Toward a pragmatist philosophy of science

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Theoria (Spain), ISSN: 0495-4548, Vol: 28, Issue: 2, Page: 185-231

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Philip Kitcher
Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea / Universidad del PaĆ­s Vasco
Arts and Humanities
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This three-part essay begins with a diagnosis of the career of general philosophy of science in the tradition begun by Hempel's reform of logical positivism. Since 1950, Anglophone philosophy of science has largely sought general accounts of confirmation, theory and explanation. It has not found them. Instead it has assembled some valuable tools for exploring problems in the natural and social sciences, and has put them to work in a range of useful studies. The second part of the essay pursues the question of whether there is a successor project to the general investigations that Hempel inspired. I argue that there are difficult methodological questions about collective inquiry that have largely been neglected. Attempts to answer these questions should expand the resources for philosophical understanding of scientific knowledge. The third part focuses on the situation of the sciences within society. Can scientific research be divorced from the interests of a broader public? Can its conclusions be generated in neglect of the evidential standards accepted by non-scientists? I argue for a development of the ideal of well-ordered science, and for the understanding of science (singular!) as one institution among others. Conceiving matters in this way recovers important themes from the neglected pragmatist tradition.

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