Why worry about theory-dependence? Circularity, minimal empiricality and reliability

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.
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DOI 10.1080/0269859042000296486
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Anna Storozhuk (2007). Perception: Mirror-Image or Action? Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 38 (2):369-382.
Gerhard Schurz (2015). Ostensive Learnability as a Test Criterion for Theory-Neutral Observation Concepts. Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 46 (1):139-153.

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