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Invisible Hands and the Success of Science

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 April 2022

K. Brad Wray*
Affiliation:
Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia

Abstract

David Hull accounts for the success of science in terms of an invisible hand mechanism, arguing that it is difficult to reconcile scientists' self-interestedness or their desire for recognition with traditional philosophical explanations for the success of science. I argue that we have less reason to invoke an invisible hand mechanism to explain the success of science than Hull implies, and that many of the practices and institutions constitutive of science are intentionally designed by scientists with an eye to realizing the very goals that Hull believes need to be explained by reference to an invisible hand mechanism. Thus, I reduce the scope of Hull's invisible hand explanation and supplement it by appealing to a hidden hand explanation.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © 2000 by the Philosophy of Science Association

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Footnotes

Send requests for reprints to the author, Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia, 1866 Main Mall, E-370, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z1.

David Hull's detailed and probing comments on an earlier draft helped me improve the paper substantially. Lori Nash read numerous drafts and provided much helpful feedback. I also received helpful comments from the following people: Marc Ereshefsky, Tracy Glenn, Mark Migotti, Bob Ware, Jay Odenbaugh, and Francis Remedios. Eugene Beaulieu provided valuable information about the uses of invisible hand explanations in economics. I also thank the referees for their reports. Finally, I thank the Canadian Society for History and Philosophy of Science for the opportunity to present the paper at the annual meetings in Sherbrooke, in June 1999, and the 11th International Congress of Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science for the opportunity to present the paper at their meetings in Cracow, in August 1999.

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