The Rationality of Science

The Rationality of Science

The Rationality of Science

The Rationality of Science

Synopsis

A clear, original and systematic introduction to philosophy of science which examines the theories of Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend before proposing a new, temperate rationalist perspective.

Excerpt

My central aim in this work is to vindicate a rationalist account of the scientific enterprise based on a realist construal of scientific theories. It will prove fruitful to introduce in this chapter the central ideas and issues concerning realism prior to considering in Chapters III to VI the views, respectively, of Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend. In these chapters we shall see how difficult it is to combine realism and rationalism and it will require the balance of the book to meet the challenges that emerge. In this chapter a characterization of realism is developed and it is shown that realism is more promising than either of its primary rivals, instrumentalism and relativism. We begin with a discussion of the relation between observation and theory, since it will emerge that the primary difficulty in an instrumentalistic construal of theories is that it presupposes an untenable view of the relation between theory and observation.

Positivist and neo-positivist philosophers of science held that expressions used in science were either observational or theoretical. The class of observational, or O-terms, was held to include such expressions as: '…is warm', '…is yellow', '…sinks', '…points to five'. Theoretical or T-terms included: '…is a field', '…is a quark', '…has spin ½'. The distinction between O-terms and T-terms was supposed to represent a difference in kind and not merely a difference in degree. For it was held that O-terms and T-terms functioned in science in significantly different ways. In our discussion of this view it will be useful to have available the following terminology. By an observational sentence I

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