Reflection on Reflective Equilibrium

In Michael DePaul & William Ramsey (eds.), Rethinking Intuition. Rowman & Littlefield 113-128 (1998)
As a procedure, reflective equilibrium (RE) is simply a familiar kind of standard scientific method with a new name. (For descriptions of RE, see Daniels 1979, 1980b, 1984; Goodman 1965; Rawls 1971.) A theory is constructed to account for a set of observations. Recalcitrant data may be rejected as noise or explained away as the effects of interference of some sort. Recalcitrant data that cannot be plausibly dismissed force emendations in theory. What counts as a plausible dismissal depends, among other things, on the going theory, as well as on background theory and on knowledge that may be relevant to under-standing the experimental design that is generating the observations, including knowledge of the apparatus and observation conditions. This sort of mutual adjustment between theory and data is a familiar feature of scientific practice. Whatever authority RE seems to have comes, I think, from a tacit or explicit recognition that it has the same form as this familiar sort of scientific inference. One way to see the rationale underlying this procedure in science is to focus on prediction. Think of prediction as a matter of projecting what is known onto uncharted territory. To do this, you need a vehicle—a theory—that captures some invariant or pattern in what is known so that you can project it onto the unknown. How convincing the projection is depends on two factors: (i) how sure one is of the observational base, and (ii) how sure one is that the theory gets the invariants right. The two factors are not independent, of course. One's confidence in the observational base will be affected by how persuasively the theory identifies and dismisses noise; one's confidence in the theory, on the other hand, will depend on one's confidence in the observations it takes seriously. Prediction is important as a <span class='Hi'>test</span> of theory precisely because verified predictions seem to show that the theory has correctly captured the general in the particular, that it has got the drift of the observational evidence in which our confidence is ultimately grounded..
Keywords Intuition  Reflective Equilibrium  Philosophical method
Categories (categorize this paper)
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive Robert C. Cummins, Reflection on Reflective Equilibrium
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

View all 13 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

179 ( #8,138 of 1,725,575 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

3 ( #211,098 of 1,725,575 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.