The Empirical Stance


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Bas C. van Fraassen

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What is empiricism and what could it be? Bas C. van Fraassen, one of the world’s foremost contributors to philosophical logic and the philosophy of science, here undertakes a fresh consideration of these questions and offers a program for renewal of the empiricist tradition. The empiricist tradition is not and could not be defined by common doctrines, but embodies a certain stance in philosophy, van Fraassen says. This stance is displayed first of all in a searing, recurrent critique of metaphysics, and second in a focus on experience that requires a voluntarist view of belief and opinion. Van Fraassen focuses on the philosophical problems of scientific and conceptual revolutions and on the not unrelated ruptures between religious and secular ways of seeing or conceiving of ourselves. He explores what it is to be or not be secular and points the way toward a new relationship between secularism and science within philosophy.

Bas C. van Fraassen is McCosh Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University.

“This work argues powerfully for a radical redirection of much contemporary thinking in epistemology and other important topics. It should force all of us to rethink the nature of analytic philosophy.”—Paul Teller, author of An Interpretive Introduction to Quantum Field Theory

“In this collection of five lectures, Bas van Fraassen attempts to answer a number of questions regarding the nature of empiricism, scientific inquiry, and theoretical revolution. . . . As an analytic philosopher, van Fraassen offers a unique perspective on these issues. His lectures are a pleasure to read and are accessible by the non-philosopher. Throughout the lectures, he is careful to incorporate extensive analogies with religion, Scripture, rationality, science, and various other topics in the history of philosophy. In addition to a comprehensive set of bibliographic Notes, van Fraassen has also included an extensive set of Appendices that offer additional insights and clarification. These supplemental materials are a delight for the reader who wishes to get more details and to pursue further study.”—James Sage,

“This manuscript cuts a wide swath and deals with its topics in such an engaging way that it is difficult to imagine any philosopher who would not find it worthwhile reading. . . . What we have in The Empirical Stance is an elegant encapsulation of van Fraassen’s latest thinking on topics of breadth and significance, an encapsulation which offers keen insights and carefully considered arguments and is presented with both passion and lucidity. Clearly, this book is an invaluable piece of philosophy.”—Alicia Finch, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

“The arguments are always nontechnical and clear, and the discussion forceful. For upper-division undergraduates through faculty.”—Choice

“No philosophical reader will fail to be engaged throughout.”—Bruce Hunter, Philosophy in Review

“In The Empirical Stance, van Fraassen, the most influential empiricist of recent decades, combines a penetrating discussion of empiricism in science and philosophy with a sympathetic discussion of religion. . . . [An] eloquent examination of empiricism and religion.”—Paul Thagard, Science

The Empirical Stance offers insightful criticism and valuable proposals while remaining extraordinarily broad in scope. It would serve well as a sophisticated but accessible resource.”—Religious Studies Review

ISBN: 9780300088748
Publication Date: April 10, 2002
304 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
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