What Does History Matter to Philosophy of Science? The Concept of Replication and the Methodology of Experiments
Abstract Scientists and philosophers generally agree that the replication of experiments is a key ingredient of good and successful scientific practice. “One-offs” are not significant; experiments must be replicable to be considered valid and important. But the term “replication” has been used in a number of ways, and it is therefore quite difficult to appraise the meaning and significance of replications. I consider how history may help – and has helped – with this task. I propose that: 1) Studies of past scientific episodes in historical context and of recent philosophical contributions to the discussion are heuristic tools for exploring and clarifying the meaning of that concept. 2) The analysis of the development of the methodological imperative of replication sheds light on the significance scientists have attached to it, thereby contributing further to the clarification of the concept. 3) The analysis of the history of philosophical thought about methods and scientific methodology helps understand why philosophers have not paid much attention to the analysis of the concept of replication.