The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions

By Philip Kitcher | Go to book overview

6
Dissolving Rationality

1. Good Design

Before the early 1960s, almost all philosophers took the rationality of science for granted. So prevalent was the notion that science is the epitome of human rationality that explicit announcement of allegiance to it was largely confined to popular lectures, introductory books, or preambles to more serious epistemological work.1 To account for this admirable feature of science it was presupposed that scientists tacitly know methodological rules (jointly comprising "scientific method") which are used to appraise newly introduced hypotheses and theories. Identifying these rules was an important -- possibly the most important -- task for philosophy of science.2

In the next three chapters I shall try to see what, if anything, can be salvaged from the thesis of the rationality of science. I shall begin by returning the notion of rationality to its psychological roots. Science is not the sort of thing that uses reasons, good or bad. Scientists engage in reasoning. The thesis of the rationality of science ought to be interpreted as claiming that scientists, for the most part or, perhaps, at the most crucial times, base their conclusions on good reasoning. Or perhaps it intends to go deeper and trace the performance of scientists to something in the institution itself that encourages good reasoning.

The discussions of the last three chapters provide a way of thinking about science that enables us to develop this approach. The science of a time is

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1
See, for example, Reichenbach ( 1938), Hempel ( 1966), and Popper ( 1959). In all these works, the hard problem is to identify the method that is taken to be at the core of scientific rationality.
2
Many of the consequences of the older traditions become visible in the reactions to Kuhn and Feyerabend. See, for example, Lakatos ( 1969), Scheffler ( 1967), Laudan ( 1978), and, for an especially explicit version, Newton-Smith ( 1981). An alternative to the implicit psychological hypothesis that scientists know and apply certain special rules is Merton's ( 1942/ 1973) suggestion that features of the community of scientists account for the choices made among theories, and thus for the rationality and progressiveness of science. This kind of sociological approach was not developed by the leading defenders of rationalism. However, some proponents of evolutionary epistemology can be viewed as defending the rationality of science without assuming the rationality of scientists. (See, for example, Hull 1988.)

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The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend, Objectivity without Illusions
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Legend's Legacy 3
  • 2 - Darwin's Achievement 11
  • 3 - The Microstructure of Scientific Change 58
  • 4 - Varieties of Progress 90
  • 5 - Realism and Scientific Progress 127
  • 6 - Dissolving Rationality 178
  • 7 - The Experimental Philosophy 219
  • 8 - The Organization of Cognitive Labor 303
  • Envoi 390
  • Bibliography 392
  • Index 407
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