WIPS - Experimental Artifacts and Scientific Realism

WIPS - Experimental Artifacts and Scientific Realism

Carl Craver, Washington University in St. Louis

Abstract: Can a constructive empiricist make sense of the importance of artifacts in the epistemology of experimental science? One guiding desideratum in experimental practice and tool development is the avoidance of artifacts. Building on a few isolated discussions in philosophy (Boyd 1988; Weber 2000), and using several examples from the history of biological science, I offer an analysis of experimental artifacts. I also provide a taxonomy of artifacts arriving at different stages of experimental practice. I argue that the idea of an artifact resists translation into the language of empirical adequacy. This is precisely because the desideratum just is the demand for epistemic contact with reality (as opposed to our artifice, directly or indirectly).  I consider some possible translations of this sort and argue that none convincingly captures the epistemic significance of artifacts to the evaluation of experiments and tools.