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Philosophers

Mortimer Adler
Rogers Albritton
Alexander of Aphrodisias
Samuel Alexander
William Alston
Anaximander
G.E.M.Anscombe
Anselm
Louise Antony
Thomas Aquinas
Aristotle
David Armstrong
Harald Atmanspacher
Robert Audi
Augustine
J.L.Austin
A.J.Ayer
Alexander Bain
Mark Balaguer
Jeffrey Barrett
William Belsham
Henri Bergson
George Berkeley
Isaiah Berlin
Richard J. Bernstein
Bernard Berofsky
Robert Bishop
Max Black
Susanne Bobzien
Emil du Bois-Reymond
Hilary Bok
Laurence BonJour
George Boole
Émile Boutroux
F.H.Bradley
C.D.Broad
Michael Burke
C.A.Campbell
Joseph Keim Campbell
Rudolf Carnap
Carneades
Ernst Cassirer
David Chalmers
Roderick Chisholm
Chrysippus
Cicero
Randolph Clarke
Samuel Clarke
Anthony Collins
Antonella Corradini
Diodorus Cronus
Jonathan Dancy
Donald Davidson
Mario De Caro
Democritus
Daniel Dennett
Jacques Derrida
René Descartes
Richard Double
Fred Dretske
John Dupré
John Earman
Laura Waddell Ekstrom
Epictetus
Epicurus
Herbert Feigl
John Martin Fischer
Owen Flanagan
Luciano Floridi
Philippa Foot
Alfred Fouilleé
Harry Frankfurt
Richard L. Franklin
Michael Frede
Gottlob Frege
Peter Geach
Edmund Gettier
Carl Ginet
Alvin Goldman
Gorgias
Nicholas St. John Green
H.Paul Grice
Ian Hacking
Ishtiyaque Haji
Stuart Hampshire
W.F.R.Hardie
Sam Harris
William Hasker
R.M.Hare
Georg W.F. Hegel
Martin Heidegger
Heraclitus
R.E.Hobart
Thomas Hobbes
David Hodgson
Shadsworth Hodgson
Baron d'Holbach
Ted Honderich
Pamela Huby
David Hume
Ferenc Huoranszki
William James
Lord Kames
Robert Kane
Immanuel Kant
Tomis Kapitan
Jaegwon Kim
William King
Hilary Kornblith
Christine Korsgaard
Saul Kripke
Andrea Lavazza
Keith Lehrer
Gottfried Leibniz
Leucippus
Michael Levin
George Henry Lewes
C.I.Lewis
David Lewis
Peter Lipton
C. Lloyd Morgan
John Locke
Michael Lockwood
E. Jonathan Lowe
John R. Lucas
Lucretius
Alasdair MacIntyre
Ruth Barcan Marcus
James Martineau
Storrs McCall
Hugh McCann
Colin McGinn
Michael McKenna
Brian McLaughlin
John McTaggart
Paul E. Meehl
Uwe Meixner
Alfred Mele
Trenton Merricks
John Stuart Mill
Dickinson Miller
G.E.Moore
Thomas Nagel
Friedrich Nietzsche
John Norton
P.H.Nowell-Smith
Robert Nozick
William of Ockham
Timothy O'Connor
Parmenides
David F. Pears
Charles Sanders Peirce
Derk Pereboom
Steven Pinker
Plato
Karl Popper
Porphyry
Huw Price
H.A.Prichard
Protagoras
Hilary Putnam
Willard van Orman Quine
Frank Ramsey
Ayn Rand
Michael Rea
Thomas Reid
Charles Renouvier
Nicholas Rescher
C.W.Rietdijk
Richard Rorty
Josiah Royce
Bertrand Russell
Paul Russell
Gilbert Ryle
Jean-Paul Sartre
Kenneth Sayre
T.M.Scanlon
Moritz Schlick
Arthur Schopenhauer
John Searle
Wilfrid Sellars
Alan Sidelle
Ted Sider
Henry Sidgwick
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong
J.J.C.Smart
Saul Smilansky
Michael Smith
Baruch Spinoza
L. Susan Stebbing
Isabelle Stengers
George F. Stout
Galen Strawson
Peter Strawson
Eleonore Stump
Francisco Suárez
Richard Taylor
Kevin Timpe
Mark Twain
Peter Unger
Peter van Inwagen
Manuel Vargas
John Venn
Kadri Vihvelin
Voltaire
G.H. von Wright
David Foster Wallace
R. Jay Wallace
W.G.Ward
Ted Warfield
Roy Weatherford
William Whewell
Alfred North Whitehead
David Widerker
David Wiggins
Bernard Williams
Timothy Williamson
Ludwig Wittgenstein
Susan Wolf

