Rouse-ing out the Legitimation Project: Scientific Practice and the Problem of Demarcation

Ratio 14 (2):171–184 (2001)
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This essay critically examines Joseph Rouse's arguments against, what he dubs, the "legitimation project", which are the attempts to delimit and justify the scientific enterprise by means of global, "a priori" principles. Stipulating that a more adequate picture of science can be obtained by viewing it as a continuously transforming pattern of situated activities, Rouse believes that only by refocusing attention upon the actual practice of science can philosophers begin to detach themselves from the irresolvable epistemological problems that have remained the primary byproduct of the traditional philosophical approach. On closer inspection, however, Rouse's project appears susceptible to the criticism that it is either too relativistic to do the work he envisioned for it, or that it participates in the very same legitimation venture that it was intended to replace (in addition to its own brand metaphysical/epistemological problems). This unexpected outcome, moreover, suggests that such legitimation projects may be an integral component of the very practice of science, contrary to Rouse estimate.
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