The Rejection of Evolutionary Epistemology: A Case For a Logic of Discovery

Towards the last quarter of the 20th century, philosophers of science began to develop a research programme to show that neo-Darwinian models of species evolution are analogous to the evolution of scientific theories. This programme is known as the evolutionary epistemology of theories (Bradie, p. 414, 1986). Karl Popper’s influential book The Logic of Discovery was one of the first accounts to draw out the analogy between the evolution of biological species and the evolution of scientific theories. Many philosophers of science have later adopted this analogy, for Stephen Toulmin (1972), and Donald Campbell (1974). The aim of the metaphor is to not just be a model that explains how science progresses, but to actually account for how it does so. At the heart of this analogy is the fact that the generation of new scientific theories and scientific knowledge is conducted through a random process known as “blind variation” (Popper 1963, 1979 & Campbell 1974). If this analogy holds a philosophical consequence, it is that there is no logic of discovery. If there is no logic of discovery, this then supports the Fregean view that there is a gulf between the context of justification and context of discovery. If there is no logic of discovery, then the philosopher’s job is to analyze the justification rather than the discovery. However, Poppers analogy has come under pressure from fellow philosophers of science. Most notably, Paul Thagard argues that Popper’s analogy is a disanalogy because scientists don’t generate hypotheses blindly. My aim of this essay is to show that this is correct. My thesis is that Popper’s analogy is a disanalogy because there is a logic of discovery, thus making evolutionary epistemology of theory (EET) false. I will begin by explaining how Popper argues for the metaphor and the rejection of a logic of discovery. In section II, I will then build off of Thagard’s critiques of Popper to show that in order for science to progress, there needs to be some form of logic. Finally, I will argue that the most likely candidates for a logic of discovery are two types negative-logic: error-elimination and error-correction. I will then conclude that since there are suitable logics for discovery, Popper’s analogy is a disanalogy. This is important to philosophy because it allows for philosophers to analyze the context of discovery and not just the context of justification.
Keywords Philosophy of Science  Evolutionary Epistemology  Epistemology  Karl Popper  Negative Logic  Logic of Discovery
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