Posts Tagged ‘lakatos’


In critical rationalism, fideism, popper, wittgenstein on 26/07/2011 at 5:51 am

A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push. (Ludwig Wittgenstein)


In Wittgenstein’s posthumous Philosophical Investigations he argues that meaning of terms is equal to its use within language: each ‘linguistic universe’ has its own rules. Content cannot be separated from criteria by which they are judged: criteria is never inter-cultural, but sub-cultural. Each discipline or ‘language’ game has its own standards, which cannot be reducible to other standards or principles. The task of the philosopher is then to describe and clarify standards, not to judge, defend, or criticize proposals laid out within a ‘language game.’ Criticism can only point out the misuse of language, or violations of the rules.

Argument or judgment does not cross disciplines, for they exist only in reference to criteria of the rules of the game. This leads to relativism, where there is no rational choice to be made between competing games: all games are equally defensible.

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In critical rationalism, evolution, justificationism, plantinga on 25/07/2011 at 8:27 am

I find Alvin Plantinga’s evolutionary argument against naturalism (it should probably be called the ‘evolutionary argument against correct belief formation’, but I’ll get to that in a second) to be perfectly permissible (with certain revisions). This might come as a shock to some, considering that I am an open agnostic atheist about gods. In fact, I am far more of an apathist in spirit, for positing the existence of gods is a non-explanation for, I think, a non-problem. Plantinga’s argument boils down to little more than an attack against assumptions in epistemology, not against ‘naturalism’: evolution and our traditional theories of knowledge are incompatible.

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In fideism, induction on 23/07/2011 at 6:24 am

Nothing is more characteristic of a dogmatist epistemology than its theory of error. For if some truths are manifest, one must explain how anyone can be mistaken about them, in other words, why the truths are not manifest to everybody. According to its particular theory of error, each dogmatist epistemology offers its particular therapeutics to purge minds from error. (Imre Lakatos)

I’ve heard it said from followers of Rand that a theory (usually one of Rand’s own, or a variation thereof) is unassailable, for any criticism of the theory must necessarily assume the theory in order to criticize it. This, somehow, invalidates all criticism.

Is the supposition “Any criticism must assume the validity of the theory being criticized” self-evident?

One problem: how does one know that all possible criticisms employ that theory? Is anyone familiar with all potential arguments against the theory? Of course not: novel ideas are created every day. Therefore, this assertion, that all criticism must assume the theory is true, is based on an inductive inference, which cannot, as a matter of logic, be as demonstrably self-evident or unconditionally immune to criticism as it first appears.

It might be the case that it is true, but it is hardly evident to me, especially once this doubt is raised. Furthermore, whatever theory is used to demonstrate how the initial theory is self-evident must, of course, be scrutinized to determine if it suffers from the same problem: is this new theory self-evident as well? A regress of ‘unassailable’ theories begins in earnest.

The world is far more interesting than we can imagine: asserting that no criticism could possibly exist speaks only to, I think, their limited intellectual horizon. I conjecture that it is better for an idea to stick its neck out as far as it can, therefore inviting many criticisms, and taking them serious. One criticism, if accepted, is enough. As the followers of Rand would have it, the world can only be a constant construction of sandcastles following the blueprints of the Master, and yet no helpful criticism of the blueprints or their faithful execution is permitted. I might go so far as to say that this meta-theory is self-evident, but of course, I don’t.

Assume that everything I have just said is not the case: assume that the Randian (for they are such an easy punching bag, no?) now says that by any criticism that does not assume the same things as Objectivism is then starting from different — incompatible — assumptions, and is not a viable criticism. This might be a possible defensive maneuver for the Randian, for it disallows criticism of its assumptions and criticism of its coherence. Here we have the gestation of the most uninteresting post-modernists within the Randian (or the religious presuppositionalists like Van Til), for the Randian must not be aware of a reductio ad absurdum.

And this, I should note, is a point that deserves no further clarification on my part, for pointing out incoherence is one of the most powerful criticisms available.



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.


Conjectures and Criticisms

In critical rationalism on 02/07/2011 at 2:02 pm

Teacher: I will give a quick recap of our last lesson: We discarded the Logical Positivist solution to the demarcation problem as leaving far too many statements in that would qualify as ‘science’ and leaving out strictly universal statements as ‘meaningless’. We moved on to Popper’s original solution to the demarcation problem. It attempts to cleave scientific statements from non-scientific (or pseduo-scientific) statements by proposing that scientific statements are falsifiable, while non-scientific statements are not. Has anyone found a problem with this solution?

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The Unexpected

In critical rationalism, induction on 15/06/2011 at 3:01 pm

But in all my experience, I have never been in any accident … of any sort worth speaking about. I have seen but one vessel in distress in all my years at sea. I never saw a wreck and never have been wrecked nor was I ever in any predicament that threatened to end in disaster of any sort. (E. J. Smith, 1907, Captain, RMS Titanic)

Yesterday when I was out riding my bike, my bicycle’s front tube popped with a loud BANG! After examining it later, I realized that it was no fault of the road — no sharp rock or shard of glass — but of the tube: it was worn out so much that it split at the seam. This lead me to write once again on the topic of induction. This time, I will focus on everyday examples in order to illustrate the point that inductive inferences are as unjustified as any other conjecture about the unobserved.

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