Re: Empiricism

Garry DeWeese (
Thu, 16 Apr 1998 19:13:51 -0600

Dear Massimo,

A short addition to my response to your response:

At 04:37 PM 4/16/1998 -0400, Massimo Pigliucci wrote:
>1- empirical investigations are the best ways of finding out about the
>world (and they *work*)
>2- supernaturalism and mysticism make unfounded assumptions (and,
>especially, *don't* work).

Is your ultimate criterion, then, what "works"? Consider this thought

Suppose that you discover a young girl in one of the "hollers" of rural
Tennessee, and suppose this girl has remarkable abilities. It turns out
that she can accurately predict all the statistics of Tennessee Oilers'
football games two weeks in advance. Never fails. (I make no assumptions
about how she does this--merely assume the empirical outcome of her
predictions is amazingly accurate.) Now you have two options. One, you
can say, "Well, I guess I was wrong about the empirical method. It seems
that paranormal [non-natural] phenomena are real after all, and since they
cannot be explained on the basis of empirical science, I must acknowledge
at least some aspects of non-empirical reality." Or you can say, "Any
gambler might have a run of luck--that's all this is." But since
empiricism deals with what *works*--with the results of experiments and
explanations which make possible predictions--it does not seem that the
second way is open to you. Ex hypothesi, this girl's predictions always

Note: Unless you can show that the thought experiment is *logically* or
*metaphysically* impossible, then you cannot dismiss my counterexample as
"silly." But if you argue that the assumption is logically or
metaphysically impossible, you must do it using only empirical methods.
Can that be done?

Best wishes,
Garry DeWeese