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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 Significance

Scientific Significance

Chapter:
(p.317) Ten Scientific Significance
Source:
Articulating the World
Author(s):

Joseph Rouse

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226293707.003.0010

Scientific research and understanding are more selectively focused than traditional conceptions of a comprehensive scientific image suggest. Most truths and possible topics of inquiry have little or no scientific significance; recognizing which concepts, projects, apparatus, skills, and achieved results matter scientifically is central to scientific understanding. This chapter adapts Davidson’s distinction between homonomic and heteronomic inquiry to explicate two complementary aspects of scientific significance. The most basic form of conceptual articulation in the sciences is homonomic, extending and refining domain-constitutive concepts, skills, and laws. A self-enclosed domain of concepts and skills would be conceptually empty, however. Internal development of conceptual domains matters in its bearing upon other scientific domains and broader concerns. Heteronomic inquiry ranges from local collaborative projects, through more stable “trading zones”, to new domains of inquiry at, between, or across the boundaries of others. The chapter uses examples mostly from the history of genetics to show how homonomic and heteronomic conceptual development are closely intertwined in shaping the significance of research projects and achievements. Neither a comprehensive scientific image nor conceptions of an unsurpassable disunity of science adequately account for this futural aspect of the temporality of conceptual normativity in the sciences.

Keywords:   research, scientific image, scientific significance, Davidson, heteronomic inquiry, genetics, disunity of science, conceptual normativity, temporality

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