Alexander Bird (Cambridge): “Against Empiricism”

Most philosophers of science are realists. Most philosophers of science are, at least implicitly, empiricists. But, I argue, it is not reasonable to be both an empiricist and a realist, because empiricism is motivated by epistemological internalism and realism requires the rejection of internalism. Nor is instrumentalism a reasonable position. So an empiricist should be an outright sceptic about science. Conversely, someone who wishes to have a positive attitude to at least some parts of science, should not be an empiricist. I conclude by pointing out that scientific practice is at least prima facie inconsistent with empiricism.

Alexander Bird is Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.