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Philosophy of Science MattersThe Philosophy of Peter Achinstein$
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Gregory J. Morgan

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199738625

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738625.001.0001

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Achinstein's Newtonian Empiricism

Achinstein's Newtonian Empiricism

(p.44) 4 Achinstein's Newtonian Empiricism
Philosophy of Science Matters

Victor Di Fate

Oxford University Press

By examining Peter Achinstein's longstanding views on evidence and recent work on induction, this chapter attempts to characterize and critically evaluate Achinstein's meta-methodology. It is argued that Achinstein is a distinctive kind of empiricist about scientific method. Unlike some methodological empiricists, Achinstein does not expect the philosopher of science to engage in empirical investigation to evaluate methodological principles. Rather, the empirical information bearing on such principles is generated during the normal work of the scientist. This sort of empiricism is branded “Newtonian” because it is argued that there is good reason to think that Newton held a very similar view. In particular, both Newton and Achinstein think we normally require empirical information to determine whether some fact is evidence for a hypothesis, and thus whether it is reasonable to infer from one to the other. Achinstein's mistake, it is argued, is that he tries to retain some justificatory force for inductive principles, rather than letting such empirical information do all the justificatory work.

Keywords:   Isaac Newton, scientific methodology, induction, Peter Achinstein, scientific evidence

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