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33. Mathematical Modeling as an Exegetical Tool: Rational Reconstruction

A. M. C. Waterman

Subject Economics » History of Thought

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631225737.2003.00038.x


Rational reconstruction (hereinafter, RR) will be understood in this essay in the sense used by Imre Lakatos (1978 , ch. 2) in reference to the history of science. According to Lakatos, RR is equivalent to what he calls internal history: a putatively diachronic account of what counts as “growth of knowledge” or “progress in science” - as “progress” is adjudicated by the particular normative methodology favored by the historian. Lakatos's external history is confined to social and economic conjuncture, the tastes, ideologies, and metaphysics of the scientists, and other circumstances that “explain the residual non-rational factors.” Thus “external history is irrelevant for the understanding of science” ( Lakatos, 1978 , pp. 118, 102). It is apparent that there must be at least as many rational reconstructions of any particular episode as there are methodologies. Thus an historian who accepts the criteria of scientific progress proposed by “conventionalism” will offer a very different internal history of some important scientific innovation from that of another historian whose criteria are those specified by Lakatos's own methodology of “scientific research programmes.” It also appears that those who accept Thomas Kuhn's account of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) must disqualify themselves from attempting any kind of RR. For “ In Kuhn's view there can be no ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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