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Why Radical Empiricism?

How can it be that something "technical" (Empirical Modelling) can be aligned to a specific philosophical outlook (Radical Empiricism)?

Aren't other philosophical positions essential in relation to specific kinds of activity, such as experimental science?


Some reasons to regard the association between EM and RE as especially significant

The character of EM: EM is concerned with meaning that is latent in interaction and interpretation that (whilst it may become familiar and routine) has at all times to be renewed and revisited and always maintains its personal subjective quality and potential for novelty and surprise. An account of EM has to be an account of how experience of this nature enlists meanings. This is one and the same concern that motivates Radical Empiricism. Computing technology effects a radical tranformation from a 19th century to 21st century perspective by enabling virtual experience with unprecedented capacity for novelty and surprise - as well as for controlled experiment, monitoring and recovery.

The distinctive and inclusive character of RE: For instance, in relation to "understanding forwards", James writes: Radical Empiricism alone insists on understanding forwards also ... (emphasis added).

... and in relation to plurality - harmonises with other philosophical outlooks subject to associating philosophical positions with varieties of experience ("classification of experience" [C5] = identifying what variety of experience we are invoking in a particular context cf. abstract algebras - NB varieties overlap and are not disjoint): cf "Different [wo]men may find their minds more at home in very different fragments of the world. etc" ["The types of thinking", in A Pluralistic Universe]. But more potently: this one and the same experience is both of this variety and of this variety at one and the same time.

The distinctive disclaimers of RE: James argues: "But how the experiences ever get themselves made, or why their characters and relations are just such as appear, we can not begin to understand." [C4] This can be read as indicating a critical view of philosophical positions that purport to (absolute) knowledge of such causes and agencies. James's stance is resolutely pragmatic: we can make different construals, and some are more effective than others. James regards the possibility of knowing "what causation really and transcendentally is in itself" [D2] as hypothetical, and as being of relatively little consequence in pragmatic terms.

The degree of openness bestowed by the authority given to experience in RE: James's monism [as represented in the concept of "pure experience"] is itself pragmatic in character:

I say 'empiricism', because it is contented to regard its most assured conclusions concerning matters of fact as hypotheses liable to modification in the course of future experience; and I say 'radical', because it treats the doctrine of monism itself as an hypotheses, and, unlike so much [other thinking] ... does not dogmatically affirm monism as something with which all experience has got to square. [A4]
[from the Preface of The Will to Believe]