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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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Experimental Practice and Conceptual Understanding

Experimental Practice and Conceptual Understanding

(p.222) Seven Experimental Practice and Conceptual Understanding
Articulating the World

Joseph Rouse

University of Chicago Press

This chapter takes up the role of experimental practice in the articulation of conceptual understanding in the sciences, as a passage between the Scylla of merely “Given” experiential or causal impacts, and the Charybdis of merely intra-linguistic coherence. Experiment does not just provide occasions for conceptual development, whose requisite work would be linguistic or mathematical. Conceptual articulation in scientific practice involves interplay between theoretical models and experimentally configured patterns: the chapter therefore extends conceptions of theoretical models as mediators between theory and world to recognize a double mediation by models and experimental phenomena. The latter’s material complexity, incorporating apparatus, shielding, and skilled performance, is integral to conceptual significance. Hacking and Cartwright limit the scope of concepts to where they are empirically accurate, in their efforts to acknowledge experimental articulation of concepts, but that renders them empty by collapsing their two-dimensional normativity. The conceptual significance of salient experimental patterns can extend further, through the mutual normative accountability between “outer recognition” of a pattern’s presence, and “inner recognition” of its appropriate elements, Scientific understanding is thereby always open to further intensive and extensive conceptual articulation, guided by contestable, future-directed issues and stakes in experimental systems and scientific practice.

Keywords:   experimental practice, conceptual articulation, theoretical models, experimental phenomena, salient patterns, pattern recognition, scientific laws, two-dimensional normativity

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