In fideism, kuhn, lakatos on 18/07/2011 at 12:14 pm

Because they can ordinarily take current theories for granted, exploiting rather than criticizing it, the practitioners of mature sciences are freed to explore nature to an esotoric depth and detail otherwise unimaginable. (Thomas Kuhn, Reflections on my critics. In: I. Lakatos and A. Musgrave (eds.) Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge, p. 247. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.)

[T]rial attempts [to solve puzzles], whether by the chess player or by the scientist, are trials only of themselves, not of the rules of the game. They are possible only so long as the paradigm itself is taken for granted. (Kuhn, 1993, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 3rd edition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pp.144-5.)

Kuhn implies that if a scientist is super-critical, they can never begin to practice science. They’ll spend their time tackling foundations of disciplines, rather than addressing the logical consequences of all manner of scientific theories. While puzzle solving is a critical activity, according to Kuhn, it is a very limited kind of criticism, for it leaves certain questions as verboten. Is Kuhn right that most scientists practicing normal science need to uncritically accept theories?

A scientist can accept a theory for any purposes they so choose — practical, theoretical, or critical purposes are all acceptable. Kuhn thinks that ‘normal science’ can be conducted “only so long as the paradigm itself is taken for granted,” yet all that is needed is to consider what would be the case if the paradigm were valid.

Many scientists are more than willing to look at cases of dowsing even when they find the very idea absurd. Rather than uncritically accepting dowsing, scientists provisionally adopt the theory in order to parse out its logical consequences, one of them being the ability to determine the location of water with sticks. In fact, this is a commonplace tactic in science and philosophy: in order to undermine a rival theory, one must address it on its own terms and simultaneously attempt to catch it in a contradiction.


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