentieth meaning the diverse and indirect kinds of empirical century. They took statements rather than ideas as the in its favor, while that meaning does include unit of analysis, and held that a statement is mean- claims about particles. ingful only if there is some specifiable experience that would verify it. They made an exception of math- ematics and , which were allowed to count as 3. Knowledge Empiricism meaningful even though not empirical, but only because they consisted of definitions and their conse- Knowledge empiricism is the view that all knowledge quences rather than substantive claims. Since philo- of the world is based on experience. Put negatively, sophical have often been supposed to consist this is the denial of a priori knowledge of the world. precisely of nonempirical truths about the world, it is Empiricism here opposes rationalism, according to not surprising that the verification principle was which the fundamental source of knowledge of the supposed to sweep away great swaths of traditional world is , not experience. philosophical doctrine, not on the grounds that such of knowledge empiricism generate putative claims are false, but that they are literally meaningless, examples of a priori knowledge. Empiricists deal with just noise. these cases in several ways, claiming either that the As with Hume, the logical positivist program also statement in question cannot be known a priori, had a positive side: for those statements that did because it is unknowable altogether or knowable but manage to be meaningful, their meaning comprised only through experience, or that that the statement the experiences that would confirm them. From this it does not really provide knowledge of the world. Thus, follows that all claims are claims about experiences. when Rene! Descartes, the great seventeenth century Some tempered this extreme view by speaking of rationalist, claimed to know a priori of his own observable states of affairs rather than experiences, existence, Hume could respond that the only know- thus making the public. In the hands of some ledge one has of oneself is of one’s experiences, which behaviorists in the , this are known through themselves. Mathematical know- brought about a kind of reversal of the positivists’ ledge is another popular area for rationalists’ examples original, experiential doctrine, since now rather than of the a priori although, as we have seen, Mill claimed analyzing all claims as claims about experiences, that even this knowledge is ultimately empirical, experiences and mental states are analyzed in resting on observations of the result of adding together physical terms. On this view, meaning of the and dividing apart physical objects. The more claim that someone is happy is not that the person is common empiricist treatment of mathematical know- enjoying a certain kind of inner life, but that they are ledge, however, is to admit it does not depend on disposed to behave in characteristically happy ways. specific experiences but to deny that it is about the Hostility to this position is the source of the story of world. Both Hume and the logical empiricists admit the behaviorist who, upon meeting another behaviorist that definitions or analytic truths—such as that a in the street, proclaims ‘You’re fine, how am I?’ bachelor is an unmarried man—can be known to be Concept empiricism has been extensively criticized true without experience, but maintain that these in both its negative and positive aspects. The de- statements have no factual content. They then analyze marcation that concept empiricism attempts to draw mathematical as definitions and treat every- between genuine concept or meaningful statement on thing that is derived from them as analytic truths the one hand and nonsense on the other depends on which can be known without experience but tell us making reasonably precise the of a copy of an nothing about the world. impression or the conditions under which evidence confirms a . This has proven remarkably difficult so that, for example, familiar accounts of 4. Empiricism and Scientific Knowledge confirmation have been shown to have the conse- quence that is evidence for anything else, a Alongside the question of whether there can be any result that would make all statements meaningful and knowledge independent of experience is the question is anyway obviously false. The other conspicuous of how far empirical knowledge may extend beyond weakness of concept empiricism concerns the specific the experience upon which it is based. Since Hume’s meanings it attributes to statements that it rightly seminal discussion of the , it has classes as meaningful. The attempt to reduce the become difficult to see how knowledge can extend meaning of a statement to the evidence that would beyond actual experience at all. It is neither surprising support it typically both attributes meaning the nor worrying that any nondemonstrative inference statement does not have and leaves out meaning it from experience might in principle go wrong; but does have. This comes out clearly in the case of Hume gave a remarkably resilient argument that we scientific hypotheses that traffic in unobservable enti- can have no reason whatever for extrapolating in one ties and processes. A hypothesis about the behavior of direction rather than in another, even when dealing

