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By Norman Swartz

Publication by way of Swartz, Norman

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Additional resources for Beyond Experience: Metaphysical Theories and Philosophical Constraints (Toronto Studies in Philosophy)

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I can see no way at all to offer an answer without begging* the very question being posed. Formalists will answer in one fashion, non-formalists in another. But who, or where, is the neutral, objective referee who can adjudicate the debate? So far as I can tell, at this point, when we have begun to ask questions about how philosophy is to be done, there can be no definitive or authoritative answers. As I said earlier, each of you must sample philosophical approaches to find one suitable for yourself.

Notice that this is precisely what I have just been doing, in discussing how the concept of theory is to be understood, and I will continue to do so throughout the rest of this current chapter. I am not merely saying that such-andsuch is the way the concept theory is used; I have been arguing, and will continue to argue, that to adopt a certain usage is useful and profitable. In short, I am not just engaging in a piece of descriptive 26 Beyond Experience lexicography,*1 but I am here doing philosophy, in this particular case, recommending how we might best, or at least usefully, regard the concept of theory.

Some contemporary anthropologists and psychologists have taken to describing Homo sapiens as the storytelling species, and by this they mean that we human beings are constantly constructing stories (hypotheses / theories) in order to make sense of both the usual and the unusual. These stories range from the myths of primitive societies to the highly sophisticated theories of quantum mechanics and astrophysics, from the commonplace (“there are parallel black marks on the pavement; probably a car skidded”) to the highly speculative (“there is intelligent life elsewhere in this galaxy”) and to the outrightly metaphysical (“there is in each of us an immortal soul”).

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