Journal Article

Discoveries, When and By Whom?

Robert G. Hudson

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 52, issue 1, pages 75-93
Published in print March 2001 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online March 2001 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjps/52.1.75
Discoveries, When and By Whom?

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Thomas Kuhn (in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) and Alan Musgrave (in 'Why Did Oxygen Supplant Phlogiston?') argue that it is impossible to precisely date discovery events and precisely identify discoverers. They defend this claim mainly on the grounds that so-called discoverers have in many cases misconceived the objects of discovery. In this paper, I argue that Kuhn and Musgrave arrive at their view because they lack a substantive account of how well discoverers must be able to conceptualize discovered objects. I remedy this deficiency by providing just such an account, and with this account I delineate how one can secure precision regarding the identity of discoverers and the times of discoveries. Near the end of my paper I bring my target of criticism up-to-date; it turns out that Steve Woolgar adopts an approach to discovery kindred to those of Kuhn and Musgrave and I close the paper by discussing what is at stake in rebutting him.

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Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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