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The epistemological virtues of assumptions: towards a coming of age of Boltzmann and Meinong's objections to 'the prejudice in favour of the actual'?

By Nadine de Courtenay

Abstract

International audienceTwo complementary debates of the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth century are examined here: thedebate on the legitimacy of hypotheses in the natural sciences and the debate on intentionality and ‘representationswithout object’ in philosophy. Both are shown to rest on two core issues: the attitude of thesubject and the mode of presentation chosen to display a domain of phenomena. An orientation otherthan the one which contributed to shape twentieth-century philosophy of science is explored throughthe analysis of the role given to assumptions in Boltzmann’s research strategy, where assumptions arecontrasted to hypotheses, axioms, and principles, and in Meinong’s criticism of the privileged statusattributed to representations in mental activities. Boltzmann’s computational style in mathematics andMeinong’s criticism of the confusion between representation and judgment give prominence to an indirectmode of presentation, adopted in a state of suspended belief which is characteristic of assumptionsand which enables one to grasp objects that cannot be reached through direct representation or evenanalogies. The discussion shows how assumptions and the movement to fiction can be essential stepsin the quest for objectivity. The conclusion restates the issues of the two debates in a contemporary perspectiveand shows how recent developments in philosophy of science and philosophy of language andmind can be brought together by arguing for a twofold conception of reference

Topics: Assumption, hypothesis, decription, mode of presentation, Ludwig Boltzman, Alexius Meinong, [ SHS.HISPHILSO ] Humanities and Social Sciences/History, Philosophy and Sociology of Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier
Year: 2010
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2009.12.010
OAI identifier: oai:HAL:halshs-01500751v1
Provided by: Hal-Diderot
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