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The Tragedy of the Canon; or, Path Dependence in the History and Philosophy of Science

Bolinska, Agnes and Martin, Joseph D. (2021) 'The Tragedy of the Canon; or, Path Dependence in the History and Philosophy of Science.', Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 89 . pp. 63-73.


We have previously argued that historical cases must be rendered canonical before they can plausibly serve as evidence for philosophical claims, where canonicity is established through a process of negotiation among historians and philosophers of science (Bolinska and Martin 2020). Here, we extend this proposal by exploring how that negotiation might take place in practice. The working stock of historical examples that philosophers tend to employ has long been established informally, and, as a result, somewhat haphazardly. The composition of the historical canon of philosophy of science is therefore path dependent, and cases often become stock examples for reasons tangential to their appropriateness for the purposes at hand. We show how the lack of rigor around the canonization of case studies has muddied the waters in selected philosophical debates. This, in turn, lays the groundwork for proposing ways in which they can be improved.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo until 09 August 2023.
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
File format - PDF
Publisher Web site:
Date accepted:03 July 2021
Date deposited:05 July 2021
Date of first online publication:09 August 2021
Date first made open access:09 August 2023

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