A Naturphilosophical Conception of Concepts in Philosophy of Science
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Under the conception of concepts as use in philosophy of science, scientists use concepts for different purposes, such as describing the world, creating research programs, explanation, or investigating phenomena. The conception of concepts of use, however, currently has unsolved issues. Firstly, the conceptions of concepts as use has not developed an account of how concepts precisely relate to the world, even though it maintains that nature should be taken as a guide within science. And secondly, the conception of concepts as use does not explicate how individual concepts aggregate into scientific theories. The conception of concepts as use attempts to repudiate earlier conceptions of concepts that view concepts exclusively as definitions – explicated amongst others by logical positivists –hereby named the conception of concepts as definitions. Willard van Orman Quine and Thomas Kuhn have leveled several counterarguments against the conception of concepts as definitions. Quine firstly contends that Logical Positivists cannot distinguish between analytic and synthetic statements. Secondly, Quine upholds that immediate sensible experience cannot be reduced to straightforwardly logically constructed sentences. An account of reduction would thus be required when attempting to capture experience in straightforward definitions, so that these definitions can simultaneously be descriptions of the world. Kuhn subsequently maintained that scientific communities undergo paradigm shifts, leading to methodological, observational, and semantical incommensurabilities between different paradigms. These incommensurabilities additionally undermine the conception of concepts as definitions. This thesis assumes that any 21st century conception of concepts can only be adequate insofar it correctly deals with the criticisms of Quine and Kuhn. Contrary to the conception of concepts as definitions, this thesis demonstrates that the conception of concepts as use can adequately deal with Quine’s and Kuhn’s criticisms. It is subsequently contended that Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s Naturphilosophie can accord to these adequacy conditions as well. It is demonstrated through several reasons that Schelling’s Naturphilosophie is fruitful for both grounding and understanding the conception of concepts as use in relation to that conception’s aforementioned issues: 1) Schelling’s Naturphilosophie yields an account how reflection emerges out of an pre-reflexive nature – i.e., how thinking emerges out of what is not thinking – which can be exclusively known through intuition; 2) Naturphilosophie grounds the uses of concepts in deeds, while locating these deeds in nature’s forces; 3) Naturphilosophie yields an account of reason, i.e. it demonstrates how individual concepts are aggregated into overarching scientific (and philosophical theories) under a coherence theory of truth. In this process, the locus of Schelling’s oeuvre will be his Freiheitsschrift (1809), and Naturphilosopical works (1794-1800) are adopted insofar they are consistent with the Freiheitsschrift.