, Volume 75, Issue 3, pp 285–302 | Cite as

What (Good) is Historical Epistemology? Editors’ Introduction



We provide an overview of three ways in which the expression “Historical epistemology” (HE) is often understood: (1) HE as a study of the history of higher-order epistemic concepts such as objectivity, observation, experimentation, or probability; (2) HE as a study of the historical trajectories of the objects of research, such as the electron, DNA, or phlogiston; (3) HE as the long-term study of scientific developments. After laying out various ways in which these agendas touch on current debates within both epistemology and philosophy of science (e.g., skepticism, realism, rationality of scientific change), we conclude by highlighting three topics as especially worthy of further philosophical investigation. The first concerns the methods, aims and systematic ambitions of the history of epistemology. The second concerns the ways in versions of HE can be connected to versions of naturalized and social epistemologies. The third concerns the philosophy of history, and in particular the level of analysis at which a historical analysis should aim.


Scientific Practice Scientific Change Epistemological Problem Social Epistemology Historical Investigation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank the speakers, commentators and other participants of the 2008 conference. In addition to that, the authors are especially grateful to the anonymous referees as well as John Carson, Lorraine Daston, Pierre-Olivier Methot, Jürgen Renn, and Hans-Jörg Rheinberger for various comments and suggestions. Thomas Sturm’s work on this article was supported by the Spanish Ministry for Science and Innovation, Reference number FFI 2008-01559/FISO.


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institut für Philosophie, Literatur-, Wissenschafts- und TechnikgeschichteTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Departament de FilosofiaUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain

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