Abstract

In this paper I analyze and discuss Collins’ Experimenters’ Regress (Collins 1992) and offer an alternative explanation of how to break out of it. The strategy of the paper goes as follows. I will first show that two different, albeit related epistemic problems are confused in the Experimenters’ Regress: (i) the replication regress that consists in the occurrence of an infinite regress when judging whether or not a proper replication of an experiment has been carried out, and (ii) general reciprocity, according to which the determination of the proper functioning of an experiment and the correctness of an experimental outcome are determined reciprocally. I claim that: (1) the soundness of the replication regress requires the soundness of the general reciprocity argument, so by showing the unsoundness of the second we also show the unsoundness of the first. (2) Reciprocity is not problematic on its own; what is problematic is Collins’ explanation of how it is overcome, i.e., his claim that non-scientific criteria are required in order to break the circularity. Finally, I will show that (3) there is another possible explanation of the way out from general reciprocity, one that is extra-experimental but intra-scientific. In order to provide this alternative account, an analysis of how experimental outputs acquire representational content is required. The paper thus offers such an account, the semantics of experimental results.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9274
Print ISSN
1063-6145
Pages
pp. 95-123
Launched on MUSE
2017-02-16
Open Access
No
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