314Lecture6-RevolutionsOnline - Lecture Six: Revolutions...

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Lecture Six: Revolutions and Rationality The scientific method is: 1) rational and 2) provides objective knowledge. Objective knowledge is: a) not based on subjective considerations and b) should be believed by everyone. For example, everyone (no matter their religious beliefs, political affiliations, personal preferences) should believe that all metals expand when heated. However, Thomas Kuhn, a historian and philosopher of science, questioned the rationality and objectivity of science. He argues that science is non-inductive and non-rational. First let’s consider the standard view of science, and then examine how Kuhn attempted to undermine this view. The received view of science While there are many disagreements about some of the characteristics of science and how to resolve the demarcation problem, most philosophers agree that: 1. Science is cumulative. Science builds upon previous achievements. There is a steady growth of knowledge. 2. Science is unified, that is, there is a single set of fundamental methods for all the sciences. And ultimately the natural sciences are reducible to physics. The laws of biology can be derived from chemistry, and the laws of chemistry from physics. This is known as reductionism. Everything can be reduced to the knowledge of physics (eventually). 3. There exists a distinction between context of discovery and context of justification. The origins of the theory should not be confused with the evidence for the scientific theory. 4. Confirmation and falsification do not require the notion of value. The evaluation of evidence is independent of the personal leanings and biases of the scientists. 1
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Lecture Six: Revolutions and Rationality 5. Science is different in kind from other belief systems. 6. Observational terms and theoretical terms differ. Observation and experiment provide the foundation for scientific knowledge. 7. Scientific terms have fixed and precise meanings within the context of science domains. 1-7 is implicit in the general popular conception of science. Kuhn’s revolutionary history of science Thomas Kuhn was born in Ohio in 1922, received his doctorate in physics from Harvard, and died in 1996 from cancer. His most famous and influential work is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions . Kuhn was particularly interested in the Copernican revolution. When we look back at that particularly significant period in history, we interpret those events in terms of the dispute between Galileo and the Catholic Church, the divide between reason/experiment and superstition/religious dogma. Galileo and others had accumulated empirical (scientific) data that were inconsistent with the views of the Church, namely the Aristotelian world-view. Kuhn argues that this interpretation is too simplistic.
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This note was uploaded on 06/05/2011 for the course PHI 314 taught by Professor Creath during the Spring '08 term at ASU.

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314Lecture6-RevolutionsOnline - Lecture Six: Revolutions...

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