Prof. dr. A.F. Theo Kuipers
(University of Groningen)

Explication in philosophy and science
Workshop in two consecutive sessions, with an invitation to do some preparatory homework

In this workshop the method of concept explication will be practised. Clarification of concepts and intuitions is the core business of (analytic) philosophy, and one of the core businesses of science; in both cases, to begin with the clarification of concepts. If there is something like a method in philosophy it is 'the method of concept explication' for the clarification of concepts. It is not merely a passive, descriptive matter, but to some extent an active (constructive), normative enterprise.

  1. The first round of concept explication takes place in five phases:
  2. Choose the explicandum, the concept to be explicated.
  3. Determine the specific desiderata: evident, undisputed (types of) examples of the informal concept + evident, undisputed (types of) non-examples + (other) conditions of adequacy that have been derived from (the uses and functions of) the informal concept + similarly derived conditions of in-adequacy.
  4. Propose an explication, the explicatum.
  5. Evaluate it in terms of successes and problems relative to the specific desiderata.
  6. Evaluate it in terms of the general desiderata for concept formation: precision, fruitfulness and simplicity.

  7. The second round amounts to:
  8. Reconsider the specific desiderata.
  9. Try to improve the first explication, e.g. by branching or concretization.
Participants are invited to do some preparatory homework. Make a start with explicating a concept in philosophy or science that intrigues you very much. Try to come as far as possible. After a general introduction, the workshop will proceed with discussing and further elaborating the homework in small groups, followed by a plenary discussion of the examples and the general use-value of the method. There will be a short break.

To give an idea, in the last couple of years papers have been written in a master course about explications of the following concepts: promises, utility, multiple realizability, simplicity (& parsimony), dialectical development, distance (in cosmology), authenticity, nation, chance, jealousy, plays and games, truth, schizophrenia, fallacies, horizon (in cosmology), social unity, love, stress, terrorism, neuroscientific reduction, belief, intelligence.

Theo A.F. Kuipers (1947) studied mathematics and philosophy in Eindhoven and Amsterdam. He is full professor of philosophy of science at the University of Groningen. A synthesis of his work on confirmation, empirical progress, and truth approximation, entitled From instrumentalism to constructive realism appeared in 2000 as Volume 287 in the Synthese Library of Kluwer AP. A twin synthesis of his work on the structure of theories, research programs, explanation, reduction, and computational discovery and evaluation, entitled Structures in Science , appeared in 2001 as Volume 301 in the Synthese Library. In 2005 there appeared two volumes of Essays in Debate with Theo Kuipers, with in total 34 essays related to the abovementioned books. They start with a synopsis of the corresponding book and each essay is followed by a reply of Kuipers. The volumes are edited by Roberto Festa, Atocha Aliseda and Jeanne Peijnenburg, and published by Rodopi as Poznan Studies 83 and 84.