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Summary There are four main approaches to scientific progress: the epistemic approach, the semantic approach, the functional approach, and the noetic approach. The epistemic approach defines scientific progress in terms of knowledge. The semantic approach construes scientific progress in terms of truth. The functional approach examines scientific progress in terms of functions. The noetic approach typically characterises scientific progress in terms of understanding.
Key works The epistemic approach is recently elaborated and defended by Bird 2007. The semantic approach is mainly developed by Niiniluoto 1980, Niiniluoto 2014. The functional approach is originally developed by Kuhn 1962, Laudan 1977, Laudan 1981, and recently further developed and defended by Shan 2019, Shan 2020. The noetic approach is proposed by Dellsén 2016.
Introductions Niiniluoto 2011
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  1. Die These der semantischen Inkommensurabilität.Johannes Heinle - manuscript
    Was kann und sollte der wissenschaftliche Realist auf die These(n) der semantischen Inkommensurabilität entgegnen?
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  2. From measurability to a model of scientific progress.Luigi Scorzato - manuscript
    I argue that the key to understand many fundamental issues in philosophy of science lies in understanding the subtle relation between the non-empirical cognitive values used in science and the constraints imposed by measurability. In fact, although we are not able to fix the interpretation of a scientific theory through its formulation, I show that measurability puts constraints that can at least exclude some implausible interpretations. This turns out to be enough to define at least one cognitive value that is (...)
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  3. The Evolutionary Dimension of Scientific Progress.Alexander Yu Antonovskiy & Raisa Ed Barash - forthcoming - Social Epistemology.
  4. What is the Point of Persistent Disputes? The meta-analytic answer.Alexandre Billon & Philippe Vellozzo - forthcoming - Dialectica.
    Many philosophers regard the persistence of philosophical disputes as symptomatic of overly ambitious, ill-founded intellectual projects. There are indeed strong reasons to believe that persistent disputes in philosophy (and more generally in the discourse at large) are pointless. We call this the pessimistic view of the nature of philosophical disputes. In order to respond to the pessimistic view, we articulate the supporting reasons and provide a precise formulation in terms of the idea that the best explanation of persistent disputes entails (...)
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  5. Scientific Progress Without Justification.Finnur Dellsén - forthcoming - In Kareem Khalifa, Insa Lawler & Elay Shech (eds.), Scientific Understanding and Representation: Modeling in the Physical Sciences. Routledge.
    According to some prominent accounts of scientific progress, e.g. Bird’s epistemic account, accepting new theories is progressive only if the theories are justified in the sense required for knowledge. This paper argues that epistemic justification requirements of this sort should be rejected because they misclassify many paradigmatic instances of scientific progress as non-progressive. In particular, scientific progress would be implausibly rare in cases where (a) scientists are aware that most or all previous theories in some domain have turned out to (...)
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  6. Scientific Progress without Problems: A Reply to McCoy.Finnur Dellsén - forthcoming - In Insa Lawler, Kareem Khalifa & Elay Shech (eds.), Scientific Understanding and Representation: Modeling in the Physical Sciences. Routledge.
    In the course of developing an account of scientific progress, C. D. McCoy (2022) appeals centrally to understanding as well as to problem-solving. On the face of it, McCoy’s account could thus be described as a kind of hybrid of the understanding-based account that I favor (Dellsén 2016, 2021) and the functional (a.k.a. problem-solving) account developed most prominently by Laudan (1977; see also Kuhn 1970; Shan 2019). In this commentary, I offer two possible interpretations of McCoy’s account and explain why (...)
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  7. Would Disagreement Undermine Progress?Finnur Dellsén, Insa Lawler & James Norton - forthcoming - Journal of Philosophy.
    In recent years, several philosophers have argued that their discipline makes no progress (or not enough in comparison to the ‘hard sciences’). A key argument for this pessimistic position appeals to the purported fact that philosophers widely and systematically disagree on most major philosophical issues. In this paper, we take a step back from the debate about progress in philosophy specifically and consider the general question: How (if at all) would disagreement within a discipline undermine that discipline's progress? We reconstruct (...)
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  8. Predictive Infelicities and the Instability of Predictive Optimality.Chris Dorst - forthcoming - In Christian Loew, Siegfried Jaag & Michael Townsen Hicks (eds.), Humean Laws for Human Agents. Oxford University Press.
