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Theory-laden experimentation

Schindler, Samuel (2012) Theory-laden experimentation. [Preprint]

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The thesis of theory-ladenness of observations, in its various guises, is widely considered as either ill-conceived or harmless to the rationality of science. The latter view rests partly on the work of the proponents of New Experimentalism who have argued, among other things, that experimental practices are efficient in guarding against any epistemological threat posed by theory-ladenness. In this paper I show that one can generate a thesis of theory-ladenness for experimental practices from an influential New Experimentalist account. The notion I introduce for this purpose is the concept of ‘theory-driven data reliability judgments’ (TDR), according to which theories which are sought to be tested with a particular set of data guide reliability judgments about those very same data. I provide various prominent historical examples (among others, the confirmation of Einstein’s prediction of star light bending in 1919) to show that TDRs are used by scientists to resolve data conflicts. I argue that the rationality of the practices which employ TDRs can be saved if the independent support of the theories driving TDRs is construed in a particular way.

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Item Type: Preprint
Keywords: theory-ladenness, experiment, data conflicts, independent support, novelty, theoretical virtues, star light bending
Subjects: General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Theory/Observation
Depositing User: Samuel Schindler
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2012 01:41
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2016 14:10
Item ID: 9263
Journal or Publication Title: Studies in History and Philosophy of Science

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