Information and Experimental Knowledge

University of Chicago Press (2021)
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Abstract

An ambitious new model of experimentation that will reorient our understanding of the key features of experimental practice. What is experimental knowledge, and how do we get it? While there is general agreement that experiment is a crucial source of scientific knowledge, how experiment generates that knowledge is far more contentious. In this book, philosopher of science James Mattingly explains how experiments function. Specifically, he discusses what it is about experimental practice that transforms observations of what may be very localized, particular, isolated systems into what may be global, general, integrated empirical knowledge. Mattingly argues that the purpose of experimentation is the same as the purpose of any other knowledge-generating enterprise—to change the state of information of the knower. This trivial-seeming point has a non-trivial consequence: to understand a knowledge-generating enterprise, we should follow the flow of information. Therefore, the account of experimental knowledge Mattingly provides is based on understanding how information flows in experiments: what facilitates that flow, what hinders it, and what characteristics allow it to flow from system to system, into the heads of researchers, and finally into our store of scientific knowledge.

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James Mattingly
Georgetown University

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