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

By Philip Kitcher | Go to book overview

Envoi

Intellectual celebration often attends the demise of Legend, for, if Legend is dead, then, it seems, everything is permitted. "Modernity," it is sometimes claimed, "is bewitched by science. When we recognize that science has no claim to 'objective truth,' then we shall understand and appreciate the value of humanistic and artistic perspectives on our world, we shall recognize the important contributions of diverse ethnic groups." We shall inhabit, it seems, a richer, braver new world.

The central argument of this book is that the celebration is both premature and misguided. No one should question the value of humanistic and artistic perspectives or dismiss, without scrutiny, the ideas of other cultures. But, for all its difficulties, Legend was broadly right about the characteristics of science. Flawed people, working in complex social environments, moved by all kinds of interests, have collectively achieved a vision of parts of nature that is broadly progressive and that rests on arguments meeting standards that have been refined and improved over centuries. Legend does not require burial but metamorphosis.

I have endeavored to provide a philosophical framework for the study of science which combines the insights of Legend with the insights of its critics. Philosophy of science does not die with Legend. Instead, as I must admit, apologetically, at the end of a long book, it needs to pursue many of the loose ends that I have left in the preceding pages. Although I have considered many historical examples, a broader range of instances and greater depth of analysis are both needed. Although I have gestured toward connections between my framework and ideas in the cognitive sciences, there is no doubt that the view of science I provide could be enriched by more systematic and more detailed use of those ideas. The treatment of individual scientific reasoning should be made more extensive and more precise -- although I trust that my discussions provide a bridge between traditional philosophical discussions of scientific reasoning and the complex practice of science. Perhaps most importantly, my explorations of social epistemology in Chapter 8 are, as frequently acknowledged, preliminary efforts.

Any philosophy of science worth its salt ought to be able to shed light on the discussions and controversies in which scientists are actively engaged. In recent years, despite the success of philosophical interventions in particular

-390-

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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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