Trang Ho - PHIL 385 Paper 2

Trang Ho - PHIL 385 Paper 2 - Trang Ho Philosophy 385 Paper...

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Trang Ho Philosophy 385 Paper #2 03-30-2011 The Implausibility of Incommensurability The aim of this paper will be to look at Kuhn’s concept of incommensurability as applied to scientific paradigms in two ways: first, to look at incommensurability as applied to the world, that is, the notion that reality itself is paradigm dependant; second, to look at linguistic incommensurability of terms. Ultimately the paper will show that if Kuhn is taken at his most radical, he destroys science, but if he is taken as any less radical, then he has added nothing to the discussion of the philosophy of science. Hence, we ought to dismiss Kuhn notion of incommensurability The arguments for incommensurability proceed in an almost definitional way when we consider how Kuhn uses the term. First we must understand what normal science is, and then we must understand what a paradigm is. This in itself reveals incommensurability, but it will be also necessary to elucidate the mechanism of crisis as well. What then is normal science? It is not necessarily normative science, but rather that activity in which Kuhn thinks, with a certain reverence, scientists are routinely engaged in. Normal science is essentially work done in a field, which is governed by a single paradigm at any given time. All that normal science is then, is science performed under a single paradigm, which is directly contrary to the sense of science as Popper talked about it, which included a total openness. In contrast, Kuhn tells us that scientists normally operate in very narrow conceptual space, with most possibilities closed off to 1
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them depending upon which paradigm guides their work. There are two categories of concept, which are closed off to investigation in normal science. The first category is concepts falling outside of the paradigm, and the second are the fundamental concepts of the paradigm itself. In contrast to Popper’s view that scientists are perfect skeptics, always questioning their foundations, Kuhn tells us that it is only during a crisis that the fundamental assumptions of any paradigm may be questioned, for the non-debate about fundamental concepts is essential to normal science. Already we have said something about what a paradigm is. It is apparent that a paradigm is essential to the performance of normal science, as the definition of normal science includes reference to paradigm. A paradigm is what guides the work of scientists when they are doing normal science. A paradigm starts with some igniting research, the primary example of “good work”. Godfrey-Smith talks about the failure of Artificial Life to gain traction as a scientific paradigm because everyone wanted to “do it their way”, because of this no work was performed based upon earlier experiments, nothing was built up, and so a paradigm failed to form. A paradigm always emerges from some disorganized, somewhat random work, which coalesces into a field when a kind of spark experiment is performed, or some new observation is done that is so huge that everyone
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This note was uploaded on 04/06/2011 for the course PHIL 385 taught by Professor Kennyeswaran during the Spring '11 term at USC.

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Trang Ho - PHIL 385 Paper 2 - Trang Ho Philosophy 385 Paper...

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