The Limitations of Falsificationism

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Chalmers, chapter 7:� The Limitations of Falsificationism

Problems stemming from the logical situation (87)
Recap: the �logical point� in favour of falsificationism over inductionism is that, while no finite number of observation sentences will prove a general claim, one single observation sentence will disprove it.� BUT: 1. 1. Falsificationists accept theory-dependence (and hence, fallibility) of observation sentences, therefore the observation sentence can be rejected instead of the theory. 2. 2. Furthermore, any observation sentence will rely on theories behind the instruments involved.� That means that even if the observation sentence is confirmed according to the instruments, the theory is not necessarily falsified, because the problem could be with the theory behind the instruments, or other assumptions.� (Examples: Tycho Brahe�s refutation of Copernicus, p. 89, Lakatos�s example, p. 90.) 3. 3. Finally, the falsificationist does not (despite Popper�s claims) solve the problem of induction, because the observation sentence has to be confirmed.� Any observation sentence is a disguised general claim, because it is not just saying �this happened at time t� it is saying �this would always happen in the relevant circumstances.�

Falsificationism inadequate on historical grounds (91)
If scientists had been true falsificationists, then all the great scientific movements would have been rejected before they got off the ground (and therefore many great discoveries that relied on applications of those theories would never have happened).� Examples (pp. 91-2): Newton�s gravitational theory, Bohr�s theory of the atom, kinetic theory.� Thus, not only are real scientists not falsificationists, it�s a damn good thing that they aren�t.

The Copernican Revolution (92)
The Copernican revolution was a very slow process, and required several different developments over the course of over a century.� Copernicus himself had no answer to apparently crippling criticisms of his theory (the tower argument, the flung-off-the-Earth point [p. 95]) so if his theory had been thoroughly dumped, it would not have survived until Galileo, who did the most to respond to the criticisms.

Inadequacies of the falsificationist demarcation criterion and Popper�s response (101) The falsificationist distinguishes between science and pseudo-science by saying that only the former is falsifiable.� HOWEVER, astrology and many religions are falsifiable because they make predictions.� To rule them out, the falsificationist must add �and not be falsified�.� HOWEVER, doing this will mean that much science isn�t science, as we have seen that many theories were falsified early in their careers.� Popper�s response to this latter problem is to say that scientists should be dogmatic and stubborn.� BUT if they do that, they�re resisting falsification!

CHAPTER 8: Theories as Structures: Kuhn�s Paradigms
Theories as structures (104)
Both Inductivism and Falsificationism portray science as laws confronting observation statements.� Popper does acknowledge the historical nature of scientific knowledge (how novel a statement is depends on the background context, plus the fact that development is not a steady increment) and the theory-dependence of observation, but seems to put too much stress on the critical component of science (falsification) and demand too much of theories (that they be abandoned when falsified).� In that spirit, it stresses experimental testing of theories more than application of the theory to solve puzzles. Reasons to regard theories as more structured than either view suggests: 1. 1. History suggests structure - see description of the Copernican revolution, where Galileo�s work depended on Copernicus�s and they were not putting out rival theories in a �marketplace of ideas� 2. 2. Once you accept the theory-dependence of observation statements, you must acknowledge that the precision of concepts within the theory depends on...
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