Aimless science

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues that talk of 'the aim of science' should be avoided in the philosophy of science, with special reference to the way that van Fraassen sets up the difference between scientific realism and constructive empiricism. It also argues that talking instead of 'what counts as success in science as such' is unsatisfactory. The paper concludes by showing what this talk may be profitably replaced with, namely specific claims concerning science that fall into the following categories: descriptive, evaluative, normative, and definitional. There are two key advantages to this proposal. First, realism and its competitors may be understood to consist of highly nuanced variants. Second, scientific realism and its competitors may be understood as something other than 'all or nothing' theses about science. More particularly, one may accept that there are general claims concerning science in some of the identified categories, but deny that there are such claims in the others.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1211-1221
Number of pages11
Issue number6
Early online date29 Aug 2013
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • Aim of science
  • Constructive empiricism
  • Scientific progress
  • Scientific realism
  • van Fraassen


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