    Recent neo-Humean theories of laws of nature have placed substantial emphasis on the characteristic epistemic roles played by laws in scientific practice. In particular, these theories seek to understand laws in terms of their optimal predictive utility to creatures in our epistemic situation. In contrast to other approaches, this view has the distinct advantage that it is able to account for a number of pervasive features possessed by putative actual laws of nature. However, it also faces some unique challenges. First, (...)
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  9. Review of the second edition of Scientific Progress. [REVIEW]R. J. Gómez - forthcoming - Noûs.
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  10. Conceptualizing Scientific Progress Needs a New Humanism.Ilya Т Kasavin - forthcoming - Social Epistemology.
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  11. Understanding the Progress of Science.C. D. McCoy - forthcoming - In Kareem Khalifa, Insa Lawler & Elay Shech (eds.), Scientific Understanding and Representation: Modeling in the Physical Sciences. Routledge.
    A problem-solving-based account of scientific progress that takes understanding as the principal epistemic aim of science is developed and defended against knowledge reductionism.
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  12. Why Philosophy Needs a Concept of Progress.James Norton - forthcoming - Metaphilosophy.
    This paper defends the usefulness of the concept of philosophical progress and the common assumption that philosophy and science aim to make the same, or a comparable, kind of progress. It does so by responding to Yafeng Shan’s (2022) arguments that the wealth of research on scientific progress is not applicable or useful to philosophy, and that philosophy doesn’t need a concept of progress at all. It is ultimately argued that while Shan’s arguments are not successful, they reveal the way (...)
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  13. How Intellectual Communities Progress.Lewis D. Ross - forthcoming - Episteme.
    Recent work takes both philosophical and scientific progress to consist in acquiring factive epistemic states such as knowledge. However, much of this work leaves unclear what entity is the subject of these epistemic states. Furthermore, by focusing only on states like knowledge, we overlook progress in intermediate cases between ignorance and knowledge—for example, many now celebrated theories were initially so controversial that they were not known. -/- This paper develops an improved framework for thinking about intellectual progress. Firstly, I argue (...)
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  14. Realism, antirealism, and theoretical conservatism.Luca Tambolo & Gustavo Cevolani - 2023 - Synthese 201 (1):1-18.
    This paper contributes to the debate on the question of whether a systematic connection obtains between one’s commitment to realism or antirealism and one’s attitude towards the possibility of radical theoretical novelty, namely, theory change affecting our best, most successful theories (see, e.g., Stanford in Synthese 196:3915–3932, 2019; Dellsén in Stud Hist Philos Sci 76:30–38, 2019). We argue that it is not allegiance to realism or antirealism as such that primarily dictates one’s response to the possibility of radical theoretical novelty: (...)
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  15. Scientific progress and interdisciplinarity.Hanne Anderson - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  16. From Philosophical Traditions to Scientific Developments: Reconsidering the Response to Brouwer’s Intuitionism.Kati Kish Bar-On - 2022 - Synthese 200 (6):1–25.
    Brouwer’s intuitionistic program was an intriguing attempt to reform the foundations of mathematics that eventually did not prevail. The current paper offers a new perspective on the scientific community’s lack of reception to Brouwer’s intuitionism by considering it in light of Michael Friedman’s model of parallel transitions in philosophy and science, specifically focusing on Friedman’s story of Einstein’s theory of relativity. Such a juxtaposition raises onto the surface the differences between Brouwer’s and Einstein’s stories and suggests that contrary to Einstein’s (...)
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  17. The epistemic approach : scientific progress as the accumulation of knowledge.Alexander Bird - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  18. Scientific Progress: By-Whom or For-Whom?Finnur Dellsén - 2022 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 97 (C):20-28.
    When science makes cognitive progress, who or what is it that improves in the requisite way? According to a widespread and unchallenged assumption, it is the cognitive attitudes of scientists themselves, i.e. the agents by whom scientific progress is made, that improve during progressive episodes. This paper argues against this assumption and explores a different approach. Scientific progress should be defined in terms of potential improvements to the cognitive attitudes of those for whom progress is made, i.e. the receivers rather (...)
