It is a widely shared view among philosophers of science that the theory-dependence (or theory-ladenness) of observations is worrying, because it can bias empirical tests in favour of the tested theories. These doubts are taken to be dispelled if an observation is influenced by a theory independent of the tested theory and thus circularity is avoided, while (partially) circular tests are taken to require special attention. Contrary to this consensus, it is argued that the epistemic value of theory-dependent tests has nothing to do with the circularity or non-circularity of the test, but is instead based on the minimal empiricality and reliability of observations. Since theory-dependence does not in general prevent observations fulfilling these requirements, it should not be regarded as a phenomenon that is basically detrimental, but as neutral with respect to successful scientific knowledge gathering.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/0269859042000296486
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 71,512
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

The Fate of Knowledge.Helen E. Longino - 2001 - Princeton University Press.
Representing and Intervening.Ian Hacking - 1984 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35 (4):381-390.
Saving the Phenomena.James Bogen & James Woodward - 1988 - Philosophical Review 97 (3):303-352.
Representing and Intervening.Ian Hacking - 1987 - Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale 92 (2):279-279.
The Concept of Observation in Science and Philosophy.Dudley Shapere - 1982 - Philosophy of Science 49 (4):485-525.

View all 19 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Ostensive Learnability as a Test Criterion for Theory-Neutral Observation Concepts.Gerhard Schurz - 2015 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 46 (1):139-153.
Two Notions of Scientific Justification.Matthias Adam - 2007 - Synthese 158 (1):93 - 108.
Perception: Mirror-Image or Action?Anna Storozhuk - 2007 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 38 (2):369-382.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Self-Dependent Justification Without Circularity.T. Shogenji - 2000 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 51 (2):287-298.
Is Epistemic Circularity Bad?Matthias Steup - 2013 - Res Philosophica 90 (2):215-235.
Circularity and Stability.Markus Lammenranta - 1998 - The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 45:164-169.
What’s the Matter with Epistemic Circularity?David James Barnett - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 171 (2):177-205.
What Paradoxes Depend On.Ming Hsiung - 2020 - Synthese 197 (2):887-913.
What Paradoxes Depend On.Ming Hsiung - 2018 - Synthese:1-27.
Harmless Epistemic Circularity?Juho Ritola - 2008 - Proceedings of the Xxii World Congress of Philosophy 53:227-233.
Circularity and Reliability in Measurement.Hasok Chang - 1995 - Perspectives on Science 3 (2):153-172.
Reflective Knowledge and Epistemic Circularity.C. S. I. Jenkins - 2011 - Philosophical Papers 40 (3):305-325.
Is epistemic circularity a fallacy?William J. Talbott - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (8):2277-2298.


Added to PP index

Total views
112 ( #106,068 of 2,520,967 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #405,457 of 2,520,967 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes