Monday, January 1, 2018

Summary: Chapter 8 in What Is This Thing Called Science? / Alan Chalmers

What Is This Thing Called Science? / Alan Chalmers
Chapter 8: Theories as structures: Kuhn’s paradigms

-          In his "Structure of Scientific Revolutions" Kuhn describes the progress of science
o   Pre-science à normal science à crisis à revolution à new normal science à new crisis
-          Existence of a paradigm capable of supporting a normal science tradition is the characteristic that distinguishes science from non-science
-          Mature science is governed by a single paradigm
-          Normal science as puzzle-solving activity governed y the rules of a paradigm
-          Lack of agreement over fundamental distinguishes mature science from disorganized immature pre-science
-          Mere existence of unresolved puzzles does not constitute a crisis
-          When anomalies come to be seen as posing serious problems for a paradigm à crisis which is deepened with the appearance of an incompatible rival paradigm. Rival paradigms are incommensurable
-          Scientific revolution: abandonment of one paradigm and the adoption by a new one by the relevant scientific community as a whole
-          Importance attached to the role played by the sociological characteristics of scientific communities
-          Function of revolutions: a means of breaking out of one paradigm into a better one
-          Progress through revolutions: alternative to cumulative progress
-          A discipline in which fundamentals are constantly brought into question (critical rationalism) is unlikely to make significant progress simply because principles do not remain unchallenged long enough for esoteric work to be done
Kuhn’s ambivalence on progress through revolutions
-          Relativist position: the question of whether a paradigm is better or not than the one it challenges does not have a definitive neutral answer, but depends on the values of those who make the judgment
-          Kuhn rejects the relativist position: later theories are better than earlier ones for solving puzzles in the different environments to which they are applied à convinced believer in scientific progress
-          Two incompatible strands: the relativist position and the alternative (how can a paradigm be said to constitute progress over the one it replaces?)
Objective knowledge
-          How can a paradigm change take place all at once, but not necessarily in an instant?
-          Distinction objective and subjective knowledge
-          Knowledge is a state of mind
-          Knowledge in the subjective sense: individual knowledge/experiences
-          Knowledge in the objective sense: distinct from the kinds of things that reside in individual minds, observation statements are publicly testable and debatable
-          Objective relationships exist between parts of the structure independently of whether individuals are aware of that relationship
-          Similar to Karl Popper’s world 3
-          A particular paradigm can be an improvement on its rival? à question about the objective relation between paradigms
-          On subjective knowledge: gestalt switches à should be removed from Kuhn’s account for it leads to the confusion and understanding of Kuhn as a relativist
additional summaries in  philosophy of science

Some books about philosophy of science to consider: