Rethinking unity as a "working hypothesis" for philosophy: How archaeologists exploit the disunities of science

Perspectives on Science 7 (3):293-317 (1999)
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Abstract
As a working hypothesis for philosophy of science, the unity of science thesis has been decisively challenged in all its standard formulations; it cannot be assumed that the sciences presuppose an orderly world, that they are united by the goal of systematically describing and explaining this order, or that they rely on distinctively scientific methodologies which, properly applied, produce domain-specific results that converge on a single coherent and comprehensive system of knowledge. I first delineate the scope of arguments against global unity theses. However implausible old-style global unity theses may now seem, I argue that unifying strategies of a more local and contingent nature do play an important role in scientific inquiry. This is particularly clear in archaeology where, to establish evidential claims of any kind, practitioners must exploit a range of inter-field and inter-theory connections. At the same time, the robustness of these evidential claims depends on significant disunity between the sciences from which archaeologists draw background assumptions and auxiliary hypotheses. This juxtaposition of unity with disunity poses a challenge to standard positions in the debate about scientific unity
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