What is Scientific Progress? The Role of Justification
Moti Mizrahi, St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
In a recent debate about the concept of scientific progress, Alexander Bird and Darrell Rowbottom have argued for two competing accounts. According to Bird, scientific progress consists in the accumulation of scientific knowledge. Rowbottom, on the other hand, thinks that truth alone is necessary for progress. Both use thought experiments and appeal to intuitions in support of their views, and it seems fair to say that the debate has reached an impasse. In an attempt to avoid this stalemate, we propose to conduct a systematic survey of intuitions about scientific progress. Bird’s and Rowbottom’s use of thought experiments and appeals to intuitions suggest that they assume ordinary judgments about scientific progress are good evidence for understanding the concept of scientific progress. If this is so, then a systematic survey of such ordinary judgments would shed light on the concept. Our results show that ordinary judgments about progress are highly sensitive to (internal) justification. We argue that any account of scientific progress should be able to do justice to these findings.