b - amundson,r.(1983) - the epistemological status of a naturalized epistemology

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    The pistemological Status

    o

    a

    Naturalized pistemology

    Ron Amundson

    University

    of

    Hawaii, Hilo

    Philosophically inclined psychologists and psychologically inclined

    often hold that the substantive discoveries

    of

    psychology can prov

    foundation for epistemology.

    n

    this paper it is argued that the am

    epistemology empirically faces certain unnoticed difficulties. Emp

    concerned with knowledge-gaining abilities have been hist

    or

    ically

    specific epistemological views such that the epistemology gives pr

    to the substantive theory, while the theory empirically supports th

    Theories attribute to the subject just those epistemic abilities whi

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    334

    Ron

    mundson

    standard text in the history of psychology. Typically about a

    volume s devoted to pre-scientific (i.e. pre-Wundt) psycholo

    of

    this refers to classical philosophical epistemologists.

    Contemporary epistemology shows strong interest in rel

    mology to the substantive discoveries

    of

    psychology. This in

    from several influences.

    One

    important influence s many epi

    loss of the Cartesian ambition to provide an epistemologica

    for non-philosophical (including scientific) knowledge.

    s

    lon

    was epistemically to support the sciences, we would be begg

    were we

    to

    use the results of scientific inquiry in constructi

    foundation. Such circularity s not encountered in the ta

    describing human epistemic processes. This kind of descripti

    a part,

    but

    only a

    part

    ,

    of

    classical epistemology.

    The

    othe

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    Neutralized Episte

    the substantive theories from these observations. I will argue a

    position. I will suggest that empirically based epistemolog

    common in the history

    of

    the cognitive sciences. I will argu

    that this congruence of epistemology and substantive theory (1

    the rational support of any naturalized  descriptive epistemol

    s to some extent counterproductive to progress in the cognit

    t is widely recognized that the cognitive scientist s himse

    cognitive systems which are the object of his study. This dual

    scientist, as investigator and as exemplar

    of

    cognition , opens th

    that, as his science advances, he will increasingly come to und

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    336 Ron

    Amundson

    discovered facts about cognition. The epistemologist can trust

    because, it

    s

    supposed, if it weren t based on a good epi

    would have produced results which would have shown the

    to be in error. Perhaps this is enough. Perhaps not.

    Consider scientific theory T and the epistemology E with

    developed. The following

    s

    a General Significance Criterion

    A theory

    T

    based on epistemology

    E

    s

    significant to th

    it is possible for

    E

    together with some observations to

    T

    in conflict with

    T

    This trivial criterion requires only that a theory must have m

    content

    than

    its ancestor epistemology. Any theory, cognitive

    fails this criterion ought

    not

    to be considered a substantive

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    Neutralized piste

    generated from within the theory s cognitive paradigm. The

    and the substantive theory seem to come in a package, an

    mology s rejection occurs only through a paradigm change

    the theory along with the epistemology. (Cases to be noted

    epistemologies/methodologies of the cognitive sciences se

    exerted powerful constraints on the epistemological specifics o

    ated

    th ori s

    constraints which protect the epistemology agai

    attack. Again, the problem

    is

    not that

    no

    empirical discoveri

    that nothing surprises the scientists working within the paradig

    is only that there are no epistemological surprises. The desc

    temology which comes out of a cognitive paradigm is very, ve

    the one which went in. Ideally, one would expect to find a

    psychologist discovering that the facts of cognition show his ep

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    338

    Ron mundson

    as motives, desires, anxiety, and so on. But: A disturbance

    is

    not explained by relating it to felt anxiety until that anxiet

    been explained.

    10

    Skinner surely does not intend this pri

    universally applied -

      ll

    explanations would await the expla

    Big Bang. The reason anxiety cannot serve as an explanans w

    being an explanandum

    is

    that anxiety

    is

    not an observed fe

    world.

    On

    Skinner s view, an explanation of behavior mus

    deducibility of a behavior (or behavior-probability) from prio

    conditions. This is an epistemological principle, guiding Skinn

    endeavors.

