# **Contemporary philosophy of scientific practices** > “We are often told modern science rests on two central pillars – > observation and theory. But science involves more than just observing > and theorizing. It encompasses a host of other activities, from > drawing diagrams to building models to running computer simulations. > Moreover, observation itself is a complex and messy business, which > often involves a certain amount of theorizing and technical skill and > varies greatly across different fields. The astronomer who makes > telescopic observations of the night sky practices a very different > craft to the ecologist who studies the behaviour of primates in their > natural habitat. A molecular biologist who studies a new strain of > virus using an electron microscope engages in a different form of > observation to an archaeologist who inspects an excavation site to > find clues to a lost civilization. … By reframing traditional > questions in terms of ‘what scientists do’ rather than ‘what > scientists believe’, [it is possible to] gain a deeper understanding > of how different forms of inquiry involving the hand, the mind and the > eye actually generate scientific knowledge.” (Camilleri 2019) This quote, from Kristian Camilleri, highlights the wide range of activities that scientists undertake in the course of their research. As a feature of much of contemporary philosophy of science, this interest in practice is a 'turn away' from older philosophical traditions which concentrate on the theories of science, their logical structure, and so on. Examples of this tradition are two of the more famous account that emerged from the history, philosophy, and social studies of the sciences - [Popper's notion of falsification](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/#KarPop) and [Merton's epistemic norms](https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/#EpiNor). As discussed in the earlier #AIMOS2019 session [An Introduction to Philosophy of Science in Practice](https://docs.google.com/document/d/1keCr1DYvF4-VvreD9brrWTjt_51JtbxI7-9r_2_Ch5c/edit), despite the fame of these older accounts, contemporary studies of the actual activities involved in scientific practices are far more heterogeneous than these types of 'explanations for all of Science' can account for. As detailed by Lena Soler et al. (2014), this ‘turn to practice' can be traced backed to a renewed interest in the materiality of scientific experiments in the 1980s. For example, Ian Hacking (1983) influentially challenged the prevailing view of experiments as merely hypothesis-testing procedures by rehabilitating the view of experiments as any empirical observation that intervene in the phenomena under investigation. Extending this view of [experimental investigation](https://osf.io/bk7g4/wiki/home/), historical studies of scientific practices have highlighted the various types of experiments (Steinle 2002). In addition, interest has extended to the materiality of other investigative practices, including the uses of theoretical artefacts such as mathematical formulas, pictorial or schematic representational tools, and three-dimensional models (Catinaud and Wieber 2014, 157). Building on these, philosophical accounts of investigative practices now include detailed studies of the complexities of data collection and interpretation (Leonelli 2014; 2018), the varied uses of scientific concepts (Feest and Steinle 2012), and the importance of archives (Mendelsohn 2017). These types of studies contribute to a broader interdisciplinary context where philosophers, historians, and scholars from the social studies of the sciences actively engage with each other - supported by initiatives such as the [Society for Philosophy of the Sciences in Practice](https://philosophy-science-practice.org/). Within this context, philosophical accounts of the sciences increasingly consider the actual practices of research scientists, as well as the functions of the science within society more broadly (Ankeny et al. 2011). As part of this, many contemporary philosophers of science now seek out the perspectives of practicing scientists, integrate historical or sociological accounts of the scientific practices of interests, and/or collaborate with scientists directly. Far from attempting to prescribe an idealised view of what scientists should do, these approaches offer descriptive accounts of a wide range of practices that may aid scientists seeking to reflectively examine the specifics of their own practices. For example, as detailed in the reading by Kenneth C. Waters (2014), it was only by talking to scientists that philosophers of biology came to appreciate that there are dynamics of conceptual practice that cannot be accounted for by traditional philosophical accounts of scientific concepts, such as ‘the gene’. This awareness is key to many of the different [projects](https://osf.io/fcsra/wiki/home/) that are specifically cultivating collaborations between scientists and those who study scientific practices. This growing awareness of the sheer variety of strategies within scientific practices have highlighted multiple challenges and possibilities for future research (Chang 2011). One way to engage with both these opportunities and challenges is to better support scientists seeking to collaborate with contemporary philosophy of scientific practices. Likewise, the contemporary scholarship emerging from this ‘turn to practice’ may offer useful resources for scientists seeking to better understand the foundations of their practices. **Example Discussion Questions** - How might philosophical accounts of how strategies differ across scientific disciplines be used by scientists seeking to improve specific disciplinary practices? - Are there any similarities between the challenges in [classification practices](https://osf.io/j2ut5/wiki/home/) being discussed within Ecology and Neurosciences? - What relevance does the processes of stabilising and conceptualising phenomena have for the status of empirical facts? - How do visual representations, such as images, maps, graphs and tables, contribute to scientific practice? - What does it mean to say that the “objects” of scientific inquiry are never simply given in experience, but must be constituted through different forms of practical, technical, and discursive activity? - How does research within HPS intersect with studies of the sciences from other perspectives? For some examples, see the resources collected at [Transformational HPS](http://www.transformationalhps.org/) on intersections between HPS and critical studies of concepts such as race, gender, and disability. **Suggested Readings**: - Ankeny, R., Chang, H., Boumans, M., & Boon, M. (2011). Introduction: philosophy of science in practice. