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Scientific Progress: Beyond Foundationalism and Coherentism1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 April 2017

Extract

Scientific progress remains one of the most significant issues in the philosophy of science today. This is not only because of the intrinsic importance of the topic, but also because of its immense difficulty. In what sense exactly does science makes progress, and how is it that scientists are apparently able to achieve it better than people in other realms of human intellectual endeavour? Neither philosophers nor scientists themselves have been able to answer these questions to general satisfaction.

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Copyright
Copyright © The Royal Institute of Philosophy and the contributors 2007

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References

2 Sarton, G., Introduction to the History of Science, I (Baltimore: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1927), 34; emphasis original.Google Scholar

3 Skinner, B. F., The Shaping of a Behaviorist (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), 57.Google Scholar

4 Neurath, O., ‘Protocol Statements (1932/33)’, Philosophical Papers 1913–1946, Cohen, R. S. and Neurath, M. (eds.) (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1983), 9199, on 92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 Schlick, M., ‘On the Foundation of Knowledge [1934]’, Philosophical Papers, II (1925–1936), Mulder, H. L. and van de Velde-Schlick, B. F. B. (eds.) (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1979), 370387, on 382.Google Scholar

6 Foley, R., ‘Justification Epistemic’, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Craig, V. E. (ed.) (London: Routledge, 1998), 158159.Google Scholar

7 Ibid., 157.

8 For a more detailed exposition of this doctrine, see Chang, H., Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), chapter 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 For further detail on these three stages of development, see ibid., 47–48.

10 Reported in Biot, J. B., Traité de physique expérimentale et mathématique (Paris: Deterville, 1816), vol. 1, 4243.Google Scholar

11 van der Star, P. (ed.), Fahrenheit's Letters to Leibniz and Boerhaave (Leiden: Museum Boerhaave; Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1983), 8081.Google Scholar

12 These examples were discussed at a presentation I gave at the workshop on ‘Matters of Substance’ at the University of Durham on 28 August 2006.

13 Lavoisier, A. L., Elements of Chemistry, in a New Systematic Order, Containing all the Modern Discoveries, Kerr, R. (trans.) (New York: Dover, 1965Google Scholar; originally published in French in 1789, original English translation in 1790), xxiv; emphasis original.

14 Chaptal, J. A., Elemens de Chymie, 3rd ed., 1796, vol. 1, p. 55Google Scholar; quoted in Siegfried, R. and Dobbs, B. J., ‘Composition, A Neglected Aspect of the Chemical Revolution’, Annals of Science 24 (1968), 275293, on 283.Google Scholar

15 There is a large historical literature on the Chemical Revolution, but the best introduction to the subject for philosophers is Musgrave, A., ‘Why Did Oxygen Supplant Phlogiston? Research Programmes in the Chemical Revolution’, Method and Appraisal in the Physical Sciences, Howson, C. (ed.) (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), 181209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

16 On the very long tradition of ‘fire analysis’ in alchemy and chemistry, and how it was later questioned by the likes of Robert Boyle, see Debus, A. G., ‘Fire Analysis and the elements in the Sixteenth and the Seventeenth Centuries’, Annals of Science 23 (1967), 127147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

17 Klein, U., ‘Origin of the Concept of Chemical Compound’, Science in Context 7, No. 2 (1994), 163204CrossRefGoogle Scholar, on 170 and passim.

18 Klein, U., ‘The Chemical Workshop Tradition and the Experimental Practice: Discontinuities within Continuities’, Science in Context 9, No. 3 (1996), 251287, on 256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

19 These reversals are regarded as ‘the real center’ of the Chemical Revolution by Siegfried and Dobbs, , op. cit. note 14, 281.Google Scholar

20 In modern terms, lime-water is an aqueous solution of calcium hydroxide (‘slaked lime’), which reacts with carbon dioxide to produce calcium carbonate (chalk), which is insoluble in water so makes a precipitate. In chemical symbols, the reaction is: Ca(OH)2 + CO2 → CaCO3 + H2O. It was known from early on that chalk (CaCO3) could be made into caustic lime (CaO) by heating, but it was not recognized until Black's work that the process was a decomposition of chalk into lime and fixed air (CO2). Caustic lime (CaO) becomes slaked lime (Ca(OH)2) by absorbing water (H2O), and slaked lime dissolves in water, making lime-water. See Lowry, T. M., Historical Introduction to Chemistry, rev. ed. (London: Macmillan, 1936), 61, and the rest of chapter 4.Google Scholar

21 For a brief introduction to the history of fixed air, see Brock, W. H., The Fontana History of Chemistry (London: Fontana Press, 1992), 78, 97106, 124.Google Scholar

22 Black, J., Experiments upon Magnesia Alba, Quick-Lime, and other Alcaline Substances, Alembic Club Reprints, No. 1 (Edinburgh: William F. Clay, 1893), 2425.Google Scholar

23 See Heisenberg, W., Physics and Beyond, Pomerans, A. J. (trans.) (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971), 137.Google Scholar

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