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Stepping Forwards by Looking Back: Underdetermination, Epistemic Scarcity & Legacy Data

Currie, Adrian (2020) Stepping Forwards by Looking Back: Underdetermination, Epistemic Scarcity & Legacy Data. [Preprint]

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Abstract

Debate about the epistemic prowess of historical science has focused on local underdetermination problems generated by a lack of historical data; the prevalence of information loss over geological time, and the capacities of scientists to mitigate it. Drawing on Leonelli’s recent distinction between ‘phenomena-time’ and ‘data-time’ I argue that factors like data generation, curation and management significantly complexifies and undermines this: underdetermination is a bad way of framing the challenges historical scientists face. In doing so, I identify circumstances of ‘epistemic scarcity’ where underdetermination problems are particularly salient, and discuss cases where ‘legacy data’—data generated using differing technologies and systems of practice—are drawn upon to overcome underdetermination. This suggests that one source of overcoming underdetermination is our knowledge of science’s past. Further, data-time makes agnostic positions about the epistemic fortunes of scientists working under epistemic scarcity more plausible. But agnosticism seems to leave philosophers without much normative grip. So, I sketch an alternative approach: focusing on the strategies scientists adopt to maximize their epistemic power in light of the resources available to them.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Currie, Adrian
Subjects: General Issues > Data
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
General Issues > Evidence
Specific Sciences > Historical Sciences
Depositing User: Dr Adrian Currie
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2020 02:53
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2020 02:53
Item ID: 18284
Subjects: General Issues > Data
General Issues > Confirmation/Induction
Specific Sciences > Earth Sciences
General Issues > Evidence
Specific Sciences > Historical Sciences
Date: 2020
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/18284

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