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"