Science & Speculation
AbstractDespite wide recognition that speculation is critical for successful science, philosophers have attended little to it. When they have, speculation has been characterized in narrowly epistemic terms: a hypothesis is speculative due to its (lack of) evidential support. These ‘evidence-first’ accounts provide little guidance for what makes speculation productive or egregious, nor how to foster the former while avoiding the latter. I examine how scientists discuss speculation and identify various functions speculations play. On this basis, I develop a ‘function-first’ account of speculation. This analysis grounds a richer discussion of when speculation is egregious and when it is productive, based in both fine-grained analysis of the speculation’s purpose, and what I call the ‘epistemic situation’ scientists face.