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Department of History and Philosophy of Science


The Pragmatism Reading Group is held on Mondays at 11am–12noon in the Board Room.

Organisers: Damon Kutzin (dtk23), Helene Scott-Fordsmand (hs747), Ruward Mulder (ram202)

Michaelmas Term 2023: Scientific Discovery

In Michaelmas Term, the Pragmatism Reading Group will explore scientific discovery. Pragmatist philosophers have always been interested in the process of discovery and highlighted it as an underexamined kind of inquiry in traditional philosophy of science. This is in part due to the influential distinction between the 'context of discovery' and 'the context of justification', which held that only justification could be subject to logical analysis, while discovery was a psychological process, irrelevant to the validity of the discovery itself.

The readings will question this argument in a variety of ways, starting from early pragmatist accounts of discovery, to examining analogical, heuristic, and sociological approaches. In this way, we consider various ways to overcome the context distinction and how to think about scientific discovery philosophically.

9 October

Schiller, F.C.S. (1917), 'Scientific Discovery and Logical Proof', in C.J. Singer (ed.), Studies in the History and Method of Science (Volume 1), Oxford: Clarendon, 235–89. [PDF scan provided]

16 October

Hanson, Norwood R. (1960), 'Is there a Logic of Scientific Discovery?', Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 38: 91–106.

23 October

Polanyi, Michael. (1967). 'The Creative Imagination', TriQuarterly (8), 111–124.

30 October

Hesse, Mary. (1973). 'Logic of discovery in Maxwell's electromagnetic theory', in Ronald N. Giere & Richard S. Westfall (eds.), Foundations of Scientific Method: The Nineteenth Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. pp. 86–114. [PDF scan provided]

6 November

Laudan, Larry. (1980), 'Why Was the Logic of Discovery Abandoned?' in T. Nickles (ed.), Scientific Discovery, Logic, and Rationality (Dordrecht: Reidel), pp. 173–183.

13 November

Achinstein, Peter. (1980), 'Discovery and Rule-Books', in T. Nickles (ed.), Scientific Discovery, Logic, and Rationality (Dordrecht: Reidel), pp. 117–132.

20 November

Schaffer, Simon. (1986), 'Scientific Discoveries and the End of Natural Philosophy', Social Studies of Science (16), 387–420.

27 November

Ippoliti, Emiliano (2020). 'Scientific Discovery Reloaded', Topoi 39(4): 847–856.