Kuhn. History and Philosophy of STEM. Lecture 6

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1 Kuhn History and Philosophy of STEM Lecture 6

2 Thomas Kuhn ( )

3 Getting to a Paradigm Their achievement was sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group of adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity. Simultaneously, it was sufficiently openended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to resolve. (10) Men whose research is based on shared paradigms are committed to the same rules and standards for scientific practice. That commitment and the apparent consensus it produces are prerequisites for normal science, i.e., for the genesis and continuation of a particular research tradition. (11)

4 What s in a Paradigm? From the Postscript to Structure: Mathematical formulas, formalizable components of the science Qualitative laws of nature Definitions of central terms Beliefs in particular models of how the world works (what s heat? what s matter made out of?) Values (what makes a good theory?) Examples of good solutions to problems (like you find in textbooks)

5 Ptolemaic astronomy Newtonian mechanics Wave optics Some Examples

6 Before a Paradigm Being able to take no common body of belief for granted, each writer on physical optics felt forced to build his field anew from its foundations. In doing so, his choice of supporting observation and experiment was relatively free, for there was no standard set of methods or of phenomena that every optical writer felt forced to employ and explain. (13)

7 Problems in Normal Science 1 Determination of significant facts Getting facts that the paradigm says are important to the nature of the universe Using the theory to predict interesting facts or facts that we can test 2 Matching facts with the theory Getting facts that we can check against predictions made by the theory Creating methods to remove approximations or idealizations, to match our observations more closely 3 Articulating the theory Getting better values for important constants, or finding new mathematical relationships, or trying to extend the paradigm to nearby, related phenomena Reformulating the theory to make it clearer

8 Puzzle-Solving Perhaps the most striking feature of the normal research problems we have just encountered is how little they aim to produce major novelties, conceptual or phenomenal. (35) Bringing a normal research problem to a conclusion is achieving the anticipated in a new way, and it requires the solution of all sorts of complex instrumental, conceptual, and mathematical puzzles. The man who succeeds proves himself an expert puzzle-solver, and the challenge of the puzzle is an important part of what usually drives him on. (36)

9 Where Does New Science Come From? [T]he project whose outcome does not fall in that narrower range [of expected results] is usually just a research failure, one which reflects not on nature but on the scientist. (35) Usually: find an unexpected result, adjust the theory, keep going. But occasionally: find a result that resists explanation/assimilation. Lots of people work on it, it becomes a crisis. If it s bad enough, we replace our paradigm: a revolution.

10 Revolution You might think that revolutions aren t interesting, because we just use regular methods for testing data and theories, and when the evidence confirms the new theory more than the old one, we switch. Kuhn s major point: Revolutions are completely different from normal science. The rules of normal science cannot apply.

11 Revolution [T]he choice [between two paradigms] is not and cannot be determined merely by the evaluative procedures characteristic of normal science, for these depend in part on a particular paradigm, and that paradigm is at issue. When paradigms enter, as they must, into a debate about paradigm choice, their role is necessarily circular. Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm s defense. (94)

12 Persuasion The status of the circular argument is only that of persuasion. It cannot be made logically or even probabilistically compelling for those who refuse to step into the circle. The premises and values shared by the two parties to a debate over paradigms are not sufficiently extensive for that. (94)

13 Incommensurability Disagreements about: Which problems need solving (what s really scientific) Which questions or solutions we should discard Subtle reuse or re-explanation of old concepts or experiments Seeing the world in a different way

14 What About Progress? We are not progressing steadily toward the truth But we are getting a better and better understanding of nature. Why does all of science work at all? No good answer but we never had one anyway.

15 Why is Science Like This? It doesn t have to be. There s no a priori reason that scientific knowledge couldn t be cumulative. But historically, it has been. That s our task for the next few weeks. Has it, really?

16 Kepler

17 Lavoisier

18 Darwin

19 Einstein

20 Non-Euclidean Geometry

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