Public Lecture: Bas van Fraassen


Location: McKenna Hall Auditorium (ND Conference Center)


'Ernan McMullin's Epistemology and Nuanced Realism'


Ernan McMullin developed a distinctive epistemology for scientific realism, with a view of science as an inferential practice leading to causal explanations of natural phenomena. In a series of publications but most notably his Marquette Lecture, The Inference That Makes Science, he recounted the clear historical progress he saw toward a vision of the sciences as conclusions reached rationally on the basis of empirical evidence, through a specific form of inference, retroduction. McMullin’s realism and his account of scientific inference were considerably more liberal and nuanced than similar contemporary accounts, and tend to bridge the divide between realism and empiricism. While offering an appreciation of his distinctive philosophy, I will suggest that the real rival to McMullin’s vision of science is not the methodologies he criticizes so successfully, but a more radical empiricist view of science as an enterprise of construction.

Free and open to the public. Light reception following.

Bas van Fraassen


Bas C. van Fraassen is McCosh Professor of Philosophy, Emeritus, at Princeton University and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University. His main concern is what empiricism can be now. His research interests straddle philosophical logic and philosophy of science, with occasional forays into art, literature, and religion. His books include Formal Semantics and Logic (1971), The Scientific Image (1980), Laws and Symmetry (1989), The Empirical Stance (2002), and Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective (2008).


Free parking is available at the BK1 lot south of the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore. Drive to the portico at the Morris Inn to receive the parking lot code.


This event is part of the interdisplinary conference, The Quest for Consonance: Theology and the Natural Sciences. The Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing is grateful for the support of the Templeton Religion Trust, the John. J. Reilly Center, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, the Department of Theology, the Department of Physics, and the Department of Philosophy.