DO FALLIBILIST ACCOUNTS OF THE GROWTH OF KNOWLEDGE UNDERESTIMATE AND ENDANGER SCIENCE?

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Abstract:

Abstract

All fallibilist theories may appear to be defective, because they allegedly underestimate the security of at least some scientific knowledge and thereby leave science less defensible than it otherwise might be. When they call all scientific knowledge conjectural they may seem at first blush to underestimate the superiority of science vis a vis pseudo-science. Fallibilists apparently fail to account for the fact that science turns theory into facts, because even “facts” are held only provisionally. This impression is false: the relatively secure establishment of facts can be accounted for with a fallibilist view. After theories have been honed through sharp criticism, there is often no reason to doubt some aspects of them. These aspects are what we regard to be factual knowledge, even though these facts are also provisionally accepted as such. We then explain the newly won factual knowledge with deeper theories, which often correct our factual knowledge in spite of its apparent security. Theories of justification add nothing useful to the fallibilists' observation that science finds the best theories because it has the highest standards of criticism. Fallibilist theories today give the best account and defence of science. We may abandon the quest for some kind of assurance that goes beyond the determination that some theory can answer all known objections to it and take up more interesting problems, such as how we can find new objections and how criticism may be improved and made institutionally secure. 1

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9329.2007.00360.x

Affiliations: Mannheim UniversitätFakultät für Sozialwissenschaften68131 MannheimGermany, Email: wettersten@t-online.de

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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