PSA2016: The 25th Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association

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Ceteris paribus Laws, Epistemic Reliability and Epistemic Trust in Applied Science

Taking up recent debates about epistemic reliability and epistemic trust, I argue that, in applied science, both are better ascribed to networks of ceteris paribus (cp-) laws than analyzed in terms of decisions that are combined with individual ethical evaluations of epistemic attitudes. Due to the complexity of applied science, it is not always possible to list the alternatives and to assign probabilities and values to them. Since applied science also operates under normality assumptions, an account of cp-laws, such as Pietroski and Rey’s, that only requires an existential quantification over the set of cp-conditions seems attractive. Defending, as regards applied science, this account of cp-laws against the standard objections, I show that existential quantification corresponds to an act of epistemic trust that permits a working social division of cognitive labor.

Author Information:

Michael Stoeltzner    
University of South Carolina


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