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  19. The noetic approach : scientific progress as enabling understanding.Finnur Dellsén - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  20. The Noetic Approach: Scientific Progress as Enabling Understanding.Finnur Dellsén - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge. pp. 62-81.
    Roughly, the noetic account characterizes scientific progress in terms of increased understanding. This chapter outlines a version of the noetic account according to which scientific progress on some phenomenon consists in making scientific information publicly available so as to enable relevant members of society to increase their understanding of that phenomenon. This version of the noetic account is briefly compared with four rival accounts of scientific progress, viz. the truthlikeness account, the problem-solving account, the new functional account, and the epistemic (...)
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  21. Understanding and scientific progress: lessons from epistemology.Nicholas Emmerson - 2022 - Synthese 200 (1):1-18.
    Contemporary debate surrounding the nature of scientific progress has focused upon the precise role played by justification, with two realist accounts having dominated proceedings. Recently, however, a third realist account has been put forward, one which offers no role for justification at all. According to Finnur Dellsén’s (Stud Hist Philos Sci Part A 56:72–83, 2016) noetic account, science progresses when understanding increases, that is, when scientists grasp how to correctly explain or predict more aspects of the world that they could (...)
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  22. Progress in psychology.Uljana Feest - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  23. Scientific progress and scientific realism.David Harker - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
  24. Scientific progress and aesthetic values.Milena Ivanova - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  25. Scientific progress and idealisation.Insa Lawler - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
    Intuitively, science progresses from truth to truth. A glance at history quickly reveals that this idea is mistaken. We often learn from scientific theories that turned out to be false. This chapter focuses on a different challenge: Idealisations are deliberately and ubiquitously used in science. Scientists thus work with assumptions that are known to be false. Any account of scientific progress needs to account for this widely accepted scientific practice. It is examined how the four dominant accounts—the problem-solving account, the (...)
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  26. The Challenges of Identifying Significant Epistemic Failure in Science.Tobias Lehmann, Michael Borggräfe & Jochen Gläser - 2022 - In Michael Jungert & Sebastian Schuol (eds.), Scheitern in den Wissenschaften: Perspektiven der Wissenschaftsforschung. Anna Braungart, Tübingen: Brill Deutschland GmbH. pp. 237-267.
    If one follows the accounts by philosophers of science and the discussions in scientific communities, there can be little doubt that failure is an essential part of scientific practice. It is essential both in the sense of being integral to scientific practice and of being necessary for its overall success. Researchers who create new scientific knowledge face uncertainties about the nature of the problem they are trying to solve, the existence of a solution to that problem, the way in which (...)
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  27. A human-right approach to scientific progress : the deontic framework.Michela Massimi - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  28. The scientific method from a philosophical perspective.David Merritt - 2022 - ESO on-Line Conference: The Present and Future of Astronomy.
    A methodology of science must satisfy two requirements: (i) It must be ampliative: the theories which it generates must make statements that go far beyond any data or observations that may have motivated those theories in the first place. (ii) It must be epistemically probative: it must somehow provide a warrant for believing that the theories so produced are correct, or at least partially correct, even if they can never be fully confirmed. These two requirements pull in opposite directions, and (...)
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  29. The Incentivised University: Scientific Revolutions, Policies, Consequences.Seán Mfundza Muller - 2022 - Springer.
    The core thesis of this book is that to understand the implications of incentive structures in modern higher education, we require a deeper understanding of associated issues in the philosophy of science. Significant public and philanthropic resources are directed towards various forms of research in the hope of addressing key societal problems. That view, and the associated allocation of resources, relies on the assumption that academic research will tend towards finding truth – or at least selecting the best approximations of (...)
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  30. Evaluation of Some Recent Debates on Scientific Progress.Funda Neslioğlu Serin - 2022 - Kilikya Felsefe Dergisi / Cilicia Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):97-109.
    At first glance, what scientific progress means seems to be a quickly answered question. It is not easy to think of the sciences without progress; sciences and the notion of progress seem identical in general. Describing the nature of scientific progress is an important task that will have practical and theoretical consequences. The approach, which argues that the background on which sciences are based does not have a historical or cultural character following the positivist interpretation, accepts sciences as testing the (...)
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  31. The semantic approach : scientific progress as increased truthlikeness.Ilkka Niiniluoto - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  32. Scientific progress and incommensurability.Eric Oberheim - 2022 - In Yafeng Shan (ed.), New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. Routledge.
