Biology and Philosophy

, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 627–652 | Cite as

Evolving Scientific Epistemologies and the Artifacts of Empirical Philosophy of Science: A Reply Concerning Mesosomes

  • Nicolas Rasmussen


In a 1993 paper, I argued that empirical treatments of the epistemologyused by scientists in experimental work are too abstract in practice tocounter relativist efforts to explain the outcome of scientificcontroversies by reference to sociological forces. This was because, atthe rarefied level at which the methodology of scientists is treated byphilosophers, multiple mutually inconsistent instantiations of theprinciples described by philosophers are employed by contestingscientists. These multiple construals change within a scientificcommunity over short time frames, and these different versions ofscientific methodology can determine the outcome of a controversy. Iillustrated with a comparatively detailed analysis of the methodologyused by biologists debating the existence of an entity called thebacterial mesosome between the mid-1950s and the mid-1970s. This 1993piece has drawn several critiques in the philosophical literature. Inthis present piece I respond to these critiques and argue that they failto address the core argument of the original paper, and I reflectfurther on the methodologies of philosophers of science pursuingempirical or `naturalistic' epistemology.

electron microscopy experiment mesosomes naturalized epistemology relativism robustness 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas Rasmussen
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Science and TechnologyUniversity of New South WalesSyndeyAustralia

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