Social Empiricism

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MIT Press, Jan 26, 2007 - Science - 196 pages
For the last forty years, two claims have been at the core of disputes about scientific change: that scientists reason rationally and that science is progressive. For most of this time discussions were polarized between philosophers, who defended traditional Enlightenment ideas about rationality and progress, and sociologists, who espoused relativism and constructivism. Recently, creative new ideas going beyond the polarized positions have come from the history of science, feminist criticism of science, psychology of science, and anthropology of science. Addressing the traditional arguments as well as building on these new ideas, Miriam Solomon constructs a new epistemology of science. After discussions of the nature of empirical success and its relation to truth, Solomon offers a new, social account of scientific rationality. She shows that the pursuit of empirical success and truth can be consistent with both dissent and consensus, and that the distinction between dissent and consensus is of little epistemic significance. In building this social epistemology of science, she shows that scientific communities are not merely the locus of distributed expert knowledge and a resource for criticism but also the site of distributed decision making. Throughout, she illustrates her ideas with case studies from late-nineteenth- and twentieth-century physical and life sciences. Replacing the traditional focus on methods and heuristics to be applied by individual scientists, Solomon emphasizes science funding, administration, and policy. One of her goals is to have a positive influence on scientific decision making through practical social recommendations.
 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Empirical Success
15
2 Empirical Success and Theoretical Success
16
3 Defining Empirical Success
21
Whig Realism
33
2 Scientific Realists and Antirealists
34
3 Kitchers Recent Defense of Realism
36
4 Discussion of Kitchers Views
37
4 Consensus on the Central Dogma
109
5 Comments
114
Social Empiricism
117
2 Consensus on Plate Tectonics
120
3 Consensus on the Central Dogma
122
4 Consensus on the Variability Hypothesis
123
5 Consensus on a Surgical Practice
124
6 Consensus on the Ovulation Theory of Menstruation
126

5 Whig Realism
38
6 Evidence for Whig Realism
42
7 Methodological Import of Whig Realism
48
Decision Vectors
51
2 Survey of Decision Vectors
55
Dissent
65
An Example of Good Distribution of Research Effort
68
An Example of Less Good Distribution of Research Effort
81
4 The Continental Drift Dispute 19201950
86
5 Cancer Virus Research
92
6 The Invisible Hand of Reason
95
Consensus
97
2 Initial Reflections
100
3 Consensus on Plate Tectonics
102
7 Consensus on the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics
127
Cold Fusion
129
Treatment of Peptic Ulcers
132
10 A More Social Epistemology
134
Epistemic Fairness
137
2 Standpoint Epistemologies of Science
141
3 Longinos Epistemology of Science
143
4 Social Empiricism and Feminist Philosophy
145
5 Conclusions
148
Notes
153
References
163
Index
171
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About the author (2007)

Miriam Solomon is Professor of Philosophy at Temple University. She publishes widely in the areas of philosophy of science, epistemology, and medical ethics. She is the author of Social Empiricism (MIT Press, 2001).

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