What is Scientific Progress? Lessons from Scientific Practice

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 44 (2):375-390 (2013)
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Abstract

Alexander Bird argues for an epistemic account of scientific progress, whereas Darrell Rowbottom argues for a semantic account. Both appeal to intuitions about hypothetical cases in support of their accounts. Since the methodological significance of such appeals to intuition is unclear, I think that a new approach might be fruitful at this stage in the debate. So I propose to abandon appeals to intuition and look at scientific practice instead. I discuss two cases that illustrate the way in which scientists make judgments about progress. As far as scientists are concerned, progress is made when scientific discoveries contribute to the increase of scientific knowledge of the following sorts: empirical, theoretical, practical, and methodological. I then propose to articulate an account of progress that does justice to this broad conception of progress employed by scientists. I discuss one way of doing so, namely, by expanding our notion of scientific knowledge to include both know-that and know-how

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Moti Mizrahi
Florida Institute of Technology