How pluralistic is pluralism really? A case study of Sandra Mitchell’s Integrative Pluralism

Theoria: Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia 38 (3):319-338 (2024)
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Epistemic pluralists in the philosophy of science often argue that different epistemic perspectives in science are equally warranted. Sandra Mitchell – with her Integrative Pluralism (IP) – has notably advocated for this kind of epistemic pluralism. A problem arises for Mitchell however because she also wants to be an epistemological pluralist. She claims that, not only are different epistemic perspectives in science equally warranted in different contexts, but different understandings of these epistemic perspectives in science are also equally warranted in different contexts. The problem is that Mitchell argues that her understanding of epistemic perspectives in science (IP) is the correct one, and it is dilemmic to then claim that there is more than one such understanding. As solution, I suggest that we abandon epistemological pluralism and instead follow Feyerabend in being opportunistic pluralists. We can adopt pluralism as a short-term strategy in the pursuit of a long-term unitary goal. This unitary goal is what philosophers of understanding call objectual understanding, the kind of understanding that Integrative Pluralism tacitly aspires to anyway.

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Ragnar Van Der Merwe
University of Johannesburg

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