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Journal Article

Against Evolutionary Epistemology

Paul Thagard
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1980, Volume One: Contributed Papers (1980), pp. 187-196
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/192564
Page Count: 10
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Against Evolutionary Epistemology
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Abstract

This paper is a critique of Darwinian models of the growth of scientific knowledge. Donald Campbell, Karl Popper, Stephen Toulmin, and others have discussed analogies between the development of biological species and the development of scientific knowledge: in both kinds of development, we find variation, selection, and transmission. It is argued that these similarities are superficial, and that closer examination of biological evolution and of the history of science shows that a non-Darwinian approach to historical epistemology is needed. An adequate model of the growth of knowledge will have to go beyond evolutionary epistemology in discussing the role of intentional, abductive theory construction in scientific discovery, the selection of theories according to general criteria, the achievement of progress by sustained application of criteria, and the transmission of selected theories in highly organized scientific communities.

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