Main Content

Section III Epistemic Objects I

Chair: Ursula Klein (MPIWG Berlin)

Loading the player ...

Theodore Arabatzis (University of Athens): The Historicity of Scientific Objects: From Cathode Rays to Electrons

Loading the player ...

Summary

Historians and philosophers of science have amply documented the historicity of epistemic practices. Forms of explanation and argumentation, experimental methods, epistemic categories and values have been shown to vary considerably over time. This historical variation has lent itself to the development of historical epistemology, which, in my understanding, attempts to historicize the origin and establishment of knowledge claims. The question I will address in this paper is whether (and in what sense) the objects of those claims are products of contingent historical processes. I will argue that in order to understand the various ways in which those objects are (not) historical we need a pluralist metaphysics that can do justice to the rich diversity of the ontology of science. To illustrate my argument, I will draw upon the early history of electrons qua experimental objects. I will suggest that their experimental history has to be taken into account when we contemplate the question of their existence. The detection and manipulation of electrons in the laboratory, however, are not constitutive of their existence.

Hasok Chang (University College London): The Persistence of Epistemic Objects through Scientific Change

Loading the player ...

Summary

Why do some epistemic objects persist despite undergoing serious changes, while others go extinct?  Scientists have often been careless in deciding which epistemic objects to preserve and which ones to eliminate; historians and philosophers of science have been on the whole much too unreflective in accepting the scientists’ decisions in this regard.  Through a re-examination of oxygen and phlogiston, I will show that there are some benefits to be gained from challenging and disturbing the commonly accepted continuities and discontinuities in the lives of epistemic objects.  In more general terms, and also drawing more briefly on some other episodes, I will outline two key consequences of such re-thinking.  First, a fresh view on the (dis)continuities in key epistemic objects is apt to lead to informative revisions in recognized periods and trends in the history of science.  Second, recognizing sources of continuity leads to a sympathetic view on extinct objects, which in turn problematizes the common monistic tendency in science and philosophy; this epistemological reorientation allows room for more pluralism in scientific practice itself.

Discussion

Loading the player ...

Commentator: Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (MPIWG Berlin)

Loading the player ...

Replies to Hans-Jörg Rheinberger

Loading the player ...

General Discussion

Loading the player ...

MPIWG Homepage | Contact | Imprint | Sitemap  mpiwg MPG