Scientists

Michael Arbib
Bernard Baars
Gregory Bateson
John S. Bell
Charles Bennett
Ludwig von Bertalanffy
Susan Blackmore
Margaret Boden
David Bohm
Niels Bohr
Ludwig Boltzmann
Emile Borel
Max Born
Satyendra Nath Bose
Walther Bothe
Hans Briegel
Leon Brillouin
Stephen Brush
Henry Thomas Buckle
S. H. Burbury
Donald Campbell
Anthony Cashmore
Eric Chaisson
Jean-Pierre Changeux
Arthur Holly Compton
John Conway
John Cramer
E. P. Culverwell
Charles Darwin
Terrence Deacon
Louis de Broglie
Max Delbrück
Abraham de Moivre
Paul Dirac
Hans Driesch
John Eccles
Arthur Stanley Eddington
Paul Ehrenfest
Albert Einstein
Hugh Everett, III
Franz Exner
Richard Feynman
R. A. Fisher
Joseph Fourier
Lila Gatlin
Michael Gazzaniga
GianCarlo Ghirardi
J. Willard Gibbs
Nicolas Gisin
Paul Glimcher
Thomas Gold
A.O.Gomes
Brian Goodwin
Joshua Greene
Jacques Hadamard
Patrick Haggard
Stuart Hameroff
Augustin Hamon
Sam Harris
Hyman Hartman
John-Dylan Haynes
Martin Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
John Herschel
Jesper Hoffmeyer
E. T. Jaynes
William Stanley Jevons
Roman Jakobson
Pascual Jordan
Ruth E. Kastner
Stuart Kauffman
Martin J. Klein
Simon Kochen
Stephen Kosslyn
Ladislav Kovàč
Rolf Landauer
Alfred Landé
Pierre-Simon Laplace
David Layzer
Benjamin Libet
Seth Lloyd
Hendrik Lorentz
Josef Loschmidt
Ernst Mach
Donald MacKay
Henry Margenau
James Clerk Maxwell
Ernst Mayr
Ulrich Mohrhoff
Jacques Monod
Emmy Noether
Abraham Pais
Howard Pattee
Wolfgang Pauli
Massimo Pauri
Roger Penrose
Steven Pinker
Colin Pittendrigh
Max Planck
Susan Pockett
Henri Poincaré
Daniel Pollen
Ilya Prigogine
Hans Primas
Adolphe Quételet
Juan Roederer
Jerome Rothstein
David Ruelle
Erwin Schrödinger
Aaron Schurger
Claude Shannon
David Shiang
Herbert Simon
Dean Keith Simonton
B. F. Skinner
Roger Sperry
John Stachel
Henry Stapp
Tom Stonier
Antoine Suarez
Leo Szilard
William Thomson (Kelvin)
Peter Tse
Vlatko Vedral
Heinz von Foerster
John von Neumann
John B. Watson
Daniel Wegner
Steven Weinberg
Paul A. Weiss
John Wheeler
Wilhelm Wien
Norbert Wiener
Eugene Wigner
E. O. Wilson
H. Dieter Zeh
Ernst Zermelo
Wojciech Zurek

Presentations

Biosemiotics
Free Will
Mental Causation
James Symposium
 
William Stanley Jevons

William Stanley Jevons was a logician and economic theorist who independently discovered the principle of marginal utility. He argued that since economics deals with quantities, it should be a mathematical science.

Jevons' 1874 book The Principles of Science: a Treatise on logic and Scientific Method criticized the Baconian method of induction as the source of new scientific ideas, instead claiming that random hypotheses are the source of novel creative new ideas.

In his 1880 Atlantic Monthly, essay, William James credits Jevons with the idea that new ideas come to us randomly.

To Professor Jevons is due the great credit of having emphatically pointed out how the genius of discovery depends altogether on the number of these random notions and guesses which visit the investigator's mind. To be fertile in hypotheses is the first requisite, and to be willing to throw them away the moment experience contradicts them is the next. The Baconian method of collating tables of instance may be a useful aid at certain times. But one might as well expect a chemist's note-book to write down the name of the body analyzed, or a weather table to sum itself up into a prediction of probabilities of its own accord, as to hope that the mere fact of mental confrontation with a certain series of facts will be sufficient to make any brain conceive their law. The conceiving of the law is a spontaneous variation in the strictest sense of the term. It flashes out of one brain, and no other, because the instability of that brain is such as to tip and upset itself in just that particular direction. But the important thing to notice is that the good flashes and the bad flashes, the triumphant hypotheses and the absurd conceits, are on an exact equality in respect of their origin. Aristotle's absurd Physics and his immortal Logic flow from one source: the forces that produce the one produce the other.
But, in his discussion of probability, Jevons appears to have been a complete determinist, even a pre-determinist.
Almost the greatest difficulty in this subject consists in acquiring a precise notion of the matter treated. What is it that we number, and measure, and calculate in the theory of probabilities? Is it belief, or opinion, or doubt, or knowledge, or chance, or necessity, or want of art?

Does probability exist in the things which are probable, or in the mind which regards them as such? The etymology of the name lends us no assistance: for, curiously enough, probable is ultimately the same word as provable, a good instance of one word becoming differentiated to two opposite meanings.

