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Realism, Reliabilism, and the 'Strong Programme' in the Sociology of Scientific Knowledge

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In this essay, I respond to Tim Lewens's proposal that realists and Strong Programme theorists can find common ground in reliabilism. I agree with Lewens, but point to difficulties in his argument. Chief among these is his assumption that reliabilism is incompatible with the Strong Programme's principle of symmetry. I argue that the two are, in fact, compatible, and that Lewens misses this fact because he wrongly supposes that reliabilism entails naturalism. The Strong Programme can fully accommodate a reliabilism which has been freed from its inessential ties to naturalism. Unlike naturalistic epistemologists, the Strong Programme's sociologistic reliabilist insists that all scientific facts are the product of both natural and social causal phenomena. Anticipating objections, I draw on Wittgenstein's rule-following considerations to explain how the sociologistic reliabilist can account for standard intuitions about the objective elements of knowledge. I also explain how the Strong Programme theorist can distinguish between a belief's seeming reliable and its being reliable. Ich setzte den Fuss in die Luft, und sie trug. (Hilde Domin)
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-03-01

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