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Allan Franklin's Transcendental Physics

Michael Lynch
PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association
Vol. 1990, Volume Two: Symposia and Invited Papers (1990), pp. 471-485
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/193091
Page Count: 15
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Allan Franklin's Transcendental Physics
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Abstract

This paper was presented at a session on "Three views of experiment: Atomic parity violations," in which Allan Franklin's study of an episode in the recent history of particle physics was discussed and criticized. Franklin argues in favor of what he calls "the evidence model," a general claim to the effect that physicists' theory choices are based on valid experimental evidence. He contrasts his position to that of the social constructivists, who, according to him, insist that social and cognitive interests, and not the evidence, explains physicists' practical and theoretical judgments. My paper argues that Franklin miscasts the debate between experimental realism and social constructivism, because constructivists do not insist that evidence has no role whatsoever in experimental practice. My position draws lessons from Wittgenstein's later philosophy and ethnomethodological studies of scientific practices. The paper does not aim to support social constructivism against Franklin's arguments, so much as to suggest that the terms of the realist-constructivist debate provide a poor context for the examination of the temporal production of experiments and observations.

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