Adrian Currie
Cambridge University
Arnon Levy
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Traditionally, experimentation is considered a privileged means of confirmation. However, how experiments are a better confirmatory source than other strategies is unclear, and recent discussions have identified experiments with various modeling strategies on the one hand, and with ‘natural’ experiments on the other hand. We argue that experiments aiming to test theories are best understood as controlled investigations of specimens. ‘Control’ involves repeated, fine-grained causal manipulation of focal properties. This capacity generates rich knowledge of the object investigated. ‘Specimenhood’ involves possessing relevant properties given the investigative target and the hypothesis in question. Specimens are thus representative members of the class which a hypothesis refers to. It is in virtue of both control and specimenhood that experiments provide powerful confirmatory evidence. This explains the distinctive power of experiments: although modelers exert extensive control, they do not exert this control over specimens; although natural experiments are of specimens, control is diminished.
Keywords Experiments  Models  Specimens  Natural experiments
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/0020174x.2018.1533883
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: 53,548
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

The Strategy of Model-Based Science.Peter Godfrey-Smith - 2006 - Biology and Philosophy 21 (5):725-740.

View all 44 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Simplicity, one-shot hypotheses and paleobiological explanation.Adrian Currie - 2019 - History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 41 (1):10.
Isabelle F. Peschard and Bas C. van Fraassen (Eds.): The Experimental Side of Modeling.Adrian Currie - 2020 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 51 (3):499-502.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Natural Experiments and Pluralism in Political Science.Sharon Crasnow - 2015 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 45 (4-5):424-441.
Nature's Experiments and Natural Experiments in the Social Sciences.M. S. Morgan - 2013 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 43 (3):341-357.
Nature’s Experiments and Natural Experiments in the Social Sciences.Julie Zahle - 2013 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 43 (3):341-357.
Täuschend ähnlich – Bemerkungen zur Geschichte des Modellexperiments.Thomas Brandstetter - 2011 - Berichte Zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 34 (3):207-223.
Why Delayed Choice Experiments Do NOT Imply Retrocausality.David Ellerman - 2015 - Quantum Studies: Mathematics and Foundations 2 (2):183-199.
Thought Experiments in Aesthetics.Paisley Nathan Livingston & Carl Mikael Pettersson - 2016 - In Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, K. Browniee & D. Coady (eds.), A Companion to Applied Philosophy. Chichester, U.K.: John Wiley & Sons.
Experiments, Simulations, and Epistemic Privilege.Emily C. Parke - 2014 - Philosophy of Science 81 (4):516-536.
Are Computer Simulations Experiments? And If Not, How Are They Related to Each Other?Claus Beisbart - 2018 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 8 (2):171-204.


Added to PP index

Total views
38 ( #255,802 of 2,348,350 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #120,281 of 2,348,350 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes