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The Error Statistical Philosopher as Normative Naturalist

Deborah Mayo and Jean Miller
Synthese
Vol. 163, No. 3 (Aug., 2008), pp. 305-314
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40271032
Page Count: 10
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The Error Statistical Philosopher as Normative Naturalist
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Abstract

We argue for a naturalistic account for appraising scientific methods that carries non-trivial normative force. We develop our approach by comparison with Laudan's (American Philosophical Quarterly 24:19-31, 1987, Philosophy of Science 57:20-33, 1990) "normative naturalism" based on correlating means (various scientific methods) with ends (e.g., reliability). We argue that such a meta-methodology based on means-ends correlations is unreliable and cannot achieve its normative goals. We suggest another approach for meta-methodology based on a conglomeration of tools and strategies (from statistical modeling, experimental design, and related fields) that affords forward looking procedures for learning from error and for controlling error. The resulting "error statistical" appraisal is empirical—methods are appraised by examining their capacities to control error. At the same time, this account is normative, in that the strategies that pass muster are claims about how actually to proceed in given contexts to reach reliable inferences from limited data.

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