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Volume 34 Issue 4 (July 2003), Pages 387-538

Oracularity (pages 488-509)

Abstract: In contemporary North American contexts, to say that a claim is oracular is seriously to undermine its philosophical credibility. My thesis is that this negative judgement of oracularity is unwarranted and that it is rooted in an excessively narrow notion of what constitutes ‘good’ philosophy. More specifically, I argue that oracular utterance is appropriate to the expression of views that regard the phenomena towards which they are directed as radically, non‐systematically integrated wholes. Importantly, such views are falsifiable—or at least as falsifiable as scientific paradigms, which, in one important respect, they resemble. However, I argue further that there is good reason to think that such views cannot, without distortion, be expressed using the systematic‐analytic forms of argumentation that are frequently regarded as essential to the pursuit of philosophy. Yet the questions that they compass, concerning the way in which parts are related to the wholes that they constitute, fall squarely within the purview of traditional metaphysics. Thus, in proscribing oracular utterance we divest ourselves of the opportunity to contemplate world orders of potential philosophical interest that systematic‐analytic argument is incapable of conveying to us.

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