Article ID: CBB144644522

Causal Realism and the Limits of Empiricism: Some Unexpected Insights from Hegel (2015)


The term ‘realism’ and its contrasting terms have various related senses, although often they occlude as much as they illuminate, especially if ontological and epistemological issues and their tenable combinations are insufficiently clarified. For example, in 1807 the infamous ‘idealist’ Hegel argued cogently that any tenable philosophical theory of knowledge must take the natural and social sciences into very close consideration, which he himself did. Here I argue that Hegel ably and insightfully defends Newton’s causal realism about gravitational force, in part by exposing a fatal equivocation in the traditional concept of substance, by criticizing some still-standard empiricist misconceptions of force, by emphasizing the role of explanatory integration in Newtonian mechanics, and by using his powerful semantics of singular, specifically cognitive reference to justify fallibilism regarding empirical justification, together with the semantic core of Newton’s Rule Four of (experimental) Philosophy—in a way that highlights a key fallacy in many arguments against realism, both in epistemology and within philosophy of science.

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Authors & Contributors
Zigman, Peter M.
Breidbach, Olaf
Engelhardt, Dietrich von
Arabatzis, Theodore
Bohunikas, Lenka
Bonk, Sigmund
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
British Journal for the History of Philosophy
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Science
Acta Baltica historiae et philosophiae scientiarum
Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung
Oxford University Press
University of Chicago Press
Sentinel Open Press
Philosophy of science
Methodology of science; scientific method
Idealism (philosophy)
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich
Kant, Immanuel
Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von
Haeckel, Ernst
Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre
Ramsey, Frank Plumpton
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
17th century
20th century, early
16th century
20th century
Czech Republic

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