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Negotiating History: Contingency, Canonicity, and Case Studies

Bolinska, Agnes and Martin, Joseph D. (2019) Negotiating History: Contingency, Canonicity, and Case Studies. Elsevier Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A. ISSN 0039-3681

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Abstract

Objections to the use of historical case studies for philosophical ends fall into two categories. Methodological objections claim that historical accounts and their uses by philosophers are subject to various biases. We argue that these challenges are not special; they also apply to other epistemic practices. Metaphysical objections, on the other hand, claim that historical case studies are intrinsically unsuited to serve as evidence for philosophical claims, even when carefully constructed and used, and so constitute a distinct class of challenge. We show that attention to what makes for a canonical case can address these problems. A case study is canonical with respect to a particular philosophical aim when the features relevant to that aim provide a reasonably complete causal account of the results of the historical process under investigation. We show how to establish canonicity by evaluating relevant contingencies using two prominent examples from the history of science: Eddington’s confirmation of Einstein’s theory of general relativity using his data from the 1919 eclipse and Watson and Crick’s determination of the structure of DNA.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Bolinska, Agnesamb273@cam.ac.uk0000-0002-6133-6734
Martin, Joseph D.jdmartin@gmail.com0000-0002-8591-2150
Keywords: contingency, case studies, integrated history and philosophy of science, methodology
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Depositing User: Dr. Joseph D. Martin
Date Deposited: 10 Aug 2019 15:43
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2019 15:43
Item ID: 16318
Journal or Publication Title: Elsevier Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A
Publisher: Elsevier
Official URL: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/...
DOI or Unique Handle: 10.1016/j.shpsa.2019.05.003
Subjects: General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
General Issues > Evidence
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Date: 6 May 2019
ISSN: 0039-3681
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/16318

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