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

By Philip Kitcher | Go to book overview

7
The Experimental Philosophy

1. Models of Empirical Knowledge

At the heart of Legend is an epistemology articulating the simple idea that scientific knowledge rests ultimately on observation and experiment. Much twentieth-century philosophy, including the versions of logical empiricism that provide detailed articulations of Legend, adopts a static model of human knowledge. Abstracting from the complexities of human belief formation, one conceives of an idealized knower, in possession of a body of evidence statements that represent the contribution of experience, and the project is to identify the relations that must hold among statements if some are to justify others, and thereby show how the evidential corpus warrants claims of theoretical science that may both be universal in scope and also purport to describe entities remote from sensory experience.1

Aficionados of the static model of human knowledge regard history as irrelevant. Justification of an individual's beliefs is to be sought in the here and now. By contrast, dynamic models of human knowledge take the problem of justifiable change of belief to be central. From this perspective, one offers an account of the cognitive states of individuals and asks for the principles that govern rational transitions between states. The justificatory status of the claims and commitments of current science thus comes to rest on the possibility of tracing a sequence of justified transitions -- not necessarily coincident with the actual course of history -- that will link the states of our remote predecessors with contemporary acceptance of science.2

____________________
1
The approach I sketch here is plainly "foundationalist" rather than "coherentist," and in this I take it to represent the main currents of epistemology of science in the twentieth century. However, it is not hard to see how to formulate a rival static model of human knowledge that captures the main ideas of epistemologists who have pursued coherence theories of justification.
2
There are obvious questions which I shall sidestep for present purposes. Should a historicist epistemology take the final member of a sequence of beliefs to be justified only if it can be connected by justified transitions to an original justified state? Or is it sufficient that there be justifying transitions to some ur-state, whatever the epistemic status of that state? Does it matter that the justifying sequence diverges from the actual history so that the connecting states are never found in that history? Given the views about conceptions

-219-

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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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