Joshua Knobe
Yale University
Within contemporary science, it is common practice to compare data points to the _average_, i.e., to the statistical mean. Because this practice is so familiar, it might at first appear not to be the sort of thing that requires explanation. But recent research in cognitive science gives us reason to adopt the opposite perspective. Research on the cognitive processes involved in people’s ordinary efforts to make sense of the world suggests that, instead of using a purely statistical notion of the average, people tend to use a value-laden notion of the _normal_. This finding about ordinary cognition gives us reason to rethink certain familiar facts about scientific practice. In particular, it suggests that the fact that scientists so often make use of the statistical average should be seen as a highly surprising fact, the sort of thing that calls out for explanation. To understand it, we turn to work in the history of science, and especially to work on the ways in which the practice of science changed over the course of the 19th century.
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The Meaning of 'Meaning'.Hillary Putnam - 1975 - Minnesota Studies in the Philosophy of Science 7:131-193.
Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal.Heather Douglas - 2009 - University of Pittsburgh Press.
Science, Truth, and Democracy.Philip Kitcher - 2001 - Oxford University Press.

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