Chance cannot be the subject of the theory, because there is really no such thing as chance, regarded as producing and governing events. This name signifies falling, and the notion is continually used as a simile to express uncertainty, because we can seldom predict how a die, or a coin, or a leaf will fall, or when a bullet will hit the mark. But every one knows, on a little reflection, that it is in our knowledge the deficiency lies, not in the certainty of nature's laws. There is no doubt in lightning as to the point it shall strike; in the greatest storm there is nothing capricious; not a grain of sand lies upon the beach, but infinite knowledge would account for its lying there; and the course of every falling leaf is guided by the same principles of mechanics as rule the motions of the heavenly bodies.

Chance then exists not in nature, and cannot co-exist with knowledge; it is merely an expression for our ignorance of the causes in action, and our consequent inability to predict the result, or to bring it about infallibly. In nature the happening of a physical event has been pre-determined from the first fashioning of the universe. Probability belongs wholly to the mind; this indeed is proved by the fact that different minds may regard the very same event at the same time with totally different degrees of probability.

Nevertheless, Jevons is unequivocal that scientists have a freedom to hypothesize. In a section entitled Freedom of Theorizing,, which reminds us of the Free Will Axiom, he declares

It would be a complete error to suppose that the great discoverer is one who seizes at once unerringly upon the truth, or has any special method of divining it. In all probability the errors of the great mind far exceed in number those of the less vigorous one. Fertility of imagination and abundance of guesses at truth are among the first requisites of discovery; but the erroneous guesses must almost of necessity be many times as numerous as those which prove well founded. The weakest analogies, the most whimsical notions, the most apparently absurd theories, may pass through the teeming brain, and no record may remain of more than the hundredth part. There is nothing intrinsically absurd except that which proves contrary to logic and experience. The truest theories involve suppositions which are most inconceivable, and no limit can really be placed to the freedom of framing hypotheses.

Jevons on Induction and the Scientific Method

In the preface to The Principles of Science, Jevons deprecates Baconian induction in favor of a combination of hypotheses and deduction, with experimental testing the main criterion for accepting the ideas as new knowlege.

In following out my design of detecting the general methods of inductive investigation, I have found that the more elaborate and interesting processes of quantitative induction have their necessary foundation in the simpler science of Formal Logic. The earlier, and probably by far the least attractive part of this work, consists, therefore, in a statement of the so-called Fundamental Laws of Thought, and of the all-important Principle of Substitution, of which, as I think, all reasoning is a development. The whole procedure of inductive inquiry, in its most complex cases, is foreshadowed in the combinational view of Logic, which arises directly from these fundamental principles. Incidentally I have described the mechanical arrangements by which the use of the important form called the Logical Abecedarium, and the whole working of the combinational system of Formal Logic, may be rendered evident to the eye, and easy to the mind and hand.

The study both of Formal Logic and of the Theory of Probabilities, has led me to adopt the opinion that there is no such thing as a distinct method of induction as contrasted with deduction, but that induction is simply an inverse employment of deduction. Within the last century, a reaction has been setting in against the purely empirical procedure of Francis Bacon, and physicists have learnt to advocate the use of hypotheses. I take the extreme view of holding that Francis Bacon, although he correctly insisted upon constant reference to experience, had no correct notions as to the logical method by which, from particular facts, we educe laws of nature. I endeavour to show that hypothetical anticipation of nature is an essential part of inductive inquiry, and that it is the Newtonian method of deductive reasoning combined with elaborate experimental verification, which has led to all great triumphs of scientific research.

In attempting to give an explanation of this view of Scientific Method, I have first to show that the sciences of number and quantity repose upon and spring from the simpler and more general science of Logic. The Theory of Probability, which enables us to estimate and calculate quantities of knowledge, is then described, and especial attention is drawn to the Inverse Method of Probabilities, which involves, as I conceive, the true principle of inductive procedure. No inductive conclusions are more than probable, and I adopt the opinion that the theory of probability is an essential part of logical method, so that the logical value of every inductive result must be determined consciously or unconsciously, according to the principles of the inverse method of probability.

Jevons on Falsifiability

Haying once deliberately chosen, the philosopher may rightly entertain his theory with the strongest love and fidelity. He will neglect no objection; for he may chance at any time to meet a fatal one; but he will bear in mind tbe inconsiderable powers of the human mind compared the tasks it has to undertake. He will see that no theory can at first be reconciled with all possible objections simply because there may be many interfering causes, or the very consequences of the theory may have a complexity which prolonged investigation by successive generations of men may not exhaust. If then, a theory exhibit a number of very striking coincidences with fact, it must not be thrown aside until at least one conclusive discordance is proved, regard being had to possible error in establishing that discordance. In science and philosophy something must be risked. He who quails at the least will never establish a new truth.

Charles Sanders Peirce was greatly influenced by Jevons, visiting him on one of his U.S.-Coast-Survey-sponsored trips to Europe around the time (mis-1870's) Jevons published Principles of Science. Peirce called hypothesis formation "abduction," in his logical triad abduction-induction-deduction.


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