The experimenters’ regress reconsidered: Replication, tacit knowledge, and the dynamics of knowledge generation

Uljana Feest

Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 2016



This paper revisits the debate between Harry Collins and Allan Franklin, concerning the experimenters’ regress. Focusing my attention on a case study from recent psychology (regarding experimental evidence for the existence of a Mozart Effect), I argue that Franklin is right to highlight the role of epistemological strategies in scientific practice, but that his account does not sufficiently appreciate Collins’s point about the importance of tacit knowledge in experimental practice. In turn, Collins rightly highlights the epistemic uncertainty (and skepticism) surrounding much experimental research. However, I will argue that his analysis of tacit knowledge fails to elucidate the reasons why scientists often are (and should be) skeptical of other researchers’ experimental results. I will present an analysis of tacit knowledge in experimental research that not only answers to this desideratum, but also shows how such skepticism can in fact be a vital enabling factor for the dynamic processes of experimental knowledge generation.


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