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The Theory-Ladenness of Observation and the Theory-Ladenness of the Rest of the Scientific Process

William F. Brewer and Bruce L. Lambert
Philosophy of Science
Vol. 68, No. 3, Supplement: Proceedings of the 2000 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. Part I: Contributed Papers (Sep., 2001), pp. S176-S186
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3080944
Page Count: 11
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The Theory-Ladenness of Observation and the Theory-Ladenness of the Rest of the Scientific Process
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Abstract

We use evidence from cognitive psychology and the history of science to examine the issue of the theory-ladenness of perceptual observation. This evidence shows that perception is theory-laden, but that it is only strongly theory-laden when the perceptual evidence is ambiguous or degraded, or when it requires a difficult perceptual judgment. We argue that debates about the theory-ladenness issue have focused too narrowly on the issue of perceptual experience, and that a full account of the scientific process requires an examination of theory-ladenness in attention, perception, data interpretation, data production, memory, and scientific communication. We conclude that the evidence for theory-ladenness does not lead to a relativist account of scientific knowledge.

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