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Doctor of Philosophy




Robert DiSalle


This essay examines the relationship between ordinary empirical judgments and our scientific worldviews. It is concerned with how ordinary judgments (and the primitive frameworks in which they are formulated) might be usefully integrated into an account of epistemological progress, both of our personal views and scientific theories, such that the sciences (especially modern theories of space and time) can reasonably be thought as being informed by, and evolving out of, at least some of the various pre-scientific views they have replaced. We examine our normal perceptual judgments of magnitude, position, orientation, and displacement in the hope of uncovering the logical, conceptual, and empirical relations that exist between such judgments (as well as the views of the world they presuppose) and our sophisticated understandings of space, time, and motion in physical theory.

This research contends that experience and a rich type of conceptual analysis—one that examines the presuppositions that make possible the application of concepts in empirical contexts—together provide the framework within which a rational account of such relations can be proposed. The project thus defends a form of empiricism, but one distinct from classical forms (be they British empiricism, Russellian empiricism, or logical empiricism)—rather a slightly modified version of Anil Gupta’s “Reformed Empiricism”. This empiricism is capable of avoiding the logical excesses and errors of earlier forms, whilst providing an account of how a set of basic empiricist principles might be extended from their context in general epistemology to recalcitrant problems in the philosophy of science, such as the problem of our formal knowledge, the problem of the communicability of observation, and the rationality of theoretical progress. Such an extension offers a comprehensive account both of our ordinary and scientific knowledge.

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