University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

History of Science and Technology/Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Friday, October 27th 2017
Speaker: C. Kenneth Waters, Department of Philosophy - University of Calgary
Subject: An Epistemology of Scientific Investigation
Refreshments served at 3:15 p.m.

Basic accounts of scientific knowledge typically present it as a system for representing the world, often as a system that represents the fundamental structure of the world. This talk presents science as a system centered on investigating the world. It begins by posing the metaphysical possibility that the world has no fundamental structure. The world seems to have lots of structures, but perhaps it has no overall, general structure that spans scales. The talk continues by examining how geneticists and allied biologists systematically investigate, manipulate, and explain aspects of such a world. It shows that the systematicity of these investigations depends on strategies for manipulating and learning about aspects of parts of the world; it does not depend on scientists having a representation of the overall structure of these parts. The talk concludes that we can dispense with the assumption that the parts of the world investigated by these scientists have a general overall structure to be represented. These parts of the world have lots of structure, and investigation depends on them having lots of structure, but it does not depend on them having a general, overall structure.

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