4483 Empiricism, History of with everyday claims about the immediate or Empiricism continues to play an important role in the unobserved past and present. The nub of the the study of knowledge within . One problem is that any justification for the future success example is the ‘strong program’ in the sociology of of our methods of or extrapolation seems knowledge, which rests on a kind of psychological itself to rely on such a method, leaving us arguing in empiricism. As David Bloor (1991) puts the , what is apparently a vicious circle, not unlike trusting the strong program assumes that and someone solely on the grounds that he or she claims to thought are distinct but asymmetrically related: per- be trustworthy. Thus empiricism has been a friend to ception influences thought more than thought influ- the skeptic: if Hume is right, we have no more reason ences perception. Within the , a to trust the most sophisticated scientific recent empiricist approach to scientific knowledge and than tea leaves or entrails. the problem is Bas Van Even empiricists who, ignoring the Humean prob- Fraassen’s . Van Fraassen lem of induction, help themselves to from (1980) introduces a technical sense of ‘acceptance,’ past to future observations have had the greatest where to accept a scientific theory is not to believe that difficulty in showing how scientific knowledge is it is true, but only that it is empirically adequate, where possible, since scientific appear to traffic in a theory is empirically adequate just in case everything claims about entities and processes that are un- it says about what is observable is true. observable, not just unobserved. As we have seen, this Constructive empiricism is the view that the aim of is denied by the concept empiricists, for whom no science is to discover theories that are empirically claims about the unobservable can even be formulated, adequate, not theories that are true. The content of the but few recent empiricists have been willing to go theory that goes beyond its empirical claims is to be down this road. Instead, they have had to face the regarded as a model which may serve its function of problem of the underdetermination of theory by data, generating true predictions without itself a true developed with special force in the of Pierre representation of an invisible realm. Constructive Duhem (1954) and (1975). empiricism thus appears to solve the underdetermi- The problem is that no matter how much evidence nation problem, since although the theories under- there is in favor of a particular scientific theory, there determined by the data will be incompatible with each exist in principle many other theories, incompatible other, their empirical consequences, which is all the with the first yet compatible with all the evidence. This constructive empiricist would have us believe, may be creates an epistemic stalemate that seems to block compatible. warranted inference to any claim that goes beyond Constructive empiricism can thus be seen as a form what is observable. of moderate skepticism, but it is still too skeptical for Empiricists have attempted to deal with the under- those who think that knowledge or at least reasonable determination problem in a number of ways. Karl about unobservable entities and processes is Popper (1959) adopted a radical solution that was possible. Constructive empiricism also faces the dif- designed to solve the Humean problem of induction as ficulty of providing a nonarbitrary distinction between well. It was to deny that scientists need to indulge in what is observable and what is not, a tricky problem nondemonstrative inferences at all. Instead, they are faced in one form or other by almost all forms of to attempt to refute their theories and then replace empiricism. them by better ones, where this process relies only on a deductive inference from the falsity of a prediction to See also: Darwin, Charles Robert (1809–82); Experi- the falsity of the theory that entailed the prediction. mentation in Psychology, History of; Galton, Sir This is empiricism in the sense that the rejection of a Francis (1822–1911); Helmholtz, Hermann Ludwig theory is determined by observational data. Popper is Ferdinand von (1821–94); Hume, David (1711–76); one of the few philosophers of science to have attracted Locke, John (1632–1704); Logical and the respect of a significant number of practicing Logical Empiricism; Mill, John Stuart (1806–73); scientists, probably because scientists appreciate being Pavlov, Ivan Petrovich (1849–1936); Positivism, reminded of the importance of considering what sort History of; Positivism: Sociological; Wundt, Wilhelm of results would tend to undermine a hypothesis, but Maximilian (1832–1920) Popper’s view has been severely criticized by philoso- phers. Falsifying an interesting and successful scienti- fic theory is not nearly as straightforward as Popper Bibliography would have scientists pretend. Moreover, even if Popper’s could be put into practice, it Ayer A J 1936 Language, and Logic. Victor Gollancz, London would still be a form of skepticism, since according to Bennett J 1971 Locke, Berkeley, Hume: Central Themes. Oxford him we never have any reason whatsoever to think University Press, Oxford, UK that any scientific theory or prediction is even approxi- Berkeley G 1710\1975 A treatise concerning the principles of mately correct, nor can we have any reason to believe human knowledge. In: Berkeley G (ed.) Philospohical Works. any claim about the future. Dent, London