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  33. Critique Without Normative Foundations: Response to Vogelmann and Prusik.Iaan Reynolds - 2022 - Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 11 (8):8-17.
  34. Evaluation of Some Recent Debates on Scientific Progress.Funda Neslioglu Serin - 2022 - KİLİKYA JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY 1 (1):97-109.
    At first glance, what scientific progress means seems to be a quickly answered question. It is not easy to think of the sciences without progress; sciences and the notion of progress seem identical in general. Describing the nature of scientific progress is an important task that will have practical and theoretical consequences. The approach, which argues that the background on which sciences are based does not have a historical or cultural character following the positivist interpretation, accepts sciences as testing the (...)
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  35. Introduction: Philosophical Analyses of Scientific Progress.Yafeng Shan - 2022 - In New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. New York: Routledge. pp. 1-9.
    Scientific progress is a hot topic in the philosophy of science. However, as yet we lack a comprehensive philosophical examination of scientific progress. First, the recent debate pays too much attention to the epistemic approach and the semantic approach. Shan’s new functional approach and Dellsén’s noetic approach are still insufficiently assessed. Second, there is little in-depth analysis of the progress in the history of the sciences. Third, many related philosophical issues are still to be explored. For example, what are the (...)
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  36. The Functional Approach: Scientific Progress as Increased Usefulness.Yafeng Shan - 2022 - In New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress. New York: Routledge. pp. 46-61.
    The functional approach to scientific progress has been mainly developed by Kuhn, Lakatos, Popper, Laudan, and more recently by Shan. The basic idea is that science progresses if key functions of science are fulfilled in a better way. This chapter defends the function approach. It begins with an overview of the two old versions of the functional approach by examining the work of Kuhn, Laudan, Popper, and Lakatos. It then argues for Shan’s new functional approach, in which scientific progress is (...)
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  37. New Philosophical Perspectives on Scientific Progress.Yafeng Shan (ed.) - 2022 - New York: Routledge.
    This collection of original essays offers a comprehensive examination of scientific progress, which has been a central topic in recent debates in philosophy of science. Traditionally, debates over scientific progress have focused on different methodological approaches, notably the epistemic and semantic approaches. The chapters in Part I of the book examine these two traditional approaches, as well as the newly revived functional and newly developed noetic approaches. Part II features in-depth case studies of scientific progress from the history of science. (...)
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  38. Philosophy and Common Sense 3: Philosophy as a Science.Sebastian Sunday-Grève & Timothy Williamson - 2022 - The Philosophers' Magazine 97:30-35.
    Timothy Williamson and Sebastian Sunday-Grève discuss the question of where philosophy starts, and the idea of philosophy as a non-natural science.
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  39. Understanding Futures of Science: Connecting Causal Layered Analysis and Philosophy of Science.Veli Virmajoki - 2022 - Journal of Futures Studies.
    This paper analyses the similarities and connections between philosophy of science and causal layered analysis. The paper points out that philosophy of science can be understood as a kind of causal layered analysis of science. These similarities and connections mean that the insights in philosophy of science can be used to investigate the important but neglected topic of possible futures of science. The connections make it possible (i) to open up the present and past to create alternative futures of science, (...)
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  40. Peter J Bowler. A History of the Future: Prophets of Progress from H. G. Wells to Isaac Asimov. x + 287 pp., figs., illus., notes, bibl., index. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. $74.99 (cloth); ISBN 9781107148734. [REVIEW]Mark B. Adams - 2021 - Isis 112 (1):205-206.
  41. JKSS and Paul Feyerabend.Luis M. Augusto - 2021 - Journal of Knowledge Structures and Systems 2 (1):1-2.
    In this editorial, I explain how Paul Feyerabend's Principle of Proliferation is adopted and adapted as a publication model for the Journal of Knowledge Structures and Systems (JKSS). Critical views on the limitations of both non-dynamic publishing models and government- and industry-based models of research are expressed.
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  42. Understanding scientific progress: the noetic account.Finnur Dellsén - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):11249-11278.
