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Title: Discovery and decision : exploring the metaphysics and epistemology of scientific classification
Author: Bryant, Rebecca E. H.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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This thesis comprises an interdisciplinary examination of the phenomenon of scientific classification. The major aims of the thesis are two-fold: To show that scientific classification comprises a mixture of metaphysics and epistemology. To illustrate that the psychological explanation-based account of categorisation is an appropriate model for scientific as well as for lay classification. I begin by characterising the doctrine of Objectivism which provides the philosophical backdrop for traditional accounts of categorisation in both philosophy and psychology. I illustrate some of the shortcomings of Objectivism and propose an alternative doctrine in its place - internal or experimental realism. This alternative doctrine forms the philosophical backdrop for my own account of (scientific) classification. Next, I provide a short history of theories in the psychology of categorisation. I argue that there has been a shift from very tightly defined, inflexible and context-insensitive accounts (the classical view) to much more flexible, context-sensitive and human-oriented accounts (the explanation-based view). I go on to examine the criticisms which an objectivist philosopher, Georges Rey, has levied against work in the psychology of categorisation. I then put forward for my own positive account of scientific classification. This incorporates a number of claims: that classification involves more than a reflection of metaphysics, that human beings (and so epistemology) make an active contribution to the classificatory process, that the dividing line between metaphysics and epistemology is blurred, that there are problems with applying the objectivist doctrine of essentialism to scientific classification and as a result of the foregoing points, that the explanation-based account of categorisation is a suitable model of classification by scientific experts. The material which I use in support of these claims comes from three case studies in the history and sociology of science and from a number of philosophical arguments.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available