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P.D. Magnus

Regarding scientific significance

This is a draft that I posted to my website when I was actively working on it. Later, the project became embrangled in difficulties, evaporated into trivia, or both. I don't foresee publishing this.

It's a discussion and qualified defense of Philip Kitcher on scientific significance and 'well-ordered science.' (Qualified because I argue that Kitcher's position is made unstable by his reliance on the largely unanalyzed notion of natural curiosity.)

The first on-line draft of this paper was posted June 8, 2007. The revised version is from June 2008. Comments would be appreciated, because I would like to figure out what I should say about this issue - even if I no longer think that this is it.

Versions available


In Science, Truth, and Democracy, Philip Kitcher introduces significance graphs (structures that illustrate how and which questions are significant) and well ordered science (a norm defined by an imagined process of ideal deliberation). Jeremy Simon has argued that these two parts of Kitcher's account are intimately connected. In this paper, I argue that the connection between significance graphs and well-ordered science is rather more complicated. I survey three objections to Kitcher's account, two from Simon and a third by analogy with similar positions in ethics. This paper aims to show that Kitcher's account relies on some questions being ones about which we are curious. This has the consequence that ideal deliberation does not yield a precise agenda for basic research. Nevertheless, the ideal might draw our attention to features that make actual arrangements more or less well-ordered.


	AUTHOR = {P.D. Magnus},
	TITLE = {Regarding scientific significance},
	YEAR = {2008},
	NOTE = {\url{http://hdl.handle.net/1951/48222}}