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PHIL202: Philosophy of Science

Unit 4: Theory Change and Scientific Progress   “In general we look for a new law by the following process.  First we guess it.  Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what would be implied if this law that we guessed is right.  Then we compare the result of the computation to nature, with experiment or experience, compare it directly with observation, to see if it works.  If it disagrees with experiment it is wrong.  In that simple statement is the key to science.” [1]
 
Feynman’s remark reflects the classical view of theory change, according to which science progresses through a steady stream of conjecture and refutation.  This is a view popularized by Karl Popper, and it continues to influence popular conceptions of the scientific method.  However, the view conflicts with another popular view, first developed by Thomas Kuhn, according to which science changes in discontinuous leaps and bounds, with humdrum periods of normal science punctuated by radical paradigm changes.  Popper’s and Kuhn’s views represent two of the more popular views of scientific progress.  But more nuanced accounts, which aim to better attend to the actualities of scientific inquiry, suggest that these popular views are oversimplified.


[1] Richard Feynman, The Character of Physical Law (Cambridge, MA: The M.I.T Press, 1965), 156.

Unit 4 Time Advisory
This unit should take approximately 11.5 hours to complete.

☐    Subunit 4.1: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.2: 3 hours

☐    Subunit 4.3: 2 hours

☐    Subunit 4.4: 1.5 hours

☐    Subunit 4.5: 3 hours
 

☐    Reading: 1 hour

☐    Assessment 6: 2 hours

Unit4 Learning Outcomes
Upon completion of this unit, the student will be able to: - Summarize Popper’s version of the classical view of theory change. - Summarize Kuhn’s objections to the classical view of theory change. - Define the notions of paradigm, research programme, and research tradition. - Compare the notions of paradigm, research programme, and research tradition. - Summarize non-classical views of theory change from Kuhn, Lakatos, and Laudan. - Assess philosophical views about theory change.

4.1 The Classical View: Conjectures and Refutations   - Reading: Marxists Internet Archive: Karl Popper’s “A Realist View of Logic, Physics, and History” Link: Marxists Internet Archive: Karl Popper’s “A Realist View of Logic, Physics, and History” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above and read the chapter
in its entirety.  

 This chapter, by Karl Popper (an advocate of falsificationism: see
Unit 3.2.1), propounds upon what many philosophers of science refer
to as the *classical view of theory change*.  Popper presents this
view in the opening section of his chapter; in subsequent sections,
he explains the ways in which this view has implications for
realistic attitudes toward our scientific theories, understanding
the history of science, interpretations of quantum physics, and
understanding of logic and language.  

 As you read this chapter, attempt to answer the following
questions: What is the classical view of theory change (i.e.,
Popper’s view)?  How does Popper’s falsificationism inform and
motivate this view of theory change?  How does this view encourage
us to interpret the history of science?  

 Reading this chapter and answering these questions will take
approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.2 Paradigms and Revolutions   - Reading: Marxists Internet Archive: Thomas Kuhn’s “The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions”; The Richmond Journal of Philosophy: Alexander Bird’s “What Is in a Paradigm?”; and Curtis Brown’s “Some Notes on Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions” Link: Marxists Internet Archive: Thomas Kuhn’s “The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions” (HTML); The Richmond Journal of Philosophy: Alexander Bird’s “What Is in a Paradigm?” (HTML); and Curtis Brown’s “Some Notes on Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the links above and read the
materials in their entirety.  For the article by Bird, clicking on
the link will take you to the “Back Issues” page for *The Richmond
Journal of Philosophy*.  Under *Issue 2 – Autumn 2002*, find “What
Is in a Paradigm?” by Alexander Bird (second article of the issue). 
Click on “[PDF version]” to open his article.  

