Progress and procedures in scientific epistemology


Authors
Peter Godfrey-Smith
University of Sydney
Abstract
My title is intended to echo Hans Reichenbach's The Rise of Scientific Philosophy (1951), and the phrase "scientific epistemology" is intended in two Reichenbachian senses. One involves the epistemology of science; the other involves epistemology undertaken with a scientific orientation. Talk of "progress and procedures" is intended in a similar dual sense. I start by looking back over the last century, at how a family of problems was tackled by scientifically oriented philosophers. These are problems with the nature of evidence and testing – with how, given our limited access to the world and the ambitious reach of our theories, we can have good reason to believe one such theory over another. These discussions were informed especially by skeptical treatments of the problem in Hume. We see in this period a number of different theoretical strands. These are characterized by different raw materials, and by different organizing or paradigm cases – different bets regarding the parts of scientific practice that should function as exemplars.
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