Somewhere over the... what?

Alessio Gava


In order to defend his controversial claim that observation is unaided perception, Bas van Fraassen, the originator of constructive empiricism, suggested that, for all we know, the images produced by a microscope could be in a situation analogous to that of the rainbows, which are ‘images of nothing’. He added that reflections in the water, rainbows, and the like are ‘public hallucinations’, but it is not clear whether this constitutes an ontological category apart or an empty set. In this paper an argument will be put forward to the effect that rainbows can be thought of as events, that is, as part of a subcategory of entities that van Fraassen has always considered legitimate phenomena. I argue that rainbows are actually not images in the relevant (representational) sense and that there is no need to ontologically inflate the category of entities in order to account for them, which would run counter to the empiricist principle of parsimony.

Keywords: constructive empiricism, observability, observation, public hallucination, rainbow, van Fraassen.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License [Updated on September 23, 2016].

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