Home Random Page



Chapter 10. Postpositivist conceptions of science


As we could see from the previous section, there exist different conceptions of truth and their variety is conditioned by numerousness of factors, which influence our knowledge and cognition. These factors are not only objective, connected with things, we cognize, but also subjective, connected with the culture, in frame of which the investigator lives. And in light of it the question about the place and role of these factors in our cognition and science arises. I.e. the logical analysis of knowledge needs to be supplemented with the cultural and historical one. This supplementation was accomplished in the postpositivist conceptions of science.



10.1. ĒThe structure of scientific revolutionsĒ by T. S. Kuhn

The emergence of this trend is associated with the name of T. S. Kuhn the American philosopher and investigator of science. In 1962 his book ďThe Structure of Scientific RevolutionsĒ was first published. It became a philosophical bestseller; its appearance meant the outset of a new phase in the development of the philosophy of science and epistemology. The conception of not cumulative but spasmodic (by means of leaps) development of science is represented in it.

The keywords of Kuhnís conception are paradigm, normal science, crisis and anomaly, scientific revolution. Kuhn singled out two stages in the development of science: pre-paradigmal (pre-normal) and normal (paradigmal) science. The science of the ancient Greeks, for example, was not a science in the modern understanding. Why? Because, there was no common foundation, which would provide its further development. Every scientist led his own self-sufficient investigation paying no great attention to attainments of others and, therefore, was compelled to start every investigation from the outset. The science in the complete meaning of the word emerges only after appearing of such a foundation, that allows unite efforts of different scientists together, providing thereby an advancing, cumulative process of the development of knowledge. Kuhn called this foundation the paradigm. The paradigm was defined by him as a set of various theoretic, metaphysic, methodologic etc. specimens, accepted by greater or less society of investigators as a common base for further explorations. The science, which develops on the base and in the frame of a paradigm, was called the normal science. The examples of paradigms are the geocentrism of Ptolemeus and Aristotle, the geliocentrism of Kopernicus, the classical mechanics of Newton, the relativity theory of Einstein etc. The grounds of these theories are or were expounded in corresponding books and are not doubted by the followers of corresponding paradigms. The research activity in the frame of paradigm is limited by the paradigm boundary; all things must be explained without going beyond it. Thus the investigatorís activity is reduced to solving puzzles. That is, there is a fact and there is a norm (the paradigm theory that isnít doubted), the task is to bring them to correspondence. The fact must be interpreted in the frame of the theory.

The normal science promises no outstanding discoveries. The occupation with it is a routine activity on solving puzzles. The facts, which the scientists havenít succeeded to explain in the frame of paradigm, are put off aside to a better time (until the science would attain such level of development that somebody could explain them) or are proclaimed non-existing. As an example of the first the case of the ball lightning may be considered, and an example of the second ─ something of the so-called paranormal phenomena. So it goes on until so many these facts have been accumulated that they start being an obstacle to further development of the paradigm. In this case itís spoken of an anomaly in the corresponding branch of knowledge. If this anomaly isnít removed during some shorter or longer period of time, the change of the existing paradigm occurs. Kuhn called this replacement of paradigm the scientific revolution. The most famous scientific revolutions are the replacement of the geocentrism with the geliocentrism, the replacement of the classical physics, the foundation of which was put by Newton, with the relativity theory of Einstein and quantum mechanics, the affirmation of the evolution theory of Darwin in biology and so forth. All the remarkable discoveries in some or other way are connected with changes of paradigms.

After the paradigm change a lot of work appears. This is the work on reducing the existing knowledge of the corresponding domain to the new paradigm, on replacing the old explanations with the new ones and so on ─ including also the rewriting of old textbooks. In the new manuals the old paradigm usually even isnít mentioned and the development of the corresponding science is represented completely from the viewpoint of the new paradigm without referring to the old one. Thatís, whence the impression, arising in students that the science has been always going to the present state without turning nowhere aside, appears. These impressions and opinions, however, donít correspond to the real state of affairs. The development of science hasnít a linear and cumulative but the broken and spasmodic (by leaps) character.

Kuhnís book got a wide response in the scientistsí and scholarsí circles at once after its publishing and made a great impact on all the further development of philosophy in general and the philosophy of science in particular. This latter couldnít help becoming quite another after Kuhn. However, in spite of all its meaning the conception of Kuhn isnít deprived of some frauds. They are:

1) the concepts of paradigm and normal science are defined through each other that creates a logic circle, which is a serious drawback from the point of logic;

2) there remains not clear what exactly Kuhn means under the term ďparadigmĒ: either a general metaphysic ground (as it can be derived from some of his extracts) or some more particular basis concerning some particular theoretical moments. If he means both meanings, it turns out that paradigms form some sort of hierarchy, about which Kuhn doesnít mention;

3) the examples of scientific revolutions brought by Kuhn concern processes of changes which occupied many decades or even centuries (in the case of geo- and geliocentrism) and, therefore, itís better to speak not of revolutions but of evolutions.

The latter was made in the theory of St. Toulmin.


Date: 2014-12-21; view: 1498

<== previous page | next page ==>
Other conceptions of truth | The evolutionist conception of St. Toulmin
doclecture.net - lectures - 2014-2023 year. Copyright infringement or personal data (0.007 sec.)