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Inference Belief and Interpretation in Science

Lahiri, Avijit (2019) Inference Belief and Interpretation in Science. [Preprint]

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Abstract

This monograph explores the deeply cognitive roots of human scientific quest. The process of making scientific inferences is continuous with the day-to-day inferential activity of individuals, and is predominantly inductive in nature. Inductive inference, which is fallible, exploratory, and open-ended, is of essential relevance in our incessant efforts at making sense of a complex and uncertain world around us, and covers a vast range of cognitive activities, among which scientific exploration constitutes the pinnacle.

Inductive inference has a personal aspect to it, being rooted in the cognitive unconscious of individuals, which has recently been found to be of paramount importance in a wide range of complex cognitive processes. One other major aspect of the process of inference making, including the making of scientific inferences, is the role of a vast web of beliefs lodged in the human mind, as also of a huge repertoire of heuristics, that constitute an important component of ‘unconscious intelligence’. Finally, human cognitive activity is dependent in a large measure on emotions and affects that operate mostly at an unconscious level. Of special importance in scientific inferential activity is the process of hypothesis making, which is examined in this book, along with the above aspects of inductive inference, at considerable depth.

The book focuses on the inadequacy of the viewpoint of naive realism in understanding the context-dependence of scientific theories, where a cumulative progress towards an ultimate truth about Nature appears to be too simplistic a generalization. It poses a critique to the commonly perceived image of science where it is seen as the last word in logic and objectivity, the latter in the double sense of being independent of individual psychological propensities and, at the same time, approaching a correct understanding of the workings of a mind-independent nature. Adopting the naturalist point of view, it examines the essential tension between the cognitive endeavors of individuals and scientific communities, immersed in belief systems and cultures, on the one hand, and the engagement with a mind-independent reality on the other. In the end, science emerges as an interpretation of nature, which is perceived by us only contextually, as successively emerging cross-sections of a limited scope and extent. Successive waves of theory building in science appear as episodic and kaleidoscopic changes in perspective as certain in-built borders are crossed, rather than as a cumulative progress towards some ultimate truth.

Based on current literature, I aim to set up, in the form of a plausible hypothesis, a framework for understanding the mechanisms underlying inductive inference in general and abduction in particular.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Lahiri, Avijitavijit.lahiri.al@gmail.com
Keywords: scientific realism, inductive inference, unconscious cognition, heuristics in inference, beliefs and emotiona, belief in cognition, cognitive psychology, conceptual transformation, Michael Polanyi, Thomas Kuhn, incommensurability, paradigm, rationality debate, dual process theory, abduction, evolutionary psychology, cultural evolution, conceptual space, science as legend, Philip Kitcher, Ronald Giere, anti-realism, naturalism
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Consciousness
Specific Sciences > Cultural Evolution
Specific Sciences > Psychology > Judgment and Decision Making
Specific Sciences > Psychology
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
Depositing User: Dr. Avijit Lahiri
Date Deposited: 09 Jul 2019 04:31
Last Modified: 09 Jul 2019 04:31
Item ID: 16199
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Psychology > Evolutionary Psychology
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Concepts and Representations
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Cognitive Science > Consciousness
Specific Sciences > Cultural Evolution
Specific Sciences > Psychology > Judgment and Decision Making
Specific Sciences > Psychology
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
General Issues > Theory Change
Date: 7 July 2019
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16199

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