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Articulating the WorldConceptual Understanding and the Scientific Image$
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Joseph Rouse

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226293677

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226293707.001.0001

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Scientific Practice and the Scientific Image

Scientific Practice and the Scientific Image

(p.201) Six Scientific Practice and the Scientific Image
Articulating the World

Joseph Rouse

University of Chicago Press

This chapter initiates part two, situating scientific understanding within part one’s naturalistic, evolutionary account of human conceptual capacities. Prominent earlier accounts of a scientific world-conception, from the Vienna Circle and Sellars’s scientific image to recent accounts of scientific disunity, identify scientific understanding with a body of knowledge located within the Sellarsian space of reasons. The chapter introduces an alternative account of scientific understanding in practice, as reconfiguring the space of reasons itself. The sciences help articulate the world conceptually, expanding and refining what can be discussed, understood, recognized and responded to, and reasoned about. Conceptual articulation involves not only new patterns of talk, but new ways to tell what that talk is about, often drawing upon new phenomena and new skills. Scientific work is thus itself a form of behavioral and material niche construction, and scientific understanding extends beyond linguistic expressions of knowledge claims to incorporate the institutionally and culturally situated practice of scientific research. As embodied in ongoing research, scientific understanding is prospectively oriented toward outstanding problems and opportunities rather than retrospectively assessing what was already achieved. The chapter concludes with capsule previews of how the subsequent chapters develop this revised conception of “the scientific image.”

Keywords:   scientific understanding, Sellars, Vienna Circle, disunity of science, space of reasons, scientific practice, conceptual articulation, niche construction, research

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