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Mathematics and Reality$
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Mary Leng

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280797

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280797.001.0001

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Naturalism and Scientific Practice

Naturalism and Scientific Practice

(p.100) 5. Naturalism and Scientific Practice
Mathematics and Reality

Mary Leng (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers a tension between Quine's naturalism and his confirmational holism that has been pointed out by Penelope Maddy, amongst others. Naturalism requires us to look to science to discover what we ought to believe, and holism requires us to accept the truth of our best scientific theories. But as Maddy has pointed out, there are cases where scientists hold back from believing all the claims of their theories. Scientists might simply be wrong here—our naturalism does not require us to accept, uncritically, the attitudes scientists take to their own theories. However, it is argued that reflection on the role various theoretical assumptions play in our scientific theories shows that the attitude taken by these scientists may be reasonable. Confirmational holism is therefore rejected—the question of which among our theoretical assumptions becomes a question of how best to understand the successful use of these assumptions.

Keywords:   W. V. O. Quine, Penelope Maddy, confirmational holism, naturalism, idealization, direct evidence, scientific practice

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