Beyond Positivism and Relativism: Theory, Method, and Evidence

Synopsis

With the decline of logical positivism after 1950, much work in the philosophy of science has careened toward an uncritical relativistic approach. Many scholars, faced with a choice between a narrowly restrictive positivism and an "anything goes" relativism, have sought to find a middle path in the debate. In this collection of papers, several of which appear here for the first time, Larry Laudan argues that resolving this dilemma involves not some centrist compromise position but rather a conception of scientific knowledge that goes beyond both positivism and relativism. This conception must begin with the rejection of assumptions about knowledge that these apparently opposed positions hold in common. Relativism, for Laudan, is a particularly self-defeating form of neopositivism. In showing the connections between these two approaches and clarifying the positions of such influential philosophers as Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, Laudan does the great service of laying the foundation for an account of science that rejects the errors of positivism without providing aid and comfort to the enemies of reason. He also takes a fresh look at many other central issues of scientific philosophy, including the science/non-science demarcation, the underdetermination of theory by evidence, and the contested role of social factors in the legitimation of scientific knowledge. Beyond Positivism and Relativism is a major statement about the nature of science and evidence that will command the interest of philosophers of science, epistemologists, sociologists of knowledge, and all who are seriously concerned about science, scientific progress, and the implications for knowledge in many other fields.

Additional information

Contributors:
Publisher: Place of publication:
  • Boulder, CO
Publication year:
  • 1996