    What is scientific progress? This paper advances an interpretation of this question, and an account that serves to answer it. Roughly, the question is here understood to concern what type of cognitive change with respect to a topic X constitutes a scientific improvement with respect to X. The answer explored in the paper is that the requisite type of cognitive change occurs when scientific results are made publicly available so as to make it possible for anyone to increase their understanding (...)
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  43. İktisat Bilimi ve Bilimsel İlerleme.Ercan Eren - 2021 - İktisat Ve Toplum Dergisi 124:99-110.
  44. Ein letzter Gigant der Wissenschaft.Schiemann Gregor - 2021 - Physik Journal 2021 (10):29-34.
    Hermann von Helmholtz hat als Naturforscher sowohl die Physik als auch die Physiologie um eine beeindruckende Anzahl grundlegender Erkenntnisse bereichert, ihr heutiges Selbstverständnis entscheidend mitgeprägt, ihre Verfahren auf neue Gegenstandsbereiche angewendet und war führend an ihrem institutionellen Ausbau zu Laborwissenschaften beteiligt.
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  45. Model spread and progress in climate modelling.Julie Jebeile & Anouk Barberousse - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (3):1-19.
    Convergence of model projections is often considered by climate scientists to be an important objective in so far as it may indicate the robustness of the models’ core hypotheses. Consequently, the range of climate projections from a multi-model ensemble, called “model spread”, is often expected to reduce as climate research moves forward. However, the successive Assessment Reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicate no reduction in model spread, whereas it is indisputable that climate science has made improvements in (...)
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  46. The algorithmic turn in conservation biology: Characterizing progress in ethically-driven sciences.James Justus & Samantha Wakil - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 88 (C):181-192.
    As a discipline distinct from ecology, conservation biology emerged in the 1980s as a rigorous science focused on protecting biodiversity. Two algorithmic breakthroughs in information processing made this possible: place-prioritization algorithms and geographical information systems. They provided defensible, data-driven methods for designing reserves to conserve biodiversity that obviated the need for largely intuitive and highly problematic appeals to ecological theory at the time. But the scientific basis of these achievements and whether they constitute genuine scientific progress has been criticized. We (...)
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  47. The algorithmic turn in conservation biology: Characterizing progress in ethically-driven sciences.James Justus & Samantha Wakil - 2021 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 88 (C):181-192.
    As a discipline distinct from ecology, conservation biology emerged in the 1980s as a rigorous science focused on protecting biodiversity. Two algorithmic breakthroughs in information processing made this possible: place-prioritization algorithms and geographical information systems. They provided defensible, data-driven methods for designing reserves to conserve biodiversity that obviated the need for largely intuitive and highly problematic appeals to ecological theory at the time. But the scientific basis of these achievements and whether they constitute genuine scientific progress has been criticized. We (...)
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  48. The freedom we mean: A causal independence account of creativity and academic freedom.Maria Kronfeldner - 2021 - European Journal for Philosophy of Science 11 (2):1-23.
    Academic freedom has often been defended in a progressivist manner: without academic freedom, creativity would be in peril, and with it the advancement of knowledge, i.e. the epistemic progress in science. In this paper, I want to critically discuss the limits of such a progressivist defense of academic freedom, also known under the label ‘argument from truth.’ The critique is offered, however, with a constructive goal in mind, namely to offer an alternative account that connects creativity and academic freedom in (...)
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  49. Improve Popper and procure a perfect simulacrum of verification indistinguishable from the real thing.Nicholas Maxwell - 2021 - Journal for General Philosophy of Science.
    According to Karl Popper, science cannot verify its theories empirically, but it can falsify them, and that suffices to account for scientific progress. For Popper, a law or theory remains a pure conjecture, probability equal to zero, however massively corroborated empirically it may be. But it does just seem to be the case that science does verify empirically laws and theories. We trust our lives to such verifications when we fly in aeroplanes, cross bridges and take modern medicines. We can (...)
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  50. Bias in Science: Natural and Social.Joshua May - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):3345–3366.
    Moral, social, political, and other “nonepistemic” values can lead to bias in science, from prioritizing certain topics over others to the rationalization of questionable research practices. Such values might seem particularly common or powerful in the social sciences, given their subject matter. However, I argue first that the well-documented phenomenon of motivated reasoning provides a useful framework for understanding when values guide scientific inquiry (in pernicious or productive ways). Second, this analysis reveals a parity thesis: values influence the social and (...)
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