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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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Laws and Modalities in Scientific Practice

Laws and Modalities in Scientific Practice

(p.248) Eight Laws and Modalities in Scientific Practice
Articulating the World

Joseph Rouse

University of Chicago Press

This chapter addresses how laws and natural necessity figure in scientific understanding, by developing and extending Marc Lange’s and John Haugeland’s complementary accounts of the role of laws in scientific practice. Lange and Haugeland identify what laws are from their roles in research and scientific understanding, but from different directions. Lange began with laws’ constitutive, holistic counterfactual or subjunctive invariance, in contrast to accidents. This invariance accounts for the laws’ contribution to inductive strategies, counterfactual reasoning, explanation, and disciplinary orientations even in the “special” sciences, and provides a principled, univocal understanding of the manifold varieties, levels, and domains of necessity expressed by sets of laws. Haugeland took laws as constitutive rules for domains of scientific inquiry. The laws, together with scientific skills and commitments, have a normative role in scientific understanding that requires their characteristic necessity. Haugeland thereby makes intelligible the mutual accountability of data and methods with empirically defeasible theoretical frameworks. The chapter concludes that the mutually constitutive roles of conceptual patterns in the world and scientific capacities for pattern recognition show why scientific understanding is a form of material and discursive niche construction rather than linguistic representation, in order to account for the two-dimensional normativity of conceptual understanding.

Keywords:   scientific laws, natural necessity, Marc Lange, John Haugeland, inductive reasoning, scientific practice, conceptual normativity, constitutive rules, pattern recognition, niche construction

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