Social Studies of Science 40 (1):127-44 (2010)

Jeff Kochan
Universität Konstanz
In this essay, I address a novel criticism recently levelled at the Strong Programme by Nick Tosh and Tim Lewens. Tosh and Lewens paint Strong Programme theorists as trading on a contrastive form of explanation. With this, they throw valuable new light on the explanatory methods employed by the Strong Programme. However, as I shall argue, Tosh and Lewens run into trouble when they accuse Strong Programme theorists of unduly restricting the contrast space in which legitimate historical and sociological explanations of scientific knowledge might be given. Their attack founders as a result of their failure to properly understand the overall methodological concerns of Strong Programme theorists. After introducing readers to the technique of contrastive explanation and correcting the errors in Tosh and Lewens’ interpretation of the Strong Programme, I argue that it is, in fact, Tosh and Lewens’ own commitment to scientific realism which places an unacceptable restriction on the explanatory space open to historians and sociologists of science. The happy ending is that the Strong Programme provides more freedom for analysis than does scientific realism, and that careful attention to the methodological benefits of contrastive explanation can help lighten the burden on historians and sociologists of science as they go about their explanatory business.
Keywords contrastive explanation  Strong Programme  David Bloor  Tim Lewens  Nick Tosh
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 58,348
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

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Suppressed Subjectivity and Truncated Tradition: A Reply to Pablo Schyfter.Jeff Kochan - 2018 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 7 (12):15-21.
The Exception Makes the Rule: Reply to Howson.Jeff Kochan - 2009 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (2):213-216.
Contingency, Nature and Hermeneutics in History of Science.Jeroen Bouterse - 2014 - Journal of the Philosophy of History 8 (2):291-310.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Critique of Relativism in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge.Si Sun - 2007 - Frontiers of Philosophy in China 2 (1):115-130.
Toward a Monistic Theory of Science: The `Strong Programme' Reconsidered.Stephen Kemp - 2003 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 33 (3):311-338.
Can Relativism Be Reconciled with Realism and Causalism?Barbara Tuchańska - 1990 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 4 (3):285-294.
Bloor's Bluff: Behaviourism and the Strong Programme.Peter Slezak - 1991 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 5 (3):241 – 256.
Conventionalism, Scientific Discovery and the Sociology of Knowledge.Angelo M. Petroni - 1993 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7 (3):225 – 240.
Relativism and the Sociology of Mathematics: Remarks on Bloor, Flew, and Frege.Timm Triplett - 1986 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 29 (1-4):439-450.
The Underdetermination of Theory by Data and the "Strong Programme" in the Sociology of Knowledge.Samir Okasha - 2000 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 14 (3):283 – 297.
A Second Look at David Bloor’s Knowledge and Social Imagery.Peter Slezak - 1994 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 24 (3):336-361.
Bad Arguments Against a Good Case (Laudan's Attack on the Strong Programme).Márta Fehér - 1998 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 12 (3):233-238.
Realism, Reliabilism, and the 'Strong Programme' in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge.Jeff Kochan - 2008 - International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 22 (1):21 – 38.


Added to PP index

Total views
113 ( #88,905 of 2,420,317 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #351,157 of 2,420,317 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes