Contrastive evaluation of explanations in studies of scientific knowledge



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Tartu Ülikool


In order to explain scientific practices, a study of science must organize its method of explanation. Symmetry requirement in the sociology of scientific knowledge demanded that explaining why scientists conclude their explanations the way they do should be carefully executed with a symmetrical focus on reasons. That is, the possible epistemic states of the practices under study require the same types of explanations, regardless of the actual outcome. One problem with symmetry requirement is its assumption that there is a shared intuition on the types of explanations and ways in which they are compared and contrasted. In this thesis, I explore this assumption and provide a possible assessment strategy that is informed by the philosophical debates on contrastive explanations. My proposal is a strategy of evaluating explanations in studies of science with respect to their sensitivity to given context. Explanations are sensitive to the context only if they are contrastively symmetrical. As opposed to strong symmetry, contrastive symmetry can accommodate wider possibilities of explanations given their intended context.



philosophy of science, scientific knowledge, symmetry requirement, contrastive explanation