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The Status of Hypothesis and Theory

Ducheyne, Steffen (2010) The Status of Hypothesis and Theory. [Preprint]

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    Nowadays, it is a truism that hypotheses and theories play an essential role in scientific practice. This, however, was far from an obvious given in seventeenth-century British natural philosophy. Different natural philosophers had different views on the role and status of hypotheses and theories, ranging from fierce promotion to bold rejection, and to both they ascribed varying meanings and connotations. The guiding idea of this chapter is that, in seventeenth-century British natural philosophy, the terms ‘hypothesis’/‘hypothetical’ and ‘theory’/‘theoretical’ were imbedded in a semantic network of interconnected epistemological and methodological notions – such as ‘knowledge’, ‘method’, ‘probability’, ‘certainty’, ‘induction’, ‘deduction’, ‘experimental philosophy’, ‘speculative philosophy’, and the like). As these semantic networks changed overtime, the meaning and significance of ‘hypothesis’ and ‘theory’ likewise shifted. Without pretence of completeness, this chapter highlights chronologically some of the defining moments in the semantic transformation of these two terms within the context of seventeenth-century natural philosophy.

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    Item Type: Preprint
    Additional Information: ! This preprint approximates a forthcoming chapter in: Peter R. Anstey (ed.), Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century (Oxford University Press).
    Keywords: Hypothesis, theory, history of natural-philosophical methodology, speculative versus experimental seventeenth-century natural philosophy, Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, John Locke, Isaac Newton.
    Subjects: General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
    General Issues > Causation
    General Issues > Explanation
    General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
    Depositing User: Steffen Ducheyne
    Date Deposited: 30 Dec 2009
    Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 11:19
    Item ID: 5074

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