Sunday, May 29, 2005

Brother, Can You Paradigm?

posted by Tim Walters @ 9:43 PM

Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Interesting to finally read this after years of hearing about it. A lot of his detractors seem to be responding to a caricature of his position; there's no discussion here of old fogeys cruelly sabotaging the career of young upstarts, for example. But while he claims not to be a relativist, he admits at one point that he doesn't believe any scientific theories are closer to truth than any others. Here I have to go with his rival Popper. Falsification may not be as tidy as Popper makes it seem, but it nevertheless gives us genuine knowledge.


At 3:45 PM, Blogger Todd T said...

I must admit I don't know anything about the debates you refer to. I don't what to make of the statements 'he doesn't believe any scientific theories are closer to truth than any others' and ' us genuine knowledge'.

Taking the first at face value, what then does he hold is the objective of science? Why bother? And doesn't this position remove any value from discussing the philosophy of science? Perhaps no syllogism is reliable, but what would he say to this one:

If no theory can be given any truth value, then all work done towards validating or overturning a theory is pointless, and therefore it doesn't matter how it is done, and therefore we do not need to learn more about how to think about it, and therefore we do not need to read his book.

I can't figure out a way to take the second at face value.

I fear that, even after you have explained it to me, I will still be in over my head, through no fault of yours.

At 11:15 PM, Blogger Tim Walters said...

You've nailed the problem with the first statement exactly (although, in this case, the book has a lot to say even if you don't accept his relativism--he gives, I think, a pretty good description of how science progresses, even if he's confused about why).

Re the second, I'm a little to near bedtime to give it the attention it deserves, so I'll turn you over to the man himself.


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