Definitions and Empirical Justification in Christian Wolff’s Theory of Science

in History of Philosophy & Logical Analysis
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  • 1 University of Texas at Austin

This paper argues that in Christian Wolff’s theory of knowledge, logical regimentation does not take the place of experiential justification, but serves to facilitate the application of empirical information and clearly exhibit its warrant. My argument targets rationalistic interpretations such as R. Lanier Anderson’s. It is common ground in this dispute that making concepts “distinct” (articulating their component marks) issues in the premises on which all deductive justification rests. Against the view that concepts are made distinct only by analysis, which is carried out by the understanding independently of experience, I contend that for Wolff some distinct concepts are arrived at through experience. I emphasize that Wolff countenances empirical methods of obtaining distinct concepts even in mathematics. This striking feature of his view indicates how its empiricist elements can be reconciled with his injunction to follow “mathematical” method.

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