Is Water H2O? pp 253-301 | Cite as

Pluralism in Science: A Call to Action

  • Hasok Chang
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science book series (BSPS, volume 293)


In this chapter I present a sustained and systematic defence of pluralism in science, building on various hints from earlier chapters. I define my position as “active normative epistemic pluralism”. Based on the recognition of the benefits of having multiple systems of practice in each field of study, pluralism as I intend it is an active stance committed to the cultivation of plurality. There are two types of benefits of plurality. Benefits of toleration arise from simply allowing multiple systems simultaneously, which provides insurance against unpredictability, compensation for the limitations of each system, and multiple satisfaction of any given aim. Benefits of interaction arise from the integration of different systems for specific purposes, the co-optation of beneficial elements across systems, and the productive competition between systems. Pluralism should not be confused with an abdication of judgment: each pluralist has the freedom and responsibility to evaluate the quality and value of scientific work. Pluralism can deliver its benefits without a paralyzing relativism or an uncontrolled dissipation of resources. In practice, the kind of pluralism I advocate comes down to a directive to proliferate valuable systems of knowledge: this has concrete implications for scientific practice, and also gives new purpose and approach to the history and philosophy of science, in line with my vision of history and philosophy of science as “complementary science”.


Intelligent Design Critical Awareness Empirical Adequacy Atomic Chemistry Phlogiston Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hasok Chang
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of History and Philosophy of Science Free School LaneUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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