Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Recent research in philosophy of science suggests that the relationship which scientists have towards the artifacts of science, i.e. their theories, is considerably richer than many traditional accounts of scientific appraisal would lead us to believe. Problem-solving methodologists, in particular, advocating a pragmatic account of scientific theories, argue that traditional methodologies have tended to focus exclusively on one modality of appraisal--that of theory acceptance, and have advanced normative proposals which provide only for assessments of the empirical well-foundedness of scientific theories. As a result, it is held, these traditional accounts are unable to accommodate certain historical cases in which conceptual considerations have played a vital role in scientific appraisal, and in which the behavior of scientists clearly indicates something less or other than theory acceptance on their part.;In this essay, a problem-solving methodology is adopted in the interests of contributing to this recent research in philosophy of science by critically assessing and further developing selected features of it. Two historical case-studies are presented. The first examines the theories of space and of motion advanced by Descartes and Newton, while the second explores atomism and affinitism in nineteenth-century chemical theory. These cases are used to establish: (i) that conceptual considerations have figured significantly in the assessments which scientists make of their theories; (ii) that scientists do something more than accept or reject theories, they pursue them; and (iii) that in defending their decisions to pursue or not to pursue a theory, scientists typically do make reference to the promise, or lack of promise, of the theory. Specific normative proposals are developed which are intended to enrich our appreciation of scientific appraisal by providing an account of what it is to pursue a theory, of what it is for a theory to be promising, and of the role of conceptual considerations in supporting judgements of theory promise.



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