James McAllister, born in Bologna, Italy, in 1962. Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. Associate Professor at the Faculty of Philosophy at Leiden University, and KIVI Special Professor of Philosophy of Technology and Culture at Delft University of Technology.
Fellow (1 February 2005 – 30 June 2005)
PATTERNS IN EMPIRICAL DATA AND THE METAPHYSICS OF SCIENCE
During my semester at NIAS, I was able to make substantial progress on my main research project, “Patterns in Empirical Data and the Metaphysics of Science”. This project, which will lead to a monograph, investigates what is implied in thoroughgoing empiricism, i.e. the doctrine that all the evidence that we have about the world comes in the form of empirical data. In particular, I study the way in which patterns in empirical data constitute evidence of structures in the world. The ultimate conclusion of this project is that the world, in a sense that I make precise, is amorphous, or shows no intrinsic structure.
I devoted my NIAS Fellowship to two principal tasks. First, I formulated an improved version of the main argument leading from the premise that all empirical data are informative about some aspect of the world to the conclusion that the world shows no intrinsic structure. Second, I developed two case studies of the way natural scientists identify and choose among patterns exhibited in data sets.
My case studies relate to patterns in cosmic microwave background radiation in astronomy, and patterns in temperature records in climatology.