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The Kuhnian mode of HPS

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Abstract

In this article I argue that a methodological challenge to an integrated history and philosophy of science approach put forth by Ronald Giere almost forty years ago can be met by what I call the Kuhnian mode of History and Philosophy of Science (HPS). Although in the Kuhnian mode of HPS norms about science are motivated by historical facts about scientific practice, the justifiers of the constructed norms are not historical facts. The Kuhnian mode of HPS therefore evades the naturalistic fallacy which Giere’s challenge is a version of. Against the backdrop of a discussion of Laudan’s normative naturalism I argue that the Kuhnian mode of HPS is a superior form of naturalism: it establishes contact to the practice of science without making itself dependent on its contingencies.

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Notes

  1. Giere, in his review, stated that to “raise this issue is not necessarily to hold dogmatically to a distinction between the descriptive and the normative”. And yet his challenge has been customarily interpreted along these lines. In fact, Giere himself gave this interpretation recently when revisiting his review (Giere 2011). Giere later in his work took (Giere 1989) a naturalistic turn similar to Laudan’s normative naturalism, the latter of which will be discussed in detail in Sect. 4. Giere raised a further issue back in 1973 that has subsequently been addressed. Giere argued that history of science is not necessary for studying science philosophically. Contemporary science might do just as well. As several authors have pointed out, however, many questions about the nature of science (such as theory appraisal) do require the study of the diachronic dimension of science (McMullin 1974; Burian 1977).

  2. The biasedness of historical case studies has become a common theme in recent debates about HPS methodology (Burian 2001; Pitt 2001; Chang 2011). See (Schindler 2013b, forthcoming) for the outline of a defense of the case-study approach.

  3. This has been contested recently (Kennefick 2009). See Schindler (2013a) for a reply.

  4. It goes without saying that this Hansonian argumentative strategy does not exhaust the argumentative arsenal of the SSKers. Other strategies involve the exploitation of the fact that the evidence does not determine the choice of a certain theory (Burian 1990).

  5. It is interesting to note that Kuhn actually quite explicitly uses axiological terminology when characterizing normal science (Kuhn 1996, p. 24). But again, my purpose here is not exegetical. Even if Kuhn hadn’t formulated his concept of normal science in axiological terms, it makes good sense to do so.

  6. For a most recent (non-structuralist) attempt to reconcile realism with the history of science see Harker (2013).

  7. In actual text Laudan speaks of ‘epistemic’ ends and ‘epistemic’ rules. However for Laudan the difference between methodological norms, which he construes as having conditional form, and epistemic norms is not substantial for he defends a reductionism of epistemic norms to conditional norms (Laudan 1990a; cf. the debate between Kelly 2003; Leite 2007; Brössel et al. 2013, forthcoming). See also below for more textual evidence for Laudan’s empiricist interpretation of instrumental norms.

  8. I think this distinction is slightly misleading since it suggests that the methodology as revealed by a scientist’s practices is never explicit, which is of course implausible.

  9. Doppelt (1986) has pointed out that the choice between whether explicit or implicit methodology needs changing cannot be determined in Laudan’s account.

  10. Laudan also commits to this idea in his replies (Laudan 1989, 1990a, b) to Siegel (1990) and Worrall (1988). Interestingly other instrumental rationalists have made this assumption too (Leite 2007).

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Acknowledgments

I wish to thank two anonymous referees of this journal for their valuable remarks. I also thank the audiences at the Fourth Integrated History and Philosophy of Science (&HPS4) in Athens and at the Empirical Philosophy of Science workshop in Sandbjerg (both in 2012) for their feedback.

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Schindler, S. The Kuhnian mode of HPS. Synthese 190, 4137–4154 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-013-0252-x

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