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Hot-Blooded Gluttons: Dependency, Coherence & Method in the Historical Sciences.

Currie, Adrian (2017) Hot-Blooded Gluttons: Dependency, Coherence & Method in the Historical Sciences. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Our epistemic access to the past is infamously patchy: historical information degrades and disappears and bygone eras are often beyond the reach of repeatable experiments. However, historical scientists have been remarkably successful at uncovering and explaining the past. I argue that part of this success is explained by the exploitation of dependencies between historical events, entities and processes. For instance, if sauropod dinosaurs were hot blooded, they must have been gluttons; the high energy demands of endothermy restricts sauropod grazing strategies. Understanding such dependencies extends our reach into the past in spite of incomplete data. In addition, this serves as a counterexample to two accounts of method in the historical sciences. By one, historical science proceeds by identifying ‘smoking guns’: traces which discriminate between live hypotheses. By the other, historical hypotheses are supported by consilience: the convergence of independent lines of evidence. However, testing for ‘coherency’ between past hypotheses also plays a critical role in historical confirmation. Just as historical scientists exploit dependencies between past entities and present entities to infer what the past was like, they also exploit dependencies between past entities themselves. I do not suggest that archetypical historical science proceeds in this manner. Rather, the lesson I draw is that historical methodology cannot be characterized as archetypically relying on one method or another. Historical science is at base opportunistic, and is resistant to unitary analyses.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Currie, Adrian
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Adrian Currie
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2018 00:50
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2018 00:50
Item ID: 14610
Official URL: https://academic.oup.com/bjps/article/68/4/929/266...
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Biology
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
Date: 2017
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/14610

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