Arche-writing and data-production in theory-oriented scientific practice: the case of free-viewing as experimental system to test the temporal correlation hypothesis

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences 43 (2):1-27 (2021)
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Abstract

Data production in experimental sciences depends on localised experimental systems, but the epistemic properties of data transcend the contingencies of the processes that produce them. Philosophers often believe that experimental systems instantiate but do not produce the epistemic properties of data. In this paper, we argue that experimental systems' local functioning entails intrinsic capacities to produce the epistemic properties of data. We develop this idea by applying Derrida's model of arche-writing to study a case of theory-oriented experimental practice. Derrida's model relativises or dissolves the conceptual distinction between the moment of data production and a subsequent moment of data dissemination. It thus has consequences for understanding both data production and data dissemination. We study a case of data production in a non-exploratory experimental system designed to test a pre-existing hypothesis in visual neuroscience. A case of theory-oriented experimental practice should allow us to identify the autonomous functioning of experimental systems in data production more clearly, insofar as it allows us to study the limits of pre-existing theory in the activities of these systems. We suggest that pre-existing concepts, hypotheses and theories condition the relevance but not the production of experimental data.

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