a1 Department of Philosophy Arizona State University
This paper argues that different epistemic styles exist in science, and that these make up an important unit of analysis for studying science. On occasion these different sets of commitments to ways of doing and knowing about the world may fall along national boundaries. The case presented here examines German and American embryology around 1900 and shows that differences in goals and approaches make up different epistemic styles.
In particular, the Germans sought causal mechanical explanations of as many phenomena as possible, guided by strong theories which achieved confirmation when they fit with as much of the available data as possible. The Americans, in contrast, sought definitive facts, as many as possible, which might be quite specific or narrowly based. These facts could lead to empirical generalizations which, in turn, could guide the generation of new knowledge in the form of new facts. Thus, the two epistemic styles emphasized different goals, processes of investigation, and standards of evidence.