Karl Popper versus Thomas Kuhn | Page 5 | INFJ Forum

Karl Popper versus Thomas Kuhn

Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by Ren, Aug 26, 2020.

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  1. OP
    Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    I think that for Kuhn to consider a modification to be 'incommensurable' with what it modifies, it has to be more than just a modification—no matter how drastic. Because it operates with different meanings than the old theory. If you have a drastic modification but all the meanings are preserved, then how is there incommensurability between the old and the new? The old would presumably easily be translated into the new framework. Because Kuhn doesn't think this translation is actually possible, he would be inclined to speak of the (revolutionary) new theory as reinterpreting the old theory to suit its own narrative.

    This only applies to the relationship between normal and revolutionary discourse, though. Kuhn says that the vast majority of the time, theories 'improve' upon each other within a more or less stable, normal discourse, where the new theories explicitly inherit the frameworks of old theories. His central point is that this narrative breaks down when a paradigm shift takes place.
     
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    Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    No, it's not exactly the same as conjecture. The logical positivists seem to think that the 'structure' comes from nowhere else than the world itself, and their hope is to develop a language which mirrors exactly that structure. They claim to have jettisoned metaphysics by seeking a purely scientific language, but I think this hope for a mirroring of the structure of nature (through science or any other discipline) is still a deeply metaphysical hope. It's the hope of discovering something timeless which can be replicated in a network of linguistic representation.

    My sense is that for Popper, 'conjecture' is the opposite of timeless. It's something that can be tried out to see if it works (at least for a certain space of time) or not. It can be left aside in order to develop a different and better conjecture. Popper may think that nature has an intrinsic, timeless structure, but he doesn't think that the goal of scientists and philosophers should be to articulate a language which perfectly mirrors that structure. If he did, he wouldn't promote conjecture and the method of trial and error. Part of why he doesn't agree with the logical positivists is that he observes that supposedly 'naked' nature tricks our perception at every possible opportunity, and that it is only by 'trying out' theories and testing hypotheses that we can actually find something worthwhile to say about nature. I think it's a far less metaphysical approach to scientific discovery than the approach of logical empiricism. It doesn't conceive of nature as a kind of godlike entity that just 'contains truths'.
     
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  3. wolly.green

    wolly.green Permanent Fixture

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    Personally, which approach do you find more compelling. Clearly, I think Popper wins hands down, but what do you think? I promise I won't have a shouting match with you lol.
     
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    Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    Wow! What Nietzsche books have you been reading?

    I actually think he's pretty accessible for a philosopher. He doesn't use that much jargon—you just have to be patient with his metaphorical and allusive style. I have to admit that in the case of Thus Spake Zarathustra this style gets almost a bit too much for me.

    It's not necessarily haughty, it can also be a creative process. You don't want to spend your life in some kind of idolising of what older thinkers have said. But I think an important first step is taking the thoughts of those 'dead philosophers' as seriously as possible, even if ultimately you decide to reject them.
     
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    Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    lol, well in the case of logical empiricism vs. Popper, I clearly side with Popper as well. But this isn't really a confrontation with high stakes at this point, at least for philosophers of science. I think most of them today would acknowledge that the 'ultimate unified scientific language' is just a dream.

    That being said, I wonder if this dream has been abandoned by scientists themselves. I don't know much about the Theory of Everything, but doesn't it seem like a further iteration of this dream? I mean, maybe not, so long as it remains conceived as a 'mere' theory and not as a final language. But the fact that it's apparently sometimes called the "final theory, ultimate theory, or master theory" sounds a bit problematic to me.
     
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  6. John K

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    I've got a copy of 'Beyond Good and Evil', which is the only original stuff of his that I've really looked at. He is very accessible in terms of his language - these passages I've posted here are peaches :tearsofjoy:. I'm not sure who he saw as his audience though, other than himself, and almost everything he writes carries overtones of scolding censure behind it - sometimes overtly, but mainly in the body language of his words. It isn't all that easy to grasp the big picture principles he is following in making his statements as many of these seem to be their consequences rather than their naked selves. But anything I say here, other than how much fun he is, must inevitably be just first impressions. Passage 14 below seems to have some relevance to this thread? - a polemic defending intuition against the blue meanie sensors if ever I saw one lol.

