The Context of Discovery and the Context of Justification: A Reappraisal

  • Ewa Chmielecka
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 68)


It is doubtless necessary that we should begin our present considerations with a clear definition of both main concepts: the context of discovery and the context of justification. These categories, introduced by Reichenbach, are often interpreted in a way that goes far beyond their primary meaning. As is known, both categories were introduced to epistemology in the course of attempts to free this discipline from psychologism, sociologism, etc. These attempts were initiated by Frege (1953; 1972) and developed further by the logical empiricists, especially by Carnap (1935; 1956) in order to determine the subject and tasks of the philosophy of science clearly, and to distinguish them from the tasks and aims of other special sciences. Pursuing the above program, Reichenbach arrived at the formulation of the context of discovery and the context of justification. He writes in Experience and Prediction: “Epistemology thus considers a logical substitute rather than real processes. For this logical substitute, the term rational reconstruction has been introduced; it seems an appropriate phrase to indicate the task of epistemology in its specific difference from the task of psychology” (Reichenbach 1938, pp. 5–6). And commenting on different ways of interpreting rational reconstruction, he adds: “… and the well-known difference between the thinker’s way of finding this theorem and his way of presenting it before a public may illustrate the difference in question [i.e., the difference between the tasks of epistemology and psychology respectively — E.C.]. I shall introduce the terms ‘context of discovery’ and ‘context of justification’ to mark this distinction; then we have to say that epistemology is only occupied in constructing the context of justification” (Reichenbach 1938, pp. 6–7).


Hard Core Scientific Development Factor Conditioning Objective Knowledge Subjective Factor 
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© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1982

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  • Ewa Chmielecka

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