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Information and Experimental Knowledge

An ambitious new model of experimentation that will reorient our understanding of the key features of experimental practice.

What is experimental knowledge, and how do we get it? While there is general agreement that experiment is a crucial source of scientific knowledge, how experiment generates that knowledge is far more contentious. In this book, philosopher of science James Mattingly explains how experiments function. Specifically, he discusses what it is about experimental practice that transforms observations of what may be very localized, particular, isolated systems into what may be global, general, integrated empirical knowledge. Mattingly argues that the purpose of experimentation is the same as the purpose of any other knowledge-generating enterprise—to change the state of information of the knower. This trivial-seeming point has a non-trivial consequence: to understand a knowledge-generating enterprise, we should follow the flow of information. Therefore, the account of experimental knowledge Mattingly provides is based on understanding how information flows in experiments: what facilitates that flow, what hinders it, and what characteristics allow it to flow from system to system, into the heads of researchers, and finally into our store of scientific knowledge.

400 pages | 13 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2021

Philosophy: General Philosophy

Philosophy of Science

Physical Sciences: History and Philosophy of Physical Sciences


"A very stimulating and original exploration of a large number of issues linked to the role of experimentation in science. These include, among many others, the connection between experiments and causal inference, the notion of experimental replication, and the relationship between thought experiments and more ordinary experiments. Mattingly defends a novel account of experiments as having to do with the flow of information between proximate systems which are the immediate objects of experimentation and the more distal systems which we use experiments to learn about. I strongly recommend this thought-provoking book to anyone with an interest in these topics."

James Woodward, University of Pittsburgh

Table of Contents


Part I. Aspects of Experimentation

1. Introduction to Part I
2. Calibration
3. Intervention’s Role
4. Intervention’s Goods
5. Replication
6. The Received View of Replication
7. Hertz and Cathode Rays
8. Replication as Contested
9. Misleading Replication
10. What Replication Is, Finally
11. Replication without New Evidence
12. The Replication “Crisis”: A Calibration Problem
13. Conclusion to Part I

Part II. Information and Experimentation

14. Introduction to Part II
15. The Basic Features of Experiment
16. Information
17. Knowledge and the Flow of Information
18. The Logic of Experimental Practice
19. Moving On

Part III. Ways of Experimenting

20. Introduction to Part III
21. Laboratory and Natural Experimentation
22. Analogical Experimenting
23. Economic Analogues
24. Cosmological Analogues
25. Nonhuman Animal Analogues
26. Analogical Experimentation Is Generic
27. Simulation Experimenting
28. Background for Thought Experiments
29. Thought Experimental Knowledge
30. Conclusion to Part III, and the Book


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