    14. It is perhaps just dawning on five or six minds that natural philosophy is only a world-exposition and world-arrangement (according to us, if I may say so!) and NOT a world-explanation; but in so far as it is based on belief in the senses, it is regarded as more, and for a long time to come must be regarded as more—namely, as an explanation. It has eyes and fingers of its own, it has ocular evidence and palpableness of its own: this operates fascinatingly, persuasively, and CONVINCINGLY upon an age with fundamentally plebeian tastes—in fact, it follows instinctively the canon of truth of eternal popular sensualism. What is clear, what is "explained"? Only that which can be seen and felt—one must pursue every problem thus far. Obversely, however, the charm of the Platonic mode of thought, which was an ARISTOCRATIC mode, consisted precisely in RESISTANCE to obvious sense-evidence—perhaps among men who enjoyed even stronger and more fastidious senses than our contemporaries, but who knew how to find a higher triumph in remaining masters of them: and this by means of pale, cold, grey conceptional networks which they threw over the motley whirl of the senses—the mob of the senses, as Plato said. In this overcoming of the world, and interpreting of the world in the manner of Plato, there was an ENJOYMENT different from that which the physicists of today offer us—and likewise the Darwinists and anti-teleologists among the physiological workers, with their principle of the "smallest possible effort," and the greatest possible blunder. "Where there is nothing more to see or to grasp, there is also nothing more for men to do"—that is certainly an imperative different from the Platonic one, but it may notwithstanding be the right imperative for a hardy, laborious race of machinists and bridge-builders of the future, who have nothing but ROUGH work to perform.

    15. To study physiology with a clear conscience, one must insist on the fact that the sense-organs are not phenomena in the sense of the idealistic philosophy; as such they certainly could not be causes! Sensualism, therefore, at least as regulative hypothesis, if not as heuristic principle. What? And others say even that the external world is the work of our organs? But then our body, as a part of this external world, would be the work of our organs! But then our organs themselves would be the work of our organs! It seems to me that this is a complete REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM, if the conception CAUSA SUI is something fundamentally absurd. Consequently, the external world is NOT the work of our organs—?

    16. There are still harmless self-observers who believe that there are "immediate certainties"; for instance, "I think," or as the superstition of Schopenhauer puts it, "I will"; as though cognition here got hold of its object purely and simply as "the thing in itself," without any falsification taking place either on the part of the subject or the object. I would repeat it, however, a hundred times, that "immediate certainty," as well as "absolute knowledge" and the "thing in itself," involve a CONTRADICTIO IN ADJECTO; we really ought to free ourselves from the misleading significance of words! The people on their part may think that cognition is knowing all about things, but the philosopher must say to himself: "When I analyze the process that is expressed in the sentence, 'I think,' I find a whole series of daring assertions, the argumentative proof of which would be difficult, perhaps impossible: for instance, that it is I who think, that there must necessarily be something that thinks, that thinking is an activity and operation on the part of a being who is thought of as a cause, that there is an 'ego,' and finally, that it is already determined what is to be designated by thinking—that I KNOW what thinking is. For if I had not already decided within myself what it is, by what standard could I determine whether that which is just happening is not perhaps 'willing' or 'feeling'? In short, the assertion 'I think,' assumes that I COMPARE my state at the present moment with other states of myself which I know, in order to determine what it is; on account of this retrospective connection with further 'knowledge,' it has, at any rate, no immediate certainty for me."—In place of the "immediate certainty" in which the people may believe in the special case, the philosopher thus finds a series of metaphysical questions presented to him, veritable conscience questions of the intellect, to wit: "Whence did I get the notion of 'thinking'? Why do I believe in cause and effect? What gives me the right to speak of an 'ego,' and even of an 'ego' as cause, and finally of an 'ego' as cause of thought?" He who ventures to answer these metaphysical questions at once by an appeal to a sort of INTUITIVE perception, like the person who says, "I think, and know that this, at least, is true, actual, and certain"—will encounter a smile and two notes of interrogation in a philosopher nowadays. "Sir," the philosopher will perhaps give him to understand, "it is improbable that you are not mistaken, but why should it be the truth?"

    17. With regard to the superstitions of logicians, I shall never tire of emphasizing a small, terse fact, which is unwillingly recognized by these credulous minds—namely, that a thought comes when "it" wishes, and not when "I" wish; so that it is a PERVERSION of the facts of the case to say that the subject "I" is the condition of the predicate "think." ONE thinks; but that this "one" is precisely the famous old "ego," is, to put it mildly, only a supposition, an assertion, and assuredly not an "immediate certainty." After all, one has even gone too far with this "one thinks"—even the "one" contains an INTERPRETATION of the process, and does not belong to the process itself. One infers here according to the usual grammatical formula—"To think is an activity; every activity requires an agency that is active; consequently"... It was pretty much on the same lines that the older atomism sought, besides the operating "power," the material particle wherein it resides and out of which it operates—the atom. More rigorous minds, however, learnt at last to get along without this "earth-residuum," and perhaps some day we shall accustom ourselves, even from the logician's point of view, to get along without the little "one" (to which the worthy old "ego" has refined itself).

