Monday, January 1, 2018

Summary: Chapter 9 in What Is This Thing Called Science? / Alan Chalmers

What Is This Thing Called Science? / Alan Chalmers
Chapter 9: Theories as structures: Research programs

-          Commonalities Kuhn and Popper:
o   Reject positivism and inductivism
o   Priority to theory over observation
-          Lakatos set out to modify falsificationism to rid it of its difficulties and does so by drawing on some of Kuhn’s ideas.
-          Fundamental principles = hard core of a research program à basis from which the program is to develop, general hypotheses
-          Any inadequacy in the match between an articulated program and observation is to be attributed to the supplementary assumptions rather than the hard core
-          Protective belt = sum of additional hypotheses supplementing the hard core à its role is to protect the hard core from falsification
-          Assumptions in the protective belt are to be modified in an attempt to improve the research program (the match of its predictions and the actual results of observation and experiment)
-          Negative heuristic = what the scientist should not do
-          Positive heuristic = what the scientist should do, suggestions on how to sophisticate the protective belt
-          Early work in a research program takes place in spite of apparent falsifications. In this early stage confirmations rather than falsifications are of paramount significance
-          Indication of the merit of a program > extent to which it leads to novel predictions that are confirmed
-          Progressive research program = retains its coherence and at least intermittently leads to novel predictions that are confirmed
-          Degenerating program = loses its coherence and/or fails to lead to confirmed new predictions
-          Scientific revolution for Lakatos: the replacement of a degenerating program by a progressive one
Methodology within a program and the comparison of programs
-          No ad hoc modifications
-          Modifications or additions to the protective belt must be independently testable and open up opportunity for new tests
-          Impossible to do research that departs from the hard core
-          Novel predictions: one program is superior to another insofar as it is a more successful predictor of novel phenomena
-          Support Quine/Durkheim thesis
-          Not irrational to remain working on a degenerating program if there are possible ways to bring it to life again
-          Appraisal of research programs can only be done with historical hindsight
Problems with Lakatos’s methodology
-          Hard core of a program is rendered unfalsifiable by the methodological decisions of its protagonists à lack of evidence of those rational decisions and yet they are the locus of distinction between his position and that of Kuhn
-          Methodology can only make judgments whether a program is scientific or not with the benefit of historical hindsight àno position to diagnose a contemporary program

-          Support with history of science but only that of physics, assumed that other fields share the characteristics of physics à problematic because especially in the social sciences, knowledge produced itself is a component of the system that is studied, so a change in theory can bring about a change in the system
additional summaries in  philosophy of science

Some books about philosophy of science to consider: