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

Authors
Michele Luchetti
University of Geneva
Abstract
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
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Reprint years 2018
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-018-1833-5
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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.

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Citations of this work BETA

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

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