van Fraassen (The empirical stance, 2002) contrasts the empirical stance with the materialist stance. The way he describes them makes both of them attractive, and while opposed they have something in common for both stances are scientific approaches to philosophy. The difference between them reflects their differing conceptions of science itself. Empiricists emphasise fallibilism, verifiability and falsifiability, and also to some extent scepticism and tolerance of novel hypotheses. Materialists regard the theoretical picture of the world as matter in motion as a true and explanatory account and insist on not taking ‘spooky’ entities or processes seriously as potential explanations of phenomena that so far lie outside the scope of successful science. The history of science shows us that both stances have been instrumental in the achievement of progress at various times. It is therefore plausible for a naturalist to suggest that science depends for its success on the dialectic between empiricism and materialism. A truly naturalist approach to philosophy ought then to synthesise them. Call the synthesized empiricist and materialist stances ‘the scientistic stance’. This paper elaborates and defends it.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Brown R., Ladyman J. (2009) Physicalism, supervenience and the fundamental level. Philosophical Quarterly 59: 20–38
Chalmers D. (2002) Consciousness and its place in nature. In: Chalmers D. (eds) Philosophy of mind: Classical and contemporary readings. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 247–272
Hempel C. (1965) Aspects of scientific explanation and other essays in the philosophy of science. Free Press., New York
Kim, (1998) Mind in a physical world. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA
Ladyman J. (2000) What’s really wrong with constructive empiricism?: van Fraassen and the metaphysics of modality. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51: 837–856
Ladyman J. (2004a) Discussion - empiricism versus metaphysics. Philosophical Studies 121: 133–145
Ladyman J. (2004b) Modality and constructive empiricism: A reply to van Fraassen. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 55: 755–765
Ladyman J. (2005) Mathematical structuralism and the identity of indiscernibles. Analysis 65: 218–221
Ladyman, J. (2007). The epistemology of constructive empiricism. In B. Monton (Ed.), van Fraassen’s philosophy of science (pp. 46–61). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Ladyman J., Ross D. (2007) Every thing must go: Metaphysics naturalised. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Lakatos I. (1978) The methodology of scientific research programmes: Philosophical papers (Vol. 1). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
Lowe E.J. (2006) The four-category ontology: A metaphysical foundation for natural science. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Monton B., van Fraassen B. (2003) Constructive empiricism and modal nominalism. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 54: 405–422
Nagel J. (2000) The empiricist conception of experience. Philosophy 75: 345–376
Ney, A. (forthcoming). Physicalism as an attitude. Philosophical Studies.
Papineau D. (2001) The rise of physicalism. In: Gillet C., Loewer B. (eds) Physicalism and its discontents. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 3–37
Papineau, D. (2007). Naturalism. The Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.
Rowbottom D. (2005) The empirical stance vs. the critical attitude. South African Journal of Philosophy 24: 200–223
Sider T. (2007) Parthood. Philosophical Review 116: 51–91
van Fraassen B. (1989) Laws and symmetry. Oxford University Press, Oxford
van Fraassen B. (1991) Quantum mechanics: An empiricist view. Oxford University Press, Oxford
van Fraassen B. (1994) Against transcendental empiricism. In: Stapleton T.J. (eds) The question of hermeneutics. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 309–335
van Fraassen B.C. (1995) Against naturalised epistemology. In: Leonardi P., Santambrogio M. (eds) On quine: New essays. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 68–88
van Fraassen B. (2000) The false hopes of traditional epistemology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60: 253–280
van Fraassen B. (2002) The empirical stance. Yale University Press, New Haven & London
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Ladyman, J. The scientistic stance: the empirical and materialist stances reconciled. Synthese 178, 87–98 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-009-9513-0
- Empirical stance
- Materialist stance
- Scientistic stance
- van Fraassen