Archive for the ‘kuhn’ Category


In holism, irrationalism, kuhn on 17/10/2011 at 4:26 am

When Kuhn says that the “most fundamental aspect of … incommensurability” is “the proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds” (Structure, 150) or that a scientific revolution is “a displacement of the conceptual network through which scientists view the world (ibid., 102), it is difficult to understand Kuhn as saying anything other than that incommensurability implies incomparability. With the incomparability of two theories, then theory choice is necessarily irrational, commitment to a paradigm or lexicon follows, and so on.

The assumption that theories are incommensurable can lead to, in this most radical version, parroted by post-modernist college kids all across the globe, ‘conversation-stoppers’, modes of speech that deny the very possibility of an assumption’s falsity, and are self-reinforcing enough that the most committed individual can defend the assumption come what may. In short, it’s far too convenient for anyone to claim that they do not understand the meaning of a sentence.

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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.


The Orthodox Story

In bartley, kuhn, wittgenstein on 03/07/2011 at 12:31 pm

The orthodox story runs as follows: Kuhn is the philosopher that undermined the philosophical tradition of Logical Positivism. I think this is wrong; Kuhn did not manage to break from the preceding philosophical tradition. His work is laden with principles belonging to the philosophy he was determined to reject. In fact, incommensurability, non-directed progress, rejection of the concept of truth as a regulatory principle, and the very thesis of “world change” are all consequences of the positivist elements Kuhn’s philosophy retains.

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Kuhn’s Dogmatism

In kuhn on 23/06/2011 at 1:00 pm

Kuhn does not give a logic to scientific discovery. Rather, he opens the door to the sociology of science, of a collaborative/competitive game that emerges out of the interaction of fallible and petty people.

Therefore, we have to make a choice. We can either work on puzzles or we can work on problems; we can either close our ears to criticism or we can accept criticism; we can be uncritical of our ideas or we can be critical of our ideas.

In each of these cases, we must ask, Which choices should I make? Do I want to solve the serious problems that keep me up at night? Do I want to stick my neck out and conjecture something new (even if it is false) about the world? Do I want to reject the ideas I hold dear that cannot survive criticism?

I would consider these questions to be part of the logic of scientific discovery. If scientists provide affirmative answers, this would lead to an environment that mirrors a free and open society. If scientists provide negative answers, this would lead to an environment that Kuhn describes: a dogmatic, puzzle-solving, kibitzing society.

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Through a Glass Darkly

In fallibilism, fideism, kuhn, popper on 15/06/2011 at 3:41 pm

There exists some way to certify statements as true or false. There must be some reason for believing them, a reason that may rest on other reasons (for example, z rests on y; y rests on x), but there must be some sort of instrument — call it a ‘touchstone’ — that sorts out true from false statements. There exists entrance examinations that determine truth and falsehood, similar to academic standards of admittance. If analogies to instruments and standards are not enough, then a religious allusion may be necessary: true statements are touched with grace by good reasons. This paragraph, in brief, sums up the prism through which the justificationist views the world.

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In justificationism, kuhn, skepticism, wittgenstein on 15/06/2011 at 3:18 pm

Justificationism in Continental Rationalism leads to a situation of salvation and damnation. The epistemologist must save some commonsensical ideas, such as other minds, an external world, the reliability of science, and cast out or exorcise supposed illegitimate foundations. She sorts out the desirable from the undesirable statements, yet to begin this sorting this requires a proper sorter.

Out of all the possible foundations for knowledge, all but one foundation will fail to correctly sort out all desirable positions. If a foundation does not succeed, it will fail to deliver the promised goods. It is one thing to question whether the system is coherent; it is another to question whether it accomplishes its task. For instance, if a proposed foundation asserts the existence of the external world, this is not a satisfactory foundation, for it does not tell us anything of importance about the external world. We are not searching for a meta-criterion, but as a criterion of preferable foundations. I want a foundation that doesn’t let too much in, yet keeps all the riffraff out.

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In irrationalism, justificationism, kuhn, underdetermination on 15/06/2011 at 6:41 am

If argument is to provide sufficient reasons for accepting or rejecting a claim, then why is disagreement possible?

Agreement is valued everywhere: it sounds friendlier and builds communities of like-minded individuals. Valuing unanimity, we may accept tradition without asking too many questions. Agreement is easy, and invites acceptance of ideas without much thought, whereas disagreement is criticism, involving a great deal of creativity and willingness to go against the grain, and more often than not produces conflict. Kuhn advocated agreement in his ‘normal science’, knowing that science and a measure of dogmatism occur naturally: there are far worse traditions than science. There is an alternative to this admittedly irrationalist solution, namely a rational justification: as Bacon said, by far the best proof is experience. The problem then becomes how does experience justify theory?

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