 In “The Nature and Necessity of Scientific Revolutions,” a chapter
from *The Structure of Scientific Revolutions*, Thomas Kuhn presents
his influential ideas about scientific revolutions and the
development of science.  For Kuhn, the occurrence of such
revolutions undermines the classical view of scientific development,
by showing that science does not develop smoothly and cumulatively
from one problem to the next, but instead proceeds in fits and
starts, jumping from one paradigm to another.  Kuhn’s work remains
widely influential, not so much among philosophers of science (many
of whom appreciate Kuhn’s historical work but disagree with the
philosophical implications he draws from that work), but primarily
among sociologists of science and cultural critics of science.  

 Bird’s article motivates and summarizes Kuhn’s central ideas about
the development of science, explaining Kuhn’s distinctions between
*normal science* and *revolutionary science*, his notion of
*paradigms*, his thesis about the *incommensurability* of theories
from different paradigms, and his conception of science as
*puzzle-solving* rather than (as Popper claims) problem-solving. 
Curtis Brown’s short notes concisely summarize Kuhn’s views about
the development of science and the notion of incommensurability. 
Use the notes as a supplement to understanding Kuhn’s chapter and
Bird’s article.  Read these materials in order to better understand
Kuhn’s central ideas.  

 As you read Kuhn’s chapter, Bird’s article, and Brown’s notes,
attempt to answer the following questions: What is Kuhn’s view of
theory change?  How does Kuhn’s view of theory change differ from
the classical view?  How does this view encourage us to interpret
the history of science?  What implications, if any, does this view
have for the rationality of scientific progress?  

 Reading these materials and answering these questions will take
approximately 3 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpages above.

4.3 Research Programs   - Reading: Tufts University: Richard Harter’s “The Methodology of Scientific Research”; University of Wisconsin: Malcolm R. Forster’s “Lakatos’s Methodology of Scientific Research Programs”; and Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Lakatos’s Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes” Link: Tufts University: Richard Harter’s “The Methodology of Scientific Research” (HTML); University of Wisconsin: Malcolm R. Forster’s “Lakatos’s Methodology of Scientific Research Programs” (HTML); and Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Lakatos’s Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on each link above and read the
materials in their entirety.  

 One of the primary philosophical repercussions of Kuhn’s work was
to cast doubt upon the idea that science develops in a rational
manner: insofar as changes during revolutionary periods of
scientific development produce new paradigms that are
incommensurable with older paradigms, it seems that scientific
developments during revolutionary periods are, if not irrational,
then at least non-rational.  One response to Kuhn’s work,
accordingly, was to attempt to accommodate Kuhn’s insights about the
history of science by modifying the classical view of theory change,
in order to preserve the idea that science develops in a rational
manner.  Lakatos’ work was the first influential attempt in this
vein, and these readings present an overview of Lakatos’ alternative
view of theory change.  

 As you read these materials, attempt to answer the following
questions: What is Lakatos’ view of theory change?  How does
Lakatos’ view of theory change differ from the classical view, and
from Kuhn’s view?  How does this view encourage us to interpret the
history of science?  What implications, if any, does this view have
for the rationality of scientific progress?  

 Reading these materials and answering these questions will take
approximately 2 hours.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.

4.4 Research Traditions   - Reading: United States National Library of Medicine: Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior: Bruce Batts and Lawrence L. Crawford’s “Problematic Progress: A Review of Laudan’s Progress and Its Problems and Science and Values” Link: United States National Library of Medicine: Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior: Bruce Batts and Lawrence L. Crawford’s “Problematic Progress: A Review of Laudan’s Progress and Its Problems and Science and Values (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above.  On the right side of
the page, under the heading “Formats,” click on either “Page Browse”
(to read the article page by page) or “PDF (2.2M)” (to open a PDF
file of the article).  Read the article in its entirety.  

 Rather than attempt to modify the classical view of theory change
in response to Kuhn’s work and the implications of that work for the
rationality of science, the philosopher of science Larry Laudan
modifies Kuhn’s view by rejecting the idea that factors
distinguishing paradigms from each other (values, methodologies, and
so on) are impervious to criticism.  This article by Batts and
Crawford, while offering a review of Laudan’s two major books,
summarizes the key features of Laudan’s view of theory change and
explains how (and, in some cases, why) Laudan’s view differs from
Kuhn’s.  

 As you read this article, attempt to answer the following
questions: What is Laudan’s view of theory change?  How does
Laudan’s view of theory change differ from the classical view, and
from Kuhn’s view?  How does this view encourage us to interpret the
history of science?  What implications, if any, does this view have
for the rationality of scientific progress?  

 Reading this article and answering these questions will take
approximately 1 hour.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Reading: United States National Library of Medicine: Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior: Bruce Batts and Lawrence L. Crawford’s “Problematic Progress: A Review of Laudan’s Progress and Its Problems and Science and Values” Link: United States National Library of Medicine: Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior: Bruce Batts and Lawrence L. Crawford’s “Problematic Progress: A Review of Laudan’s Progress and Its Problems and Science and Values (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the link above.  On the right side of the page, under the heading “Formats,” click on either “Page Browse” (to read the article page by page) or “PDF (2.2M)” (to open a PDF file of the article).  Read the article in its entirety.

    Rather than attempt to modify the classical view of theory change in response to Kuhn’s work and the implications of that work for the rationality of science, the philosopher of science Larry Laudan modifies Kuhn’s view by rejecting the idea that factors distinguishing paradigms from each other (values, methodologies, and so on) are impervious to criticism.  This article by Batts and Crawford, while offering a review of Laudan’s two major books, summarizes the key features of Laudan’s view of theory change and explains how (and, in some cases, why) Laudan’s view differs from Kuhn’s.

    As you read this article, attempt to answer the following questions: What is Laudan’s view of theory change?  How does Laudan’s view of theory change differ from the classical view, and from Kuhn’s view?  How does this view encourage us to interpret the history of science?  What implications, if any, does this view have for the rationality of scientific progress?

    Reading this article and answering these questions will take approximately 1 hour.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Laudan’s Reticulated Model of Scientific Rationality”; and Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 14 - Laudan on the Hierarchical Model of Justification” Link: Loyola University New Orleans: Henry Folse’s “Laudan’s Reticulated Model of Scientific Rationality” (HTML); and Iowa State University: Lyle Zynda’s “Lecture 14 - Laudan on the Hierarchical Model of Justification” (HTML)

    Instructions: Please click on the above links and read both sets of lecture notes in their entirety.

    These two readings summarize Laudan’s view of theory change.  While the notes are not nearly as comprehensive as Batts and Crawford’s review article, they highlight some of the themes central to Laudan’s view.  You should read these notes for help in clarifying your understanding of Batts and Crawford’s article.

    Reading these notes will take approximately 30 minutes.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

4.5 Review of Theory Change and Scientific Progress   - Reading: Cornell University Library: Helge Kragh’s “A Sense of Crisis: Physics in the Fin-de-siecle Era” Link: Cornell University Library: Helge Kragh’s “A Sense of Crisis: Physics in the Fin-de-siecle Era” (HTML)

 Instructions: Please click on the link above.  In the upper right
quadrant, under “Download,” click on the hyperlink that reads “PDF
only” in order to open the article.  Read the article in its
entirety.  

 Reading this article will take approximately 1 hour.  The following
assessment references the information contained in this article.  

 Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use
displayed on the webpage above.
  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 6” Link: The Saylor Foundation: “Assessment 6” (PDF)

    Instructions: This assessment will ask you to interpret the development of physics from 1880 to 1910 (summarized in Kragh’s article) using an account of theory change and scientific progress (by Kuhn, Lakatos, or Laudan).  Use the “Assessment 6 – Guide to Responding” (PDF) to help you.  Please check your essays against the “Assessment 6 – Self-Assessment Rubric” (PDF).

    Completing this assessment will take approximately 2 hours.

    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.