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 1(3), 303. doi:10.1007/s13194-011-0036-4 - Chang, Hasok. 2011. ‘The Philosophical Grammar of Scientific Practice’. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3): 205–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/02698595.2011.605244. - Soler, Léna, Sjoerd Zwart, Michael Lynch, and Vincent Israel-Jost. 2014. ‘Introduction’. In Science after the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and Social Studies of Science, edited by Léna Soler, Sjoerd Zwart, Michael Lynch, and Vincent Israel-Jost. EBL. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. - Okasha, Samir. 2016. [Philosophy of Science: Very Short Introduction](https://global.oup.com/academic/product/philosophy-of-science-very-short-introduction-9780198745587?cc=au&lang=en&). Second Edition. Very Short Introductions. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. *List of References* * Ankeny, Rachel, Hasok Chang, Marcel Boumans, and Mieke Boon. 2011. ‘Introduction: Philosophy of Science in Practice’. European Journal for Philosophy of Science 1 (3): 303. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13194-011-0036-4. * Camilleri, Kristian. 2019. ‘Scientific Practice and Human Inquiry (HPSC30035 Subject Reader)’. Educational Resource, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne. * Catinaud, Régis, and Frédéric Wieber. 2014. ‘Commentary on “Chemistry’s Period Law: Rethinking Representation and Explanation after the Turn to Practice” by Andrea I Woody’. In Science after the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and Social Studies of Science, edited by Léna Soler, Sjoerd Zwart, Michael Lynch, and Vincent Israel-Jost, 151–60. EBL. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. * Chang, Hasok. 2011. ‘The Philosophical Grammar of Scientific Practice’. International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 25 (3): 205–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/02698595.2011.605244. * Feest, Uljana, and Friedrich Steinle. 2012. ‘Scientific Concepts and Investigative Practice: Introduction’. In Scientific Concepts and Investigative Practice, edited by Uljana Feest and Friedrich Steinle, 1–22. Berlin Studies in Knowledge Research, volume 3. Berlin: De Gruyter. * Heersmink, Richard. 2013. ‘A Taxonomy of Cognitive Artifacts: Function, Information, and Categories’. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 4 (3): 465–81. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13164-013-0148-1. * Knuuttila, Tarja, and Atro Voutilainen. 2003. ‘A Parser as an Epistemic Artifact: A Material View on Models’. Philosophy of Science 70 (5): 1484–95. https://doi.org/10.1086/377424. * Leonelli, Sabina. 2014. ‘Data Interpretation in the Digital Age’. Perspectives on Science 22 (3): 397–417. https://muse-jhu-edu.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/article/553793. ———. 2018. ‘The Time of Data: Timescales of Data Use in the Life Sciences’. Philosophy of Science 85 (5): 741–54. https://doi.org/10.1086/699699. * Levin, Nadine, and Sabina Leonelli. 2017. ‘How Does One “Open” Science? Questions of Value in Biological Research’. Science, Technology, & Human Values 42 (2): 280–305. https://doi.org/10.1177/0162243916672071. Mendelsohn, Andrew. 2017. ‘Empiricism in the Library: Medicine’s Case Histories’. In Science in the Archives: Pasts, Presents, Futures, edited by Lorraine Daston, 85–109. University of Chicago Press. * Nasim, Omar W. 2013. ‘Extending the Gaze: The Temporality of Astronomical Paperwork’. Science in Context 26 (2): 247–77. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0269889713000057. * Soler, Léna, Sjoerd Zwart, Michael Lynch, and Vincent Israel-Jost. 2014. ‘Introduction’. In Science after the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and Social Studies of Science, edited by Léna Soler, Sjoerd Zwart, Michael Lynch, and Vincent Israel-Jost. EBL. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. * Steinle, Friedrich. 2002. ‘Experiments in History and Philosophy of Science’. Perspectives on Science 10 (4): 408–32. https://doi.org/10.1162/106361402322288048. * Waters, C. Kenneth. 2014. ‘Shifting Attention from Theory to Practice in Philosophy of Biology’. In New Directions in the Philosophy of Science, edited by Maria Carla Galavotti, Dennis Dieks, Wenceslao J. Gonzalez, Stephan Hartmann, Thomas Uebel, and Marcel Weber, 121–39. The Philosophy of Science in a European Perspective 5. Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-04382-1_9. * Woody, Andrea. I. 2014. ‘Chemistry’s Periodic Law: Rethinking Representation and Explanation After the Turn to Practice’. In Science after the Practice Turn in the Philosophy, History, and Social Studies of Science, edited by Léna Soler, Sjoerd Zwart, Michael Lynch, and Vincent Israel-Jost, 123–50. EBL. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. **** Note: this is an in progress resource being created as part of the [Resource Development for Interdisciplinary Studies of Scientific Practices Project](https://osf.io/szq3c/?view_only=654a57b60d8846508fcf3d456c85017a). [CC BY-NC-SA](http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/)
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