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Scientific realism and phenomenology through the case study of autism

Pantazakos, Themistoklis; (2019) Scientific realism and phenomenology through the case study of autism. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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In this thesis, I propose a radical reframing of the analytic scientific realism debate via the phenomenological concept of the life-world. I provide motivation for examining science’s situatedness by interrogating the observable aspects of the world. In so doing, I propose to drop any notions of ecumenical truth and reality in the frame of the debate. The case study of autism spectrum conditions (ASCs) is explored to demonstrate what this suggested reframing implies for scientific practice. I offer that the best construal of the observables is the concept of the life-world (Edmund Husserl’s lebenswelt) from continental phenomenology. I perform a series of analytic tweaks on the concept and define it, for the frame of this dissertation, to be the world of immediate – yet theory-laden and prism-mediated – experience as cashed out by a subject’s perceiving capacities. The main improvement of the life-world to traditional analytic construals of the observables is that it captures extra-linguistic elements, allowing us to interrogate these crucial facets of science that are not language- and theory-based strictu sensu. Following I highlight the life-world’s pluralistic dimensions. Theoretically, I do this by defending conceptual scheme pluralism against certain tendencies in the analytic philosophy of language, and then apply this defence to life-worlds. Turning to extant cases of life-world difference, I investigate the case study of autism spectrum conditions. I argue that what this case brings to the fore is first our being compelled to recognise the autistic life-world as ‘real and true’ in the way we take the neurologically typical life-world to be and, second, that autism spectrum conditions treatment should be oriented towards this life-world, in the sense of attempting to maximize happiness and well-being in its own terms. Unfortunately, this is found to be in stark contrast with the extant ASC-related treatment situation. Finally, I claim that we should philosophically be haunted less by any claims of ecumenical Truth and Reality and related, somewhat stale metaphysical issues typically associated with the debate. Rather, it is both more philosophically interesting and humanitarianly urgent to interrogate how what a science takes to be true shapes the practice itself and how it affects human lives associated with it. Theoretically, my philosophical position abides first and foremost by life-world incorrigibility and pluralism and is thus appropriately named pluralistic incorrigible realism (PIR). ‘True’ is here taken to cash out what is incorrigible for a perceiving subject, but whatever notion of truth may arise herein is only in the form of a (subjective or intersubjective) admittance within the confines of a life-world.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Scientific realism and phenomenology through the case study of autism
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10082172
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