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The Value of Surprise in Science

French, Steven and Murphy, Alice (2021) The Value of Surprise in Science. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Scientific results are often presented as ‘surprising’ as if that is a good thing. Is it? And if so, why? What is the value of surprise in science? Discussions of surprise in science have been limited, but surprise has been used as a way of defending the epistemic privilege of experiments over simulations. The argument is that while experiments can ‘confound’, simulations can merely surprise (Morgan 2005). Our aim in this paper is to show that the discussion of surprise can be usefully extended to thought experiments and theoretical derivations. We argue that in focusing on these features of scientific practice, we can see that the surprise-confoundment distinction does not fully capture surprise in science. We set out how thought experiments and theoretical derivations can bring about surprises that can be disruptive in a productive way, and we end by exploring how this links with their future fertility.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
French, StevenS.R.D.French@leeds.ac.uk
Murphy, Alicealicemlmurphy@gmail.com0000-0002-3707-6872
Keywords: Surprise, confound, thought experiments, simulations, experiments, theoretical derivations, fertility
Subjects: General Issues > Computer Simulation
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Theory Change
General Issues > Thought Experiments
Depositing User: Dr Alice Murphy
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2021 03:00
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2021 03:00
Item ID: 18839
Subjects: General Issues > Computer Simulation
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > Theory Change
General Issues > Thought Experiments
Date: March 2021
URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18839

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