Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (1):117-138 (2002)

Andrew Wayne
University of Guelph
Philosophers of science have long been concerned with these questions. In the 1980s, influential work by Clark Glymour, Michael Friedman, John Watkins, and Philip Kitcher articulated general accounts of theory unification that attempted to underwrite a connection between unification, truth, and understanding. According to the ‘unifiers,’ as we may call them, a theory is unified to the extent that it has a small theoretical structure relative to the domain of phenomena it covers, and there are general syntactic criteria that allow one to determine how unified a theory is. The explanatory power of a theory, and the understanding of nature it gives us, is a direct consequence of this unity. As well, the more unified a theory is, the better confirmed it will be, and under some conditions a theory’s unity can justify realism about unobservable entities posited by it. In the 1990s disunity became the dominant theme, with books such as John Dupré’s The Disorder of Things and the Galison and Stump anthology arguing that it is a mistake to view science as a unified practice and that rather than an epistemic virtue, unification in science is a metaphysical vice.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0045-5091
DOI cjphil200232122
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