The Scientistic Stance: The Empirical and Materialist Stances Reconciled

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van Fraassen (The empirical stance, 2002) contrasts the empirical stance with the materialist stance. The way he describes them makes both of them attractive, and while opposed they have something in common for both stances are scientific approaches to philosophy. The difference between them reflects their differing conceptions of science itself. Empiricists emphasise fallibilism, verifiability and falsifiability, and also to some extent scepticism and tolerance of novel hypotheses. Materialists regard the theoretical picture of the world as matter in motion as a true and explanatory account and insist on not taking ‘spooky’ entities or processes seriously as potential explanations of phenomena that so far lie outside the scope of successful science. The history of science shows us that both stances have been instrumental in the achievement of progress at various times. It is therefore plausible for a naturalist to suggest that science depends for its success on the dialectic between empiricism and materialism. A truly naturalist approach to philosophy ought then to synthesise them. Call the synthesized empiricist and materialist stances ‘the scientistic stance’. This paper elaborates and defends it.
Translated title of the contributionThe Scientistic Stance: The Empirical and Materialist Stances Reconciled
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)87 - 98
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Early online date21 Apr 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2011

Structured keywords

  • Centre for Science and Philosophy
  • Centre_for_science_and_philosophy


  • empirical stance
  • materialist stance
  • scientistic stance
  • empiricism
  • materialism
  • scientism
  • van Fraassen


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