How many sciences for one world? Contingency and the success of science

Abstract
Contingentism is the claim that the history of a particular field of science could have taken a different route from the actual one, and that the resulting imaginary science could have been both as successful as the real one and, in a non-trivial way, incompatible with it. Inevitabilism consists in the denial of this claim. In this paper, I try both to give a clear content to contingentism, especially in the field of physics, and to argue for its plausibility, while acknowledging that it is extremely hard to give an argument that establishes its validity in a compelling way. By contrasting the history of science with that of geographic discoveries and the difficulties faced by any inevitabilist account of the former, I consider three different characterizations of the success of science, truth, adequacy to the phenomena, and robust fit, and analyze their consequences for the meaning and plausibility of contingentism. I retain the third characterization of scientific success and argue that the role played by creativity in scientific activities and the fact that there is a multiplicity of paths that researchers can legitimately follow in order to obtain a robust fit jointly support a qualified version of contingentism.Keywords: Inevitabilism; Contingentism; Success of science; Stability; Historical emergence; Robust fit
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References found in this work BETA
Ian Hacking (1992). The Self-Vindication of the Laboratory Sciences. In Andrew Pickering (ed.), Science as Practice and Culture. University of Chicago Press. 29--64.
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