Michel Ghins on the Empirical Versus the Theoretical

  • Bas C. van Fraassen
Part of the Logic, Epistemology, and the Unity of Science book series (LEUS, volume 2)


Michel Ghins and I are both empiricists, and agree significantly in our critique of “traditional” empiricist epistemology. We differ however in some respects in our interpretation of the scientific enterprise. Ghins argues for a moderate scientific realism which includes the view that acceptance of a scientific theory will bring with it belief in the existence of all those entities, among the entities the theory postulates, that satisfy certain criteria. For Ghins these criteria derive from the criteria for legitimate affirmation of existence for any entities, the directly observable ones not being privileged in that respect. They are roughly that the putatively existing entity should according to the accepted theory manifest itself in our experience, and display a certain permanence and invariance. My disagreement on this topic derives from a larger difference concerning the relation between experience, existence, and theory.


Epistemic Principle Constructive Empiricism Spontaneous Response Phlogiston Theory Epistemic Warrant 
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Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bas C. van Fraassen
    • 1
  1. 1.Princeton UniversityPrinceton

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