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Popper and Kuhn

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Dickson Hew

on 26 October 2013

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Transcript of Popper and Kuhn

Popper’s Concept of Falsification
The concept of falsification. Falsification as a criterion of demarcation between science and pseudo-science.
In order for a theory to have the status of a ‘scientific’ theory, it must be falsifiable.
Why Marxism, Psychoanalysis and Astrology are regarded as pseudo-science.
The role of empirical data in relation to theories; should be able to falsify and not only to confirm theories.
Thomas Kuhn’s Philosophy of Science
Criticised previous philosophers of science for giving an ‘idealized’ and not a true picture of science.
In order to have a credible philosophical view of science, we must look at science as it was really practised. So we need to know the HISTORY of science.
Looking at the history of science, he came up with the idea of “the structure of scientific revolutions”. That is, the development of science seems to follow a certain pattern, marked by brief periods of “scientific revolutions” and long periods of “normal science”.
Popper’s theory of scientific method
We start from a hypothesis or theory, not from empirical facts.
A hypothesis/theory is a ‘conjecture’ (a guess), which has to be empirically tested before it can be accepted or confirmed.
Hypothetico-deductivism as the logical form of scientific methodology.
Conjectures and refutations as forming the method of science.
Popper’s Theory of Scientific Change
It is a historical fact that scientific theories change over time, and do not remain static.
Example: change from Newton’s theory to Einstein’s theory, from Ptolemy’s to Copernicus’ astronomical theory.
Question: Is it a good or bad thing that scientific theories undergo change?
Answer 1: For critics of science, scientific change implies that science cannot give us certainty in knowledge. Therefore we cannot believe in science, because what is true today might no longer be true tomorrow.
Answer 2: However, for Popper, scientific change is a good thing. It is good because: (i) it shows the rationality of science (ii) the progressiveness of science.
For Popper, as scientific theories change, they progress towards the truth.
Kuhn’s Theory of Scientific Change
Change in scientific theory is to be explained in terms of psychology and sociology, not logic or philosophy.
Kuhn used ideas from gestalt psychology to explain change of scientific theory.
For example, change from Ptolemaic theory (earth-centred) to Copernican theory (sun-centred), involved a change in perspective.
When theories change in science, this does not mean that we are moving or progressing closer towards the truth.
A comparison between two great philosphers of science
Popper and Kuhn
Karl Popper’s Philosophy of Science
Popper’s critique of Logical Positivism. The failure of Logical Positivism to censure ‘pseudo-sciences’ such as Marxism and Psychoanalysis.
Similarity between Popper and the Logical Positivists: both upheld the superior status of scientific knowledge in the Enlightenment tradition.
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