Philosophy of Science in Practice: A Proposal for Epistemological Constructivism

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Philosophy of science in practice (PoSiP), besides other things, aims at an epistemology of scientific practices that addresses questions such as: How is the construction of knowledge for epistemic uses possible? Epistemology that goes beyond formal epistemology has been banned from mainstream philosophy of science since the Wiener Kreis (Vienna Circle) in order to avoid drifting into the realm of metaphysics. However, formal epistemology cannot account for the possibility of epistemic uses of scientific knowledge (e.g., Cartwright 1983). For, this account would involve as an epistemological presupposition that knowledge about new, previously unexamined systems can be derived from logical or mathematical structures that are ultimately grounded on experiential and experimental data. The plausibility of this presupposition draws on the belief that there exist such structures. Hence, metaphysics re-enters through the backdoor. When acknowledging that any claim to the certainty of knowledge involves metaphysics, the entire idea of certain knowledge may be abandoned (as in Van Fraassen’s anti-realism). At this point, it becomes apparent that there is a need for an epistemology that suits scientific practices, especially those which aim at knowledge for practical uses. Indeed, a reconsideration of some of the presuppositions that vindicated formal epistemology seems in order, in particular: on the aim of science, on how to avoid metaphysics, and on the task of the philosophy of science. In this article Kant’s epistemology is taken as a starting point for such reconsideration, since his work aimed to explain the possibility of knowledge. Based on contemporary interpretations of Kant’s epistemology (e.g., Neiman 1994), epistemological constructivism is proposed as a view in which the aim of science is to construct knowledge for epistemic uses. It involves the idea that scientific knowledge (patterns in data, and scientific laws, models and concepts) is constructed to enable and guide epistemic uses, which also entails that scientific practices develop epistemic strategies for the production of knowledge that meets this purpose. Accordingly, one of the tasks of PoSiP is to reconstruct, investigate, and evaluate epistemic strategies by means of which knowledge is constructed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLogic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the FifteenthProceedings of the Fifteenth International Congress (CLMPS 2015)
EditorsHannes Leitgeb, Ilkka Niiniluoto, Päivi Seppälä, Elliot Sober
PublisherCollege Publishing
ISBN (Print)978-1-84890-229-9
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2017
Event15th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science 2015 - Helsinki, Finland
Duration: 3 Aug 20158 Aug 2015
Conference number: 15


Conference15th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science 2015
Abbreviated titleCLMPS 2015
Internet address


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