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Technology and Epistemic Possibility

Record, Isaac (2013) Technology and Epistemic Possibility. Journal for General Philosophy of Science, 44 (2). pp. 319-336. ISSN 0925-4560

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Abstract

My aim in this paper is to give a philosophical analysis of the relationship between contingently available technology and the knowledge that it makes possible. My concern is with what specific subjects can know in practice, given their particular conditions, especially available technology, rather than what can be known “in principle” by a hypothetical entity like Laplace’s Demon. The argument has two parts. In the first, I’ll construct a novel account of epistemic possibility that incorporates two pragmatic conditions: responsibility and practicability. For example, whether subjects can gain knowledge depends in some circumstances on whether they have the capability of gathering relevant evidence. In turn, the possibility of undertaking such investigative activities depends in part on factors like ethical constraints, economical realities, and available technology. In the second part of the paper, I’ll introduce “technological possibility” to analyze the set of actions made possible by available technology. To help motivate the problem and later test my proposal, I’ll focus on a specific historical case, one of the earliest uses of digital electronic computers in a scientific investigation. I conclude that the epistemic possibility of gaining access to scientific knowledge about certain subjects depends (in some cases) on the technological possibility for making responsible investigations.


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Item Type: Published Article or Volume
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Record, Isaacisaac.record@utoronto.ca
Keywords: Epistemic possibility Epistemic modality Technological possibility Responsibility Practicability
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Computation/Information
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Technology
Depositing User: Isaac Record
Date Deposited: 07 Jul 2014 13:16
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2014 13:16
Item ID: 10819
Journal or Publication Title: Journal for General Philosophy of Science
Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10838-013-9230-8
DOI or Unique Handle: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10838-013-9230-8
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Computation/Information
General Issues > Experimentation
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
General Issues > Technology
Date: 2013
Page Range: pp. 319-336
Volume: 44
Number: 2
ISSN: 0925-4560
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/10819

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