Reconstructed Science as Philosophical Evidence

By using case studies from the history of science as evidence for its claims (and not, in contrast, merely to illustrate these claims), the philosophy of science can develop a more productive relation to its subject matter, the history of science. As might be expected, many problems involving the relation between theory and evidence in science reappear here as methodological problems about the relation between the philosophy of science and the history of science. For example, the most important of these difficulties involves the "contamination" of historical evidence by philosophical theories. The difficulty may be resolved as follows: the history of science is "theory-laden", but not necessarily with the solutions to the problems it poses for philosophers. As a result, case studies can be used to test our explanatory theories about science as long as those case studies have not yet been reconstructed by the theory they are meant to test. Furthermore, once an explanatory theory has been "well-supported", we can, using that theory, go on to reconstruct case studies. Such a theory would thereby take on the force of a normative claim about science, bypassing what has been viewed as a fundamental disjunction between the descriptive and normative function of theory. From this point of view, insistence on a single criterion of demarcation as a "ground" for philosophical claims is misguided, since it prejudges a still-open question--is science homogeneous?--that can only be answered by further investigation of science.
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DOI 10.2307/192355
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