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Grand Theories and Everyday BeliefsScience, Philosophy, and their Histories$
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Wallace Matson

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199812691

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199812691.001.0001

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How one thing led to another

(p.2) (p.3) Chapter 1 Introduction
Grand Theories and Everyday Beliefs

Wallace Matson

Oxford University Press

Overview. Genesis of the work in attempt to solve Popper's Demarcation Problem, separation of sense from nonsense, by considering beliefs and verifications instead of propositions and verifiability. I go at this historically, showing what beliefs are and how they arise in animals in the course of coping with their environments, and how language makes possible unverified (“high”) beliefs, conflatable into grand theories. Thales of Miletus invented science with the first grand theory based on everyday (“low”) beliefs. I identify the main characteristics of science as monism, immanence, and rationalism and trace their vicissitudes until their displacement by the Christian world view of the old type. Philosophy, I contend, has still not recovered from being handmaiden to theology. Medieval notions hang on unnoticed in the notions of logical possibility, possible worlds, and, in ethics, commandments. I conclude with sketches of renaturalized ethical and political theories, and rather unhappy prognostications.

Keywords:   popper, demarcation problem, belief, language, Thales, monism, immanence, reason, Christianity, commands

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