Bas Van Fraassen


Biography of Bas Van Fraassen

Bastiaan Cornelis van Fraassen (born in Goes, the Netherlands on 5 April 1941) is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University, teaching courses in the philosophy of science, philosophical logic and the role of models in scientific practice. He previously taught at Yale University, the University of Southern California (USC), the University of Toronto and Princeton University. He coined the term "constructive empiricism" in his 1980 book The Scientific Image. Van Fraassen earned his B.A. (1963) from the University of Alberta and his M.A. (1964) and Ph.D. (1966, under the direction of Adolf Grünbaum) from the University of Pittsburgh.

A philosopher of science, van Fraassen's 1989 book Laws and Symmetry attempted to lay the ground-work for explaining physical phenomena without using the assumption that such phenomena are caused by rules or laws which can be said to cause or govern their behavior. Focusing on the problem of underdetermination, he argued for the possibility that theories could have empirical equivalence but differ in their ontological commitments. He rejects the notion that the aim of science is to produce an account of the physical world that is literally true, but rather that its aim is to produce theories that are empirically adequate. Van Fraassen has also studied the philosophy of quantum mechanics, philosophical logic, and epistemology.

In his essay "The Anti-Realist Epistemology of Bas van Fraassen's The Scientific Image ", Paul M. Churchland, one of van Fraassen's critics, contrasted van Fraassen's idea of unobservable phenomena with the idea of merely unobserved phenomena.

In 1986, van Fraassen received the Lakatos Award for his contributions to the philosophy of science. He is an adult convert to the Roman Catholic Church and is one of the founders of the Kira Institute.

van Fraassen has been the editor of the Journal of Philosophical Logic and co-editor of the Journal of Symbolic Logic.

Among his many students are the philosophers Elisabeth Lloyd at Indiana University and Anja Jauering at the University of Pittsburgh.

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