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On Scientific Observation

Lorraine Daston
Isis
Vol. 99, No. 1 (March 2008), pp. 97-110
DOI: 10.1086/587535
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/587535
Page Count: 14
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On Scientific Observation
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Abstract

Abstract For much of the last forty years, certain shared epistemological concerns have guided research in both the history and the philosophy of science: the testing of theory (including the replication of experiments), the assessment of evidence, the bearing of theoretical and metaphysical assumptions on the reality of scientific objects, and, above all, the interaction of subjective and objective factors in scientific inquiry. This essay proposes a turn toward ontology—more specifically, toward the ontologies created and sustained by scientific observation. Such a shift in focus would invite a rethinking of the neo‐Kantian distinctions (along with their characteristic metaphors, such as “lenses,” “filters,” and “perspectives”) that have, implicitly or explicitly, informed much of late twentieth‐century history and philosophy of science. In particular, the current gap between psychology and epistemology might be bridged, if the psychology in question were collective rather than individual and the epistemology oriented toward discovery rather than warranting and testing.

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