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Epistemic Principles

A Primer for the Theory of Knowledge


Nicholas Rescher

Epistemic Principles: A Primer of the Theory of Knowledge presents a compact account of the basic principles of the theory of knowledge. In doing this, Nicholas Rescher aims to fill the current gap in contemporary philosophical theory of knowledge with a comprehensive analysis of epistemological fundamentals. The book is not a mere inventory of such rules and principles, but rather interweaves them into a continuous exposition of basic issues. Written at a user-friendly and accessible level, Epistemic Principles is an essential addition for both advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in epistemology.
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Chapter 21. How Science Works


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Factual information does not come into our minds by magic. The only avenue at our disposal for securing information about the world we live in is through scientific inquiry. And here empiricism is the only game in town, seeing that we can only obtain information about the real world through the experience of interacting with it, by observing what happens be it is the natural course of events or in the wake of experimental interactions. Of course at the outset this monitoring was conducted via the warranted senses—but eventually it became increasingly managed by the technological resources.

Physicists often remark that the development of our understanding of nature moves through successive layers of theoretical sophistication.1 But scientific progress is clearly no less dependent on continual improvements in strictly technical sophistication. Without an ever-developing technology, scientific progress would grind to a halt. The discoveries of today cannot be advanced with yesterday’s instrumentation and techniques. To secure new observations, to test new hypotheses, and to detect new phenomena, an ever more powerful technology of inquiry is needed. Throughout the natural sciences, technological progress is a crucial requisite for cognitive progress. And as one acute observer has rightly remarked: “Most critical experiments planned today, if they had to be constrained within the technology of even ten years ago, would be seriously compromised.”2 ← 121 | 122 →

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