Record, Isaac (2011) Technology and Knowledge. In:  3rd Biennial Conference of the Society for Philosophy of Science in Practice (June 22-24, 2011; Exeter, UK).
My aim in this paper is to give a philosophical analysis of how, precisely, technology can be a condition for gaining scientific knowledge. My concern is with what scientists can know in practice, given their particular contingent conditions, including available technology, rather than what can be known “in principle” by a hypothetical entity like Laplace’s Demon. I begin with the observation that what we know depends on what we can do. For example, in science, gaining certain knowledge depends of having certain evidence. This makes the ability to gather that evidence a necessary condition for gaining the knowledge. I’ll argue that a scientist is (under certain conditions) expected to seek evidence before making a judgment, meaning that the “epistemic possibility” of attaining scientific knowledge sometimes depends on the possibility of undertaking certain activities. In turn, the possibility of undertaking certain activities depends in part on factors like ethical constraints, economical realities, and available technology. I’ll focus on technology, and in particular on scientific instruments, and introduce a new way to analyze the set of actions made possible by changes in technology. Specifically, I’ll argue that changes in technology make certain activities “technologically possible,” and these activities can under certain circumstances extend our knowledge, for example by making new evidence available to scientists. That is, the epistemic possibility of gaining access to scientific knowledge depends (in some cases) on the technological possibility for the construction and operation of scientific instruments.
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