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Phil 3318: Philosophy of Science Kuhn-ian Revolutions

Jan 18, 2016



  • Phil 3318: Philosophy of ScienceKuhn-ian Revolutions

  • Real Revolutions as metaphor.Scientific Revolutions are those non-cumulative developmental episodes in which an older paradigm is replaced in whole or in part by an incompatible one (92)

  • Analogical points:Revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, often restricted to a segment of the political community, that existing institutions have ceased to adequately meet the problems posed by an environment that they have in part created (92)

  • 2.(although Kuhn doesnt number it): Revolutions often seem revolutionary only to those whose paradigms are affected to them.

  • 3. (numbered 2) Success of a revolution necessitates, in part, the relinquishment of one set of institutions in favor of another, an in the interim, society is not governed by institutions at all.

  • Conclusion:Well, that seems to be point (3). :During revolutions, society is divided into competing camps or parties one seeking to defend the old, others seeking to replace it with new.(There may be competing new camps as well)Once that kind of polarization occurs, political recourse fails.

  • The parties are fighting over the legitimacy of institutions by which political decisions can be made for that very reason, there is no political mechanism for adjudicating between the parties.So, the parties must take to the streets appeal to something other than political will (such as God, history, etc) or resort to force.

  • The success of the winner is determined not by political institutions, but by extrapolitical institutions by the very fact that they replace those institutions by which they legitimize themselves.

  • Therefore, by analogyScientific revolutions gain legitimacy not by factors internal to science, but by extra-scientific methods, such as social factors. And this is precisely because the issue at stake is the legitimacy of factors internal to science.

  • Revolutions as Gestalt-switchKuhn argues from history (Discovery of Uranus, electrostatic repulsion, Laviosiers O2 v. Priestleys dephlogisticated air, etc) that scientific revolutions shift perception much like the shift in perception of anomalous playing cards, the duck-rabbit or the Necker cube.Well, lets look at the Examples

  • How revolutions morph into normal scienceAuthority!As a paradigmatic case is accepted, it is taught to future scientists as if it had always been the case. There is little or no acknowledgement of the previously existing paradigm, or the crisis that sparked the paradigm shift in the first place.Anyone taught about pre-plate tectonic geology lately?

  • Plate tectonics was proposed by Alfred Wegener in 1912.Evidence: Fit of the E coastline of S. America with W. coastline of Africa.Similar plant & animal fossils found on these two coastsOther unusual geological structures found in both places.Mechanism: tidal pressure, centrifugal force.

  • Why not?Forces too weakForces would destroy, not maintain, coastline shapes via erosionOcean floor would rip apart continents.(Harold Jeffereys)

  • Evidence in support1947: sediment on the Atlantic floor was less than predicted if floor was 4 bill years old (no continental movement).1950s: magnetic striping of rocks in middle of Atlantic crest. (suggested movement, but also expansion of globe)1960s: Evidence from earthquake analysis of the Pacific that earth was being sucked down, at the same rate as it was bubbling up in the Atlantic.

  • Revolution1975-1978: mechanism of floating continents proposed by Hess and Dietz.Consistent (based upon) convection theory of physics [exemplifying interdisciplinary collaboration]Suggested vast new research projectsExplained earthquakes and volcanoes in ring of fire.Explained island arcs and mid-oceanic ridges.

  • Points of contact with previous theoriesIn revolutionary science, auxiliary hypotheses operate to restrict the range of phenomena to be explained (100)The positivistic laws are genuinely incompatible between paradigms (101) [stated as a problem for positivists]Paradigms include not only a cognitive aspect, but a normative one. (109)

  • Normative2 claims: A paradigm sets not only the criteria for a consistent theory, but the criteria for doing science.Judgments about previous paradigms are generally made in terms of rightness i.e. I once saw the moon as a planet, but I was mistaken. (Ch X)

  • CorollariesInterpretation can only articulate a paradigm paradigms are not corrigible by normal science at all. (122)Why?

  • Ch XIs filled with a whole bunch of what I consider bad philosophy of perception extrapolating widely from empirical evidence of underdetermined perception.The duck-rabbit shows that two men with the same retinal image can see different things

  • PracticalityThe dominant model of training new scientists is the textbook. Textbooks truncate history and provide a sanitized story almost Orwellian in nature that the things that are true now have always been true, and will always continue to be true.

  • EffectsStudents feel a part of a long-standing tradition The set of problems addressed by contemporary science is viewed as the same set of problems always considered scientific [i.e. Alchemy as competitor to Chemistry]Scientific history is seen as a linear process arriving at the present position. (138)

  • ThusTextbook are tools of a post-revolutionary Orwellian movement to construct normal scientists: thinkers who take the contemporary paradigm as all that ever was both cognitively and normatively.

    They are the basis of a normal science.

  • Why would anyone rebel?[I.e. test a paradigm]: Same as political a growing body of evidence that the system just isnt working. (Matthew Dowd)

  • Side note (for Kuhn):During revolutionary periods, factors such as elegance neatness or simplicity of a theory have a profound effect on its acceptance (155)

    But aesthetic considerations are not enough there must be a crisis to get the problem started! (158)

  • ImplicationsFalsification [Popper] is operative during periods of revolutionary science.Verificationism [Hempel] (or something like it) is operative during normal science

  • Progressive v Degenerative [although Kuhn doesnt use these terms] matters for both revolutionary (settling which competitor will win) and normal (new avenues of research suggested).

    And, during revolutionary periods: ANYTHING GOES

  • SoKuhn agrees with Everyone!

    Happy happy joy joy!.

  • Contemporary Examples:Behaviorism -> Cognitive science?Neuroscience replacing folk psychology?Linguistics!

    [Note: notice how the ID people have used Kuhns rhetoric to try to play the victim]

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