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Interpreting Kuhn provides a comprehensive, up-to-date study of Thomas Kuhn's philosophy and legacy. With twelve essays newly written by an international group of scholars, it covers a wide range of topics where Kuhn had an influence. Part I deals with foundational issues such as Kuhn's metaphysical assumptions, his relationship to Kant and Kantian philosophy, as well as contextual influences on his writing, including Cold War psychology and art. Part II tackles three Kuhnian concepts: normal science, incommensurability, and scientific revolutions. Part III deals with the Copernican Revolution in astronomy, the theory-ladenness of observation, scientific discovery, Kuhn's evolutionary analogies, and his theoretical monism. The volume is an ideal resource for advanced students seeking an overview of Kuhn's philosophy, and for specialists following the development of Kuhn scholarship.
Alternative theories play an important role in Paul Feyerabend’s conception of methodology. Because facts and theories are inextricably entwined, even apparently false and unsuccessful theories can play a vital constructive role in theory evaluation (see, for example, Feyerabend 1975/1988, p. 33). Competitor theories can draw attention to hitherto unnoticed facts. And some facts are even wholly undetectable without the aid of an alternative theory. In response to the new facts, proponents of competing theories are pressed to either (i) accept the new theory that exposed the new facts or (ii) develop the accepted theory to account for the new facts. This is one of the important ways in which science progresses. Our theoretical understanding of the world is thus enriched by theoretical pluralism.
Examines the nature of radical theory change, as radical theory changes pose a great threat to many forms of scientific realism. Draws on the account of theory changed developed by Kuhn late in his life, where a radical change of theory involves the replacement of a scientific lexicon with an incommensurable lexicon. The two lexicons cut nature at different joints. Examines a hitherto unstudied revolutionary change in the history of 20th Century chemistry, when atomic number was discovered, and became the way in which chemical elements were clasified. Argues that changes such as this one threaten the realists' claim that our successful theories are likely approximately true.
Addresses the charge that only the realist can explain the success of science, for the anti-realist seems to make the success of science a miracle. This is the so-called No Miracles Argument in support of scientific realism. I argue that the argument is flawed. I also defend van Fraassen's selectionist exaplanation for the success of science. Our best theories are successful because unsuccessful theories have been discarded, just as unfit species are eliminated by the operation of natural selection.
Reexamines why the history of science is a history of discarded theories, and why the future of science is likely to be similiar. Argues that as scientists' interests change, the theories they worked with will be rendered obsolete. Argues that research interests change through the natural process of extending the application of a theory to domains it was not originally designed to model.
Reviews the various arguments related to the underdetermination of theory chocie by evidence. Begins with a reveiw of Duhem's and Quine's interest in underdetermination. Argues that Quine's focus on radical underdetermination is irrelevant to the contemporary debate in philosophy of science. The mere logical possibility that there might exist a theory that can account for the data as well as the theory we currently accept should not persuade us to be anti-realists.
Examines the realists' appeals to the notion of epistemic privilege. Some realists argue that one reason that our scientific theories are likely approximately true is becasue scientists are epistemically privileged, either becasue of the methdos they rely on or because of the background assumptions they make in inquiry. Argues that though scientists' background assumptions and methdos restrict the range of hyotheses and theories that scientyists consider, as realists claim, there is no reason to believe that this restriction has a net positive effect on science. Also reviews arguments and considerations in support of a No Privilege Premise of assumption.
Provides a rationale for examining the arguments for and against scientific realism. Provides a brief history of the recent interest in anti-realism, since the early 1980s, with the publication of van Fraassen's Scientific Image and Laudan's Confutation of Convergent Realism. Outlines teh structure of the book, and the key arguments developed and defended.
Provides a history of astronomy from Babylonian times until the 1630s, with special attention to the developments since 1543, when Copernicus published De Revolutionibus. Traces the role of realist and anti-realist considerations in developments in the history of astronomy. Highlights the considerations and arguments that are recurring in the history of science and philosophy of science related to the realism/anti-realism debate.
Examines and evaluates the argument from underconsideration. This is also referred to as the Argument from a Bad Lot. Argues that this is one of the strongest arguments in support of anti-realism. Because scientists are always only choose between a limited number of theories, even when they choose the best theory, they may be choosing the best of a bad lot, a successful but false theory. Addresses Lipton's criticisms of the argument. Also examines Boyd's defense of realism which is similar to Lipton's line of argument.
Addresses a key challenge raised by realists, explaining how false theories can be empirically successful. Examines two cases from the history of science, Ptolemy's theory and planetary models, and the chemical theory that classified the chemical elements according to their atomic weights. Though both these theories were successful by the standards of their day, both are now regarded as false. Identified four features of false theories that explains why they can be empirically successful.
Provides a summary of the arguments of the book that show that there are logical and historical considerations that undermine the support for many forms of scientific realism. Provides a relfection on why the debate persists, and notes that both sides in the debate have made significant concessions to the other side. Argues that anti-realism is a viable position, and insists that we have grounds for resisting scvientific realism.
Examines a recent realist trend aimed at undermining the Pessimistic Induction. It is a tacit appeal to epistemic privilege. Realists, like Fahrbach and Devitt, grant that it is no surprise that older theories were discarded, even though they were successful by the standards of their day. But argues that more recently developed theories are not likely to be discarded because contemporary scientists have some sort of advantage over their predecessors. I argue that the alleged advantage is only apparent. I argue that the smae sort of argument that Devitt and Fahrbach construct could been constructed by earlier generations. Hence, it is hubris on their part to think that today's theories are immune to being discarded in the future.
Provides an analysis of four different pessimistic inductions from the history of science, including (i) Putnam's *meta-induction*, which is a staright induction from the history of science, (ii) Laudan's argument, which has been reconstructed as a reductio ad absurdum by his realist criticis, (iii) realist pessimistic inductions which aim to determine the limits of our realist commitments, and (iv) Stanford's recent new induction from the history of science, the Argument from Unconceived Alternatives. Reviews the arguments against each, and provides an assessment of how the argumenst could be made stronger or what evidence might be gathered in support of them.
Examines the realists' appeals to the theorecial values, simplicity, breadth of scope, and consistency. Argues that these values do not support the sorts of inferences that realists want to draw when they note that a theory embodies these values. Instead, the theoretical values only enable us to make an ordinal ranking of competing theories. On the basis of such a ranking, we are in no position to say how close or far we are from the truth. Argues that the theoretical values do not even solve the practical problem of determining which of our current theories would most likely lead us to a better theory in the future.