Nov 15, 2009

Philosophy Of Science - Assignment

Thomas Kuhn begins his book - "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" by outlining some assumptions about how science works. Analyse them and try to either prove or disprove each of them with supportive arguments or examples from scientific theories or discoveries. (These points are taken from notes made by Prof. Frank Pajares, from Emory Univ.) Submit your notes / essay / discussion / ..... whetever by Thursday by email. You may lok up the net for Kuhn's theories.
A. A scientific community cannot practice its trade without some set of received beliefs

1. These beliefs form the foundation of the "educational initiation that prepares and licenses the student for professional practice"
2. The nature of the "rigorous and rigid" preparation helps ensure that the received beliefs exert a "deep hold" on the student's mind.
B. Normal science "is predicated on the assumption that the scientific community knows what the world is like" - scientists take great pains to defend that assumption.
C. To this end, "normal science often suppresses fundamental novelties because they are necessarily subversive of its basic commitments"
D. Research is "a strenuous and devoted attempt to force nature into the conceptual boxes supplied by professional education"
E. A shift in professional commitments to shared assumptions takes place when an anomaly "subverts the existing tradition of scientific practice". These shifts are what Kuhn describes as scientific revolutions—"the tradition-shattering complements to the tradition-bound activity of normal science".
1. New assumptions (paradigms/theories) require the reconstruction of prior assumptions and the reevaluation of prior facts. This is difficult and time consuming. It is also strongly resisted by the established community.
2. When a shift takes place, "a scientist's world is qualitatively transformed [and] quantitatively enriched by fundamental novelties of either fact or theory"

1 comment:

  1. Prathamesh

    A.Can Received beliefs be considered as the backbone on the present studies?

    According to Kuhn, some beliefs are taken to be granted from the past scientific theories. These beliefs are then considered to be as the backbone of the present scientific world. These theories are applicable to each & every individual in that particular field. The received beliefs must be firm enough to create a deep impact on the present individuals. It must prove the individual to accept it for approving & disqualifying other things. Received beliefs can capture a strong hold on the mind only when it makes the person think its importance, & tries to prove other arguments wrong.
    Here the scientific community may mean as the community of people who are involved in developing new & fundamental laws of science. These, community cannot arbitrarily make laws on their own, to prove them they have to show proofs supporting them. But as the proofs mainly contain a part of past theories, it can be said that the proof given by the new community is slightly based on the past beliefs. For e.g.: Einstein’s ‘Special Theory of Relativity”. He used the Galilean theory of “addition of velocities” to be right as well as Michelson-Morley’s theory that the “light did not appear to have velocities” . He thus, assumed both the theories to be right & than formulate the theories to overcome the laps in both the theories. Thus his, theory contains an assumption that light has a constant velocity.

    The students use these received beliefs to tackle the problems in front of them, but these received beliefs loose their hold when the students start their higher studies in a particular filed. For e.g.: Newtonian physics is considered as to be the firm base of physics for the high school, even though it has its own weak points. Some concepts of ‘frames of reference’ are proved to be false when the whole system (universe) is seen from a point outside it. Each & every particle is in non-uniform motion. The motions considered to be uniform have some or the other kind of loss in it, which is immaterial to us at a particular instant. Things cannot be accurate, they can be precise. Accuracy depends upon the measurement techniques that we use. More sensitive the measurement tool, more the level of accuracy is obtained. The Newtonian laws have a deep impact on the high school students. As they are used to these laws they use them in their problem solving tactics. Hence, I agree to Kuhn’s first point (including subpoints).


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