What Is the Basic Unit of Scientific Progress? A Quantitative, Corpus-Based Study

Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 53 (4):441-458 (2022)
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Abstract

This paper presents the results of an empirical study following up on Mizrahi (2021). Using the same methods of text mining and corpus analysis used by Mizrahi (2021), we test empirically a philosophical account of scientific progress that Mizrahi (2021) left out of his empirical study, namely, the so-called functional-internalist account of scientific progress according to which the aim or goal or scientific research is to solve problems. In general, our results do not lend much empirical evidence in support of the problem-solving model of scientific progress over the other philosophical accounts of scientific progress (namely, the epistemic, noetic, and semantic accounts of scientific progress) tested in Mizrahi (2021) and in this follow-up study. Of all the subjects in the JSTOR database we have tested in this study, however, Mathematics is an interesting exception as far as the problem-solving model of scientific progress is concerned. For, in Mathematics alone, we have found that there is significantly more talk of the aims and/or goals of research in terms of solutions than in terms of truth, knowledge, or understanding.

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Moti Mizrahi
Florida Institute of Technology

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