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62. Scientific Change

DUDLEY SHAPERE


Subject Philosophy

Key-Topics science

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230205.2001.00065.x


Extract

Broadly, the problem of scientific change is to give an account of how scientific theories, propositions, concepts, and/or activities alter over history. Must such changes be accepted as brute products of guesses, blind conjectures, and genius? Or are there rules according to which at least some new ideas are introduced and ultimately accepted or rejected? Would such rules be codifiable into a coherent system, a theory of “the scientific method”? Are they more like rules of thumb, subject to exceptions whose character may not be specifiable, not necessarily leading to desired results? Do these supposed rules themselves change over time? If so, do they change in the light of the same factors as more substantive scientific beliefs, or independently of such factors? Does science “progress”? And if so, is its goal the attainment of truth, or a simple or coherent account (true or not) of experience, or something else? Controversy exists about what a theory of scientific change should be a theory of the change of. Philosophers long assumed that the fundamental objects of study are the acceptance or rejection of individual beliefs or propositions, change of concepts, propositions, and theories being derivative from that. More recently, some have maintained that the fundamental units of change are theories or larger coherent bodies of scientific belief, or concepts or problems. Again, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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