    Here

    is

    a question for empirical psychology:

    Do

    intern

    representations of unobserved events play a part in hum

    activity? To this question behaviorists answer No and cogn

    Here is a question for epistemology: re explanations by

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    Neutralized Episte

    IV

    I would urge on these grounds that the dual aspect

    of

    the cogn

    has reactionary, not progressive, effects. The effects are sim

    which methodological commitment has been claimed to h

    sciences. They are, if anything, more insidious in the cognit

    Among the deepest epistemological debates

    are

    those betw

    positivist, and conventionalist interpretations

    of

    science. A

    to a version

    of

    one

    of

    these epistemologies constrains

    the

    i

    one might

    put

    on a given theory in

    the

    physical sciences,

    bu

    dictate theory choice itself. In contrast, an epistemology seem

    constrain even theory choice in cognitive science Machian p

    not legislate between nineteenth-century physical atomism a

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    34

    Ron

    mundson

    operationalism . Unlike the positivisms

    of

    Skinner and Ti

    allowed logical constructs  which were

    not

    directly observed,

    from and defined  in terms of observable stimuli and resp

    psychological subject. One special feature

    of

    neobehaviorism

    attributed mediating responses to the subject. These were

    inferred responses which themselves served as stimuli for furthe

    overt responses. Mediating responses obeyed the same laws of

    as overt responses. Clearly the logical positivist (and not t

    view

    of

    theoretical terms was necessary to warrant the use

    of

    th

    response  concept. ut in addition, consider the application

    iorist theory to the behavior of the scientist. The psycholo

    construct  is defined in terms of his observations (stimuli?) s

    involving his active experimentation. This construct sounds

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    Neutralized piste

    anti-cognitivism, stripped

    of

    positivist epistemology,

    is

    pitiful

    to realist/cognitivist criticism. Fodor did not note that, if one

    w

    a robust behaviorist account

    of

    the behavior of scientists, re

    be a singularly implausible epistemology.

    v

    My purpose

    is

    only

    to

    provide a prima facie case for the n

    self-supporting epistemology/ substantive theory paradigm in

    sciences. I take it

    that the

    cases I have mentioned show

    congruence between descriptive aspects

    of

    an epistemology an

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    342 Ron

    mundson

    empirical science. The cognitive scientist s dual aspect

    is

    not

    is a disguised burden.

    One

    objection to the present view may be that it makes ep

    change in the cognitive sciences impossible, or at least inexp

    changes

    do

    occur, and in response to the success or lack

    of

    s

    associated paradigm. This is true, but consistent with the p

    Such support (or stimulus for change) is not simply the asserti

    of

    the

    epistemological arm s validity by the substantive arm

    o

    Such an endorsement

    is

    a matter of course, and should carr

    (As for the possibility of a challenge, I know of no such case

    is

    not a matter of course

    is

    the substantive arm s success in th

    outside the paradigm. The epistemology may insulate the sub

    to some extent, but it cannot fully isolate it from contact with o

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    Neutralized Episte

    paradigms until we begin to grant the same respect to th

    psychology (and other cognitive sciences) which we now grant

    of the physical sciences. Until this happens the most reason

    for a given epistemological position will come not from its d

    logical endorsement, but from its ability to cope with relat

    troversial epistemic achievements - for example those which

    the physical sciences.

    22

    NOTES

    1 I will use the term cognitive science in a very broad sense, to includ

    science addressing as its topic the acquisition of knowledge. These w

    cognitivist behaviorist learning theories. Cognitivism  will refer to the

    psychological schools. I apologize for this terminological puzzle .

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      44

    Ron Amundson

    of epistemology in the debates of the period are the topic of 'Place vers

    epistemology

    of

    a pseudoproblem' , in preparation.

    17 Cf. 0. Mowrer,

    Learning Theory and the Symbolic Processes

    Wiley, New

    C. Osgood, 'Motivational Dynamics of Language Behavior', Nebraska

    Motivation 1957, pp. 348-424.

    18 Pertti J. Pelto and Greta H. Pelto, Anthropological Research 2nd ed.,

    versity Press, New York 1978, p. 13

    19

    Ron Amundson, 'Science, Ethnoscience, and Ethnocentrism', Philosophy

    49

    (1982), pp. 236-50.

    20

    Jerry Fodor,

    Psychological Explanation

    Random House, New Y

    ark

    1968;

    'Psychology in Physical Language' , reprinted in A

    J

    Ayer (Ed.), Logical

    Press, New York 1959.

    21 Bertrand Russell, 'What There Is  , reprinted in Robert Ammerman (E

    Analytic Philosophy

    McGraw Hill, New York 1965, p. 33

    22

    I owe special thanks to Dudley Shapere, and to participants in his NEH S

    during 1980 , for insights on this project. Research was also supported by

    the summer of

    1981

    , and

    by

    the University of Hawaii Office of Research