Recovering the experiment

Philosophy 73 (3):353-377 (1998)
One of the roots of anti-science is an implausible account of experiments which opens up a seemingly unbridgeable gap between what it would be rational to believe on the basis of an empirical research programme and what scientists do believe. Post-modernists and others of a similar persuasion, for example Goodman, Rorty, Latour and Gergen, have marched into this alleged gap, insisting that experiments do not probe an independent reality, but create worlds to which they are perfectly tailored. In response I argue that if experiments are understood as working models of parts of Nature, Nature domesticated, then there is no epistemic gap to fill. There are complexities with this thesis that can be resolved by developing a Bohrian account of the experiment as involving an indissoluble union of apparatus and Nature, giving us access, not to occurrent properties of the world but to affordances.
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