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Berkeley G 1713\1975 Three dialogues between Hylas and agencies, as well as from more informal types Philonous. In: Berkeley G (ed.) Philosophical Works. Dent, of business association. London Business is a powerful pressure in contem- Bloor D 1991 Knowledge and Social Imagery, 2nd edn. University porary society, and employers’ associations are just of Chicago Press, Chicago Duhem P 1954 The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory. one of the four major ways by which businessmen can Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ exert power and influence, both individually and Fraassen B V 1980 The Scientific Image. Oxford University collectively, and both in the market and in the political Press, Oxford, UK arena. At the level of the firm, entrepreneurs Hume D 1739\1975 In: Selby-Bigg L A, Nidditch P H (eds.) A and managers play a crucial role through investment, Treatise of . , Oxford, production, and employment decisions in the mar- UK ket—which shape the economic and political environ- Hume D 1777\1975 In: Selby-Bigg L A, Nidditch P H (eds.) An ment of government —and through lobbying Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Oxford University and other forms of pressure . Collectively, Press, Oxford, UK Locke J 1700\1975 In: Nidditch P H (ed.) An Essay Concerning businessmen can exert power in the market through Human Understanding. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK agreements for controlling prices, market sharing, the Mackie J L 1976 Problems from Locke. Oxford University Press, allocation of raw materials, and in the political arena Oxford, UK through political action by its own specific Mill J S 1872 An Examination of William Hamilton’s Philosophy. representative organizations. In fact, in spite of social Longmans, London cleavages and cultural differences among entre- Popper K 1959 The Logic of Scientific DiscoŠery. Hutchinson & preneurs, and in spite of the different roles they play in Co, London diverse organizational settings (large and small busi- Quine W V O 1951 Two of empiricism. Philosophical nesses, private and public firms, local firms, and ReŠiew 60: 20–43 Quine W V O 1975 On empirically equivalent systems of the multinational corporations), the business class often world. Erkenntnis 9: 313–28 acts today as an organized collective actor through its own specialized representative organizations. Why P. Lipton does this happens? Or, in other , why should capital owners and top executives, who possess the discretionary power to invest, develop a need for collective interest representation? Employers’ Associations Historically, there have been three main by which employers may be brought to politicize their Employers’ associations are formal organizations interests and to form organizations. The first is that which specialize in the aggregation, definition, process- their power to invest can be challenged by workers’ ing, and promotion in the political arena of the unions. In most historical instances, business efforts to collective interests and goals of a distinct social class organize and coordinate actions came as a response to defined by its dominant position in the division of prior attempts by workers to pursue their interests by labor and its power to invest in market economies. collective mobilization. Employers’ associations have Although the term ‘employers’ associations’ applies concerned themselves with assuring a stable and specifically to the role played in labor relations, while reliable labor force, and with the setting of shared the term ‘trade associations’ refers to the role played in rules of the game in labor disputes in order to industrial , the former is often used more institutionalize class conflict. Trade unions have generally to identify any kind of business interest become their most important institutional partners. associations. It is in this broader sense that it is A second reason for entrepreneurs to organize have used here. been the attempts to avoid cut-throat competition on Employers’ associations are representative volun- the market, to prevent—or at least limit—the access of tary organizations—i.e., they are led by elected leaders foreign competitors to the domestic market, to form a and managed by professional managers—with a per- common front vis-a' -vis the suppliers of basic re- manent staff for the administration of associational sources. In fact, while free competition is a basic activities and the delivery of associational services, a feature of capitalist , competition, budgetary process for the acquisition of funds and the when pushed too far, can generate crises and contra- accountability of their use, and a of specific criteria dictions which threaten the viability of the system as a defining the rights and duties of members. They can be whole. Formal coordination rather than that spon- analyzed in terms of their organizational , taneously created by the market may be necessary i.e., the domain of representation, the internal struc- through associational activity and through ture, the resources, and the tasks performed, and in government action. terms of their degree of organizational complexity and The last remark leads to the third main reason for relative autonomy. As formal representative organiz- employers to organize, i.e., the systematic effort to ations, they differ from other forms of organizations influence government economic policies: resistance to working for business, like clubs, firms, and public decisions which either limit the to invest, or


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