Scientific Progress


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What constitutes cognitive scientific progress? This Element begins with an extensive survey of the contemporary debate on how to answer this question. It provides a blow-by-blow critical summary of the key literature on the issue over the past fifteen years, covering the central positions and arguments therein. It also draws upon older literature, where appropriate, to inform the treatment.

The Element then enters novel territory by considering meta-normative issues concerning scientific progress. It focuses on how the standards involved in assessing progress arise. Does science have aims, which determine what counts as progress, as many authors assume? If so, what is it to be an aim of science? And how does one identify such things? If not, how do normative standards arise? After arguing that science does not have overarching aims, the Element proposes an anti-realist answer to this final question, according to which the standards are ultimately subjective.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108625753
ISBN (Print)9781108714433
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2023

Publication series

NameElements in the Philosophy of Science
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISSN (Print)2517-7265
ISSN (Electronic)2517-7273

Bibliographical note

My work on this book was supported by:
• A General Research Fund Grant on ‘Scientific Progress: Foundational Issues’ (no. 13605620) from Hong Kong’s Research Grants Council.
• A stipendiary Visiting Fellowship at Pittsburgh University’s Center for the Philosophy of Science.
• A Visiting Fellowship at Cambridge University’s HPS Department, funded by a Sino-British Fellowship Trust Grant and a Faculty Research Grant from Lingnan University.


  • scientific progress
  • scientific realism
  • meta-normativity
  • aim of science
  • scientific change


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