Conceptions of scientific progress in scientific practice: an empirical study

Synthese 199 (1-2):2375-2394 (2021)
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Abstract
The aim of this paper is to contribute to the debate over the nature of scientific progress in philosophy of science by taking a quantitative, corpus-based approach. By employing the methods of data science and corpus linguistics, the following philosophical accounts of scientific progress are tested empirically: the semantic account of scientific progress, the epistemic account of scientific progress, and the noetic account of scientific progress. Overall, the results of this quantitative, corpus-based study lend some empirical support to the epistemic and the noetic accounts over the semantic account of scientific progress, for they suggest that practicing scientists use the terms ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ significantly more often than the term ‘truth’ when they talk about the aims or goals of scientific research in their published works. But the results do not favor the epistemic account over the noetic account, or vice versa, for they reveal no significant differences between the frequency with which practicing scientists use the terms ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ when they talk about the aims or goals of scientific research in their published works.
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