Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Philosophy/Neuroscience, and Psychology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Can science correct its mistakes? Philosophers and scientists alike assume “the self-corrective thesis” (SCT), the thesis that in the long run, scientific method will refute false theories and find closer approximations to the truth. If truth i​s the goal of science, SCT is essential. Nonetheless, the prevalence of scientific mistakes in some research programs, as evidenced by current replicability controversies in the life sciences, reveals a gap between the theory and reality of SCT. Contrary to traditional assessments of SCT that focus on methodology, my dissertation develops from the premise that one cannot evaluate SCT without specifying the actual or possible social structures within which scientific practices are embedded. Different chapters explore how the warrant for SCT is and is not affected by different aspects of that social structure: incentives (priority rule), standards for publication (p-values, positive results), and reliance on previous findings. I study social conditions of contemporary practice under which scientific communities produce and propagate mistakes, and conclude constructively with a theory of the division of replication labor to recommend a path by which scientific communities might better approach the self-corrective ideal enshrined in SCT.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Carl F. Craver

Committee Members

John M. Doris, Frederick Eberhardt, Anya Plutynski, Roy Sorensen, Julia Staffel


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