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March 9: Dustin Olson (University of Rochester) Russell Visiting Professor

3:30 pm to 5:00 pm in KTH B124

“Russell, Reflective Equilibrium, and the Analytic Method”

Abstract: Open any entry on the history of the method of inquiry known as reflective equilibrium (RE) and you are sure to find this view attributed to John Rawls—who named this method in 1951 in his “Outline for a Decision Procedures in Ethics.” In turn, you are highly likely to find in this entry that Rawls attributes his discovery of RE to Nelson Goodman’s work on induction in Goodman’s Fact, Fiction, and Forecast. And in very rare cases, one might even hear mention of Pierre Duhem as championing this method in his The Aim and Structure of Physical Theory. One name you won’t, but I argue you should, find in a list of reflective equilibrium’s practitioners is Bertrand Russell.

Much ink has been spilled on Russell’s method of analysis, but to date no one has drawn the connection between his method and RE. In his 1907 paper “The Regressive Method of Discovering the Premises of Mathematics,” however, Russell clearly lays out a quasi-empirical method of inquiry in mathematics analogous to RE. This method is then consistently employed throughout the rest Russell philosophical program, ultimately finding a place in Russell’s final major work in epistemology Human Knowledge. It is within this later context that we will assess this method, with special consideration to Russell’s RE, and how it might hold up to more recent challenges made against it.

To view the full roster of speakers, please visit our Speaker Series page.

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Date(s) - March 9, 2018
3:30 pm - 5:00 pm

McMaster University, Kenneth Taylor Hall B124


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