I’m not sure I get this worry about Williamson’s definition. For one thing he doesn’t give one. I take it his point is that naturalism either seems to be something close trivially true or false. That many naturalists want naturalism to be true and for it to rule out certain things, and that they can’t have both.
Btw, Trent Dougherty’s (ed.) ‘Evidentialism and its Discontents’ came out on Amazon on the 15th. I have already read through a bunch via Google Books’ preview; good stuff; I placed an order for it. Will Trent appear at next month’s conference?
I agree. Williamson’s argument is fairly weak, and I am surprised at the degree to which it was. That being said, I have felt recently, based on some content like Williamson’s article and some discussions over at Flickers of Freedom, that there is somewhat of a small backlash that is currently en vogue against naturalism and the role of science in philosophical inquiry.
I find this backlash more troubling than surprising – almost as though science is seen as encroaching upon the philosophical territory that was once relegated only to metaphysics. I am not so sure it is, but it is clear, especially in the realm of philosophy of mind, that theories can no longer leave scientific studies unaddressed. Obviously this is not a new development – but I wonder if the acceleration of scientific discovery plays a role in these recent clashes. I would love to hear your thoughts on it.
Ultimately, the question I struggle with is two-fold: what is the difference between philosophy and science, and if these are two distinct disciplines then how ought they to interact in the pursuit of truth?
I agree that there shouldn’t be a backlash against science. If you philosophy makes empirical claims you better be up for science confirming/disconfirming them.
That said, I don’t see *at all* any kind of anti-science philosophy in Williamson. At most I take it that his point is not *only* science. That seems right to me, though I still want science to inform whenever it can.
I’ll take a shot at your difference question too. I think that they have different questions they are asking (not exhaustively) and a different methodology of inquiry. That said, philosophers should be informed by scientists, and vice versa.
I don’t think Williamson himself is antiscience, but I feel that the general tone of his paper is a cautionary one regarding giving science too much epistemic weight and the trouble with affirming naturalism.
I think it is clear that, at least right now, science and philosophy are two different disciplines. But in many fields there is a clash in conclusions, not the least of which is contemporary philosophy of mind and neuroscience. If both disciplines must inform one another then what are we to do when, like the recent piece “Philosophers Fight Back”, there is a disconnect between the conclusions of science and philosophy?
I do not see what philosophy has to recommend to science, but it is clear to me that we ought to populate our ontologies with those objects, states of affairs, events, etc., which science warrants or has need to utilize. For me, the reason for this is simple: the success of science is such that we must take their findings seriously and realize that the various scientific disciplines are on much surer epistemic grounds than philosophy now is or can every hope to be.