This paper uses the example of the COVID-19 pandemic to analyse the danger associated with insufficient epistemic pluralism in evidence-based public health policy. Drawing on certain elements in Paul Feyerabend’s political philosophy of science, it discusses reasons for implementing more pluralism as well as challenges to be tackled on the way forward.
A fundamental tenet of Paul Feyerabend’s pluralistic view of science has it that theory proliferation, that is, the availability of theoretical alternatives, is of crucial importance for the detection of anomalies in established theories. Paul Hoyningen-Huene calls this the Anomaly Importation Thesis, according to which anomalies are imported, as it were, into well-established theories from competing alternatives. This article pursues two major objectives: (a) to work out the systematic details of Feyerabend’s ideas on theory proliferation and anomaly import as they (...) are presented in his early publications and his Against Method and (b) to compare Feyerabend’s ideas on theory proliferation and anomaly import with corresponding features in Popper’s critical rationalist philosophy of science. As it turns out, neither the Principle of Proliferation nor the Anomaly Importation Thesis are necessarily incompatible with critical rationalism. In spite of Feyerabend’s general anti-Popperian attitude, I argue that theoretical pluralism can be seen as an advancement of the critical rationalist philosophy and that critical rationalism provides good arguments for pluralism. (shrink)
This paper tells the story of G-protein coupled receptors, one of the most important scientific objects in contemporary biochemistry and molecular biology. By looking at how cell membrane receptors turned from a speculative concept into a central element in modern biochemistry over the past 40 years, we revisit the role of manipulability as a criterion for entity realism in wet-lab research. The central argument is that manipulability as a condition for reality becomes meaningful only once scientists have decided how to (...) conceptually coordinate measurable effects distinctly to a specific object. We show that a scientific entity, such as GPCRs, is assigned varying degrees of reality throughout different stages of its discovery. The criteria of its reality, we further claim, cannot be made independently of the question about how this object becomes a standard by which the reality of neighbouring elements of enquiry is evaluated. (shrink)
This collection of new essays interprets and critically evaluates the philosophy of Paul Feyerabend. It offers innovative historical scholarship on Feyerabend's take on topics such as realism, empiricism, mimesis, voluntarism, pluralism, materialism, and the mind-body problem, as well as certain debates in the philosophy of physics. It also considers the ways in which Feyerabend's thought can contribute to contemporary debates in science and public policy, including questions about the nature of scientific methodology, the role of science in society, citizen science, (...) scientism, and the role of expertise in public policy. The volume will provide readers with a comprehensive overview of the topics which Feyerabend engaged with throughout his career, showing both the breadth and the depth of his thought. (shrink)
Discussions about perspectivism in the current philosophical literature often focus on questions concerning perspectival modeling or the compatibility between perspectivism and realism. In this paper, I propose to extend the debate on perspectivism by taking into account the social dimension of scientific perspectives. Scientific perspectives are always adopted and advocated for by individual scientists and groups of scientists with different epistemic affinities. I describe an example of a current and ongoing controversy in the field of epigenetics in order to illustrate (...) that diverging scientific perspectives on open scientific questions are often not fully explained by empirical underdetermination or diverging theoretical approaches alone. Opposing perspectives frequently arise from differences in systems of practice and the scientific socializations of the involved scientists, including differences in training, experimental skills, and epistemic priorities. The paper ends with a discussion of the important epistemic function of perspectives in scientific discovery. Ultimately, perspectivism is described as a valid philosophical position that explains how scientific knowledge is generated in situations of empirical underdetermination and why trust in science can be justified even in the absence of a community consensus. (shrink)
Environmental risk assessment is often affected by severe uncertainty. The frequently invoked precautionary principle helps to guide risk assessment and decision-making in the face of scientific uncertainty. In many contexts, however, uncertainties play a role not only in the application of scientific models but also in their development. Building on recent literature in the philosophy of science, this paper argues that precaution should be exercised at the stage when tools for risk assessment are developed as well as when they are (...) used to inform decision-making. The relevance and consequences of this claim are discussed in the context of the threshold of the toxicological concern approach in food toxicology. I conclude that the approach does not meet the standards of an epistemic version of the precautionary principle. (shrink)
We analyse insufficient epistemic pluralism and associated problems in science-based policy advice during the COVID-19 pandemic drawing on specific arguments in Paul Feyerabend’s philosophy. Our goal is twofold: to deepen our understanding of the epistemic shortcomings in science-based policy during the pandemic, and to assess the merits and problems of Feyerabend’s arguments for epistemic pluralism as well as their relevance for policy-making. We discuss opportunities and challenges of integrating a plurality of viewpoints from within and outside science into policy advice (...) thus contributing to discussions about normative issues concerning evidence and expertise in policy-making. (shrink)
Versuch eines pragmatischen Empirismus Karim Bschir. vom Rationalismus abzugrenzen, welcher neben der Erfahrung auch die reine Verstandestätigkeit als Erkenntnisquelle zulässt. Auf der anderen Seite benutzt man „Empirismus“ bzw.
For centuries, if not millennia, philosophers have been debating the question of how science works and what it essentially is. Many have claimed that science is fundamentally characterized by the application of a specific method: the scientific method. What constitutes this method precisely, has been the subject of an extensive debate. In the 17th century, scholars like Francis Bacon or Isaac Newton advocated a strongly empiricist and inductivist method for science. According to this method, general empirical statements must be derived (...) in a stepwise process from observational data: a theory may be seen as confirmed if its statements are generated and tested according to the rules of inductive inference. In the 19th... (shrink)