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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2020

15. Scientific controversies

Gerd Fritz


The present article presents a survey of the basic forms and functions of scientific controversies and of the state of the art in research on controversies. Starting from the assumption that controversies are indispensable for the formation, evolution and evaluation of scientific theories and their empirical examination, the article gives a brief overview of strands of research on controversies in different disciplines. It then goes on to provide a description of the basic pragmatic organization of scientific controversies, using an action-theoretic framework of pragmatics which is partly inspired by Wittgenstein’s concept of language games. In this framework, controversies are viewed not as a confrontation of standpoints or propositions but as a dynamic linguistic exchange. The main parameters of the organization of such an exchange include dialogue types and text types, moves and strategies of individual contributions to controversies, topic organization and knowledge management, communication principles, media of controversy, and the language of controversy. In a concluding passage, the article mentions desiderata for future research on controversies.

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston