Shapere (1980)

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Shapere, Dudley. (1980) The Character of Scientific Change. In Nickles (Ed.) (1980), 61-116.

Title The Character of Scientific Change
Resource Type collection article
Author(s) Dudley Shapere
Year 1980
Collection Nickles (Ed.) (1980)
Pages 61-116


The prime intellectual achievement of modern science is a body of views of nature at once general in their conceptions and specific and precise in their explanations. Those views have, over the course of the history of science, become increasingly coherent, in the sense both of constituting a more and more unified perspective on a larger and larger body of detailed beliefs, and of providing an intelligible picture of the world we experience.1 Although problems remain that can be expected to alter our present scientific picture, even in fundamental ways, some of its claims must qualify as knowledge and understanding of, or at least as well-grounded beliefs about, the way things are. They have been arrived at by an increasingly sophisticated and systematic process of investigating nature, a process roughly describable as being, or at least as having come to be, one of collecting evidence on the basis of observation and experiment, and of formulating hypotheses whose purpose is both to account for the observations and experimental results and to provide bases for further observation and experiment leading to new discoveries and broadened and deepened understanding. It is the responsibility of the philosophy of science to show, by an analysis which preserves the spirit of this achievement, how the achievement has been possible (allowing both for the possibility of knowledge at present and the possibility that current views might be wrong), and to interpret the processes by which that body of views has been arrived at.