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Newton Smith On Kuhn Notes

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TS Kuhn: From Revolutionary to Social Democrat

1. Kuhn and the image of science
* Two lines of attack on normal image of science:
* Weak/boring attack - there is a special method and ideal mode of application but scientific practice falls short of this
* Strong/exciting attack - there is no such defensible ideal with which actual practice can be compared (early Kuhn)
* Is Kuhn's use of term 'paradigm' too vague? Components include:
* Shared symbolic generalizations - theoretical assumptions that are deployed without question
* Models - agreement over particular analogies or that certain connections should be treated as identities
* Values - theories ought to be accurate, consistent, wide in scope, simple and fruitful. Which theories are most 'simple' etc will be contested, intractably
* Metaphysical principles - untestable assumptions that guide research e.g. preference for field theories over particle theories
* Exemplars or concrete problem situations - agreement on what constitutes the nice problems of a field and what constitutes their solution. Demonstrated by textbooks. Also, consensus on what are the unsolved problems
* According to Newton-Smith, the final meaning is the 'genesis' of Kuhn's understanding of paradigm, or 'disciplinary matrix'
* We cannot make rules specifying necessary and sufficient conditions for simple, observational predicates (e.g. is a swan) so insofar as we make such observations, we rely on exemplar cases of the instantiation of the predicate
* Similarly in science, where shared exemplars of successful solutions are substituted for shared rules of successful solutions
* Kuhn's use of paradigm is too broad and vague to support his assertion that the history of science is the history of clear, delineated paradigms
* it is, however, useful in drawing attention the the importance of background beliefs, attitudes, procedures and techniques in understanding science

2. Revolutions
* Normal science includes agreement over problems and over what constitutes a solution
* during normal science, if a test fails, the ability of the tester is questioned, not the theory
* Breakdown leads to competition between paradigms. There is no standard higher than the assent of relevant scientific communities, so propagandizing plays a key role. In fact, given that opposing paradigms are incommensurable, only propagandizing plays a role
* Kuhn assumes radical meaning variance (RMV), which holds that there is no logical contradiction between Newton's assertion that simultaneity is not relative and Einstein's assertion that simultaneity is relative
* RMV means that the problem of rational comparison of rival theories does not arise (what about degrees of RMV?)
* Incommensurability of paradigms would surely rely on radical variance in what constitutes a good explanation - incommensurability due to radical standard variance
* Kuhn does not show that what constitutes a good explanation has varied in the history of science

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