Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

This article (22 page PDF) does two things. First, it identifies three major conceptions of scientific progress (as identified by van Fraassen in 1884):

  • the semantic account of scientific progress (i.e., scientific progress in terms of truth),
  • the epistemic account of scientific progress (i.e., scientific progress in terms of knowledge), and
  • the noetic account of scientific progress (i.e., scientific progress in terms of understanding).

Second, though an analysis of thousands of scientific articles in JSTOR, it measures what account scientists actually give in their published accounts (spoiler: "practicing scientists use the terms ‘knowledge’ and ‘understanding’ significantly more often than the term ‘truth’"). We should, of course, take this as a starting point, not a finished result. We could ask, for example, whether the published accounts accurately represent scientific discourse. Or we could ask whether this taxonomy needs to be updated to reflect more contemporary ideals such as well-being or social justice.

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Stephen Downes Stephen Downes, Casselman, Canada
stephen@downes.ca

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Copyright 2020
Last Updated: Oct 21, 2020 3:03 p.m.