Synthese (Suppl 14):3437-3461 (2018)

Michele Luchetti
University of Geneva
In this paper, I present a new framework supporting the claim that some elements in science play a constitutive function, with the aim of overcoming some limitations of Friedman's (2001) account. More precisely, I focus on what I consider to be the gradualism implicit in Friedman's interpretation of the constitutive a priori, that is, the fact that it seems to allow for degrees of 'constitutivity'. I tease out such gradualism by showing that the constitutive character Friedman aims to track can be captured by three features - namely, quasi-axiomaticity (QA), generative potential (GP), and empirical shielding (ES) - which are exhibited to a maximal degree by the examples Friedman deploys, particularly in his analysis of Newtonian mechanics. I argue that not all varieties of 'constitutivity' can be captured by the kind of gradualism implicit in Friedman's view, although developing the gradualism itself might provide useful insights. To show this, I analyse the function of the Hardy-Weinberg principle (HWP) in population genetics in terms of its QA, GP, and ES. Whereas the HWP does not count as constitutive in classical philosophical interpretations (Sober 1984), nor does it within Friedman's framework, it does nonetheless perform a minimally constitutive function. By means of historical details and considerations on the prospects of replacing the HWP, I show that the HWP is minimally constitutive by being a counterfactual instantiation of a paradigmatically constitutive stability principle, where the latter might itself be regarded as an enabling condition for a variety of modelling practices across the sciences
Keywords constitutive principles in science  Hardy-Weinberg principle  population genetics  equilibrium state  scientific theorising  Michael Friedman
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2018
DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-1833-5
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
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 Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas Samuel Kuhn - 1962 - Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Is Water H2O? Evidence, Realism and Pluralism.Hasok Chang - 2012 - Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science.

View all 37 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Constitutive elements through perspectival lenses.Mariano Sanjuán - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (1):1-18.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Friedman׳s Thesis.Ryan Samaroo - 2015 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 52 (Part B):129-138.
Historicism, Entrenchment, and Conventionalism.Nathaniel Jason Goldberg - 2009 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 40 (2):259-276.
Are Kant’s Concepts and Methodology Inconsistent with Scientific Change? Constitutivity and the Synthetic Method in Kant.Paul L. Franco - 2012 - Hopos: The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science 2 (2):321-353.
Evolutionary Forces and the Hardy–Weinberg Equilibrium.Eugene Earnshaw - 2015 - Biology and Philosophy 30 (3):423-437.
Bas Van Fraassen y la Ley de Hardy-Weinberg: una discusión y desarrolo de su diagnóstico.Pablo Lorenzano - 2008 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 12 (2):121-154.
Dynamics of Reason and the Kantian Project.Maarten Van Dyck - 2009 - Philosophy of Science 76 (5):689-700.
Laudan, Friedman and the Role of the A Priori in Science.Dan Mcarthur - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Research 32:169-190.
Constitutive Arguments.Ariela Tubert - 2010 - Philosophy Compass 5 (8):656-666.
Laudan, Friedman and the Role of the A Priori in Science.Dan Mcarthur - 2007 - Journal of Philosophical Research 32:169-190.


Added to PP index

Total views
229 ( #42,731 of 2,446,367 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
52 ( #13,035 of 2,446,367 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes