Learning from the past: Reflections on the role of history in the philosophy of science

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In recent years philosophers of science have turned away from positivist programs for explicating scientific rationality through detailed accounts of scientific procedure and turned toward large-scale accounts of scientific change. One important motivation for this was better fit with the history of science. Paying particular attention to the large-scale theories of Lakatos and Laudan I argue that the history of science is no better accommodated by the new large-scale theories than it was by the earlier positivist philosophies of science; both are, in their different ways, parochial to our conception of rationality. I further argue that the goal of scientific methodology is not explaining the past but promoting good scientific practice, and on this the large-scale methodologies have no obvious a priori advantages over the positivist methodologies they have tried to replace.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-114
Number of pages24
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1986
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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