Regarding scientific significance

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Magnus, P.D.
signficance , well ordred science
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.
I put this paper on my website in 2007 and revised it somewhat over the following year. It has been over two years since then, and I do not foresee following it through to proper publication. When someone asked for permission to cite the unpublished paper, I decided to post this stable version. It is suitable for citation as such.