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The Science to Save Us from Philosophy of Science

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Abstract: Are knowledge and belief pivotal in science, as contemporary epistemology and philosophy of science tends to assume? I defend the view that scientists are not primarily concerned with knowledge and that the methods of arriving at scientific hypotheses, models and scenarios does not commit us having stable beliefs about them.

Instead, what drives scientific discovery is related to a kind of ignorance that scientists can cleverly exploit. Not an absence or negation of knowledge, ignorance is what is brought to the fore by retroductive (abductive) inferences, roughly characterised as reasoning from effects to causes. I argue that recent discoveries in sciences that coped with under-structured problem spaces testify the prevalence of retroductive logic in scientific discovery and its progress. This puts paid to the need of finding epistemic justification or confirmation to retroductive methodologies. A scientist, never frightened of the unknown unknowns, strives to advance the forefront of uncertainty, not that of belief or knowledge. Far from rendering science irrational, I conclude that catering well for the right conditions in which to cultivate such ignorance is a key to how uberous retroductive inferences (true guesses) can arise.

Key words: Retroduction; Peirce; Scientific discovery; Guessing; Fundamental uncertainty; Uberty, Ethics of Science.