Experimental Validity and Pragmatic Modes in Empirical Science

The purpose of this paper is to show how the degree of experimental validity of scientific procedures is crucially involved in determining two typical pragmatic modes in science, namely, the preservation of useful procedures and the disposal of useless ideas. The term 'pragmatic' will here be used following Schurz's characterisation of being internally pragmatic, as referring to that which proves useful for scientific or epistemic goals. The first part of the paper consists in a characterisation of the notion of experimental validity. The second part is focused on several historical examples illustrating how the above pragmatic modes relate to the question of experimental validity. The Michelson-Morley experiment is presented as a case of a highly valid and useful experiment preserved through the development of different theories (like, on the one hand, the ether theory, upheld by Fitzgerald and Lorentz, and, on the other hand, Einstein's special theory of relativity). The concept of caloric will be discussed as an example of an idea that was discarded once it became useless, after heat was understood as a form of energy within the new frame provided by the kinetic theory of heat towards the middle of the 19th century
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DOI 10.1080/02698590902843377
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Deborah G. Mayo (2001). Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 15 (1):455-459.

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