    18. It is certainly not the least charm of a theory that it is refutable; it is precisely thereby that it attracts the more subtle minds. It seems that the hundred-times-refuted theory of the "free will" owes its persistence to this charm alone; some one is always appearing who feels himself strong enough to refute it.
     
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    Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    This is thought-provoking stuff!

    I sometimes forget how familiar Nietzsche was with the various philosophical movements that were dominant in his time.
     
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  8. John K

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    It's profound, hot stuff and really very amusing at the same time - I have this fabulous image of some more conventional 19th century philosophers in mutton chop whiskers all choking and gagging over the iconoclastic irreverence lol.

    I find my subjective experience is very like he is saying in this quote - thought happens to me more than it being something I do. And I'm not sure which I I'm talking about, even then lol.
     
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  9. wolly.green

    wolly.green Permanent Fixture

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    This is one of the reasons why Aaron loathes David Deutsch and his work. In his book The Fabric of Reality, he argues that all of our current knowledge can and eventually will be unified under a single theory. Whether that theory is scientific, or some yet undiscovered species of reason, I don't know.

    Aaron thinks this implies that David believes in 'foundational truth'. But, as you may already know, that just isn't true. Unification does not imply automatically an "ultimate theory". Personally, I wish he would just read the whole god damn book so we can move past this lol.
     
    #89 wolly.green, Sep 1, 2020
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
  10. Aaron Thyne

    Aaron Thyne Regular Poster

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    Yes yes, I'm 4 chapters in. :unamused:
     
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  11. charlatan

    charlatan I Like this Place

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    I think at least from my broad familiarity with a Theory of Everything as a fair number of scientists seem to mean, that's maybe not saying (though of course people would take it to mean different things) we'll unify all knowledge so much as scientific knowledge.
    In other words, it would subsume everything in the way Newtonian mechanics is subsumed in more fundamental scientific laws.

    I think this is somewhat independent of the following:

    - whether all knowledge is scientific
    - whether science really is an 'essentially empirical' enterprise or one that depends on some more expansive notion of 'reason'

    Basically, my impression is that the unification (for a fair number of scientists, can't speak for all) is focused on things like unifying general relativity and quantum mechanics, and the goal is still to discover the most fundamental laws of nature, not something more expansive than that.

    But that's just a terminology point at the end of the day!
     
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  12. Aaron Thyne

    Aaron Thyne Regular Poster

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    You are an ENTP, right?
     
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  13. charlatan

    charlatan I Like this Place

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    Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    Ne and Type 6 are very visible.
     
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    Ren

    Ren Pin's android / The Maker / ≅ INFP

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    And do you think there is an approach to this goal that is not foundationalist in nature?

    It sounds like it, anyway.
     
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  16. charlatan

    charlatan I Like this Place

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    @Ren that's an interesting question! There's a kind of foundationalist take on metaphysics, and then there's one on epistemic justification. I think the Theory of Everything as I commonly see it thrown about refers to things like string theory, which could find the 'ultimate building blocks' of nature and the ultimate laws they follow.
    That smells to me of metaphysical foundations: that there are some properties on which all others supervene.

    As opposed to the epistemic variety, which seems less related, which I think says justification kind of proceeds hierarchically from some ultimate foundation.

    I think if you're a physicalist, maybe believing in a TOE in the sense of physical knowledge means you believe in a metaphysical foundation that's truly ultimate.
     
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  17. Faye

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    I find it odd that you're trying to pit Kuhn and Popper against each other in this way since Popper's falsifiability criterion is about logic rather than empirical observation whereas Kuhn's focus on scientific paradigms deals with empirical observation.I don't see them as actually conflicting with each other for that reason. I think you could make a good case that they go well together as part of rational empiricism, which is why they are usually taught side by side in philosophy classes.

    If it somehow happened that logic undid a "scientific" paradigm (such as via the falsifiability criteiron), then you need to ask whether that so called paradigm was ever scientific in the first place. It is the difference between a scientific theory being wrong (which is still science) and a scientific theory failing to be a theory due to a failure in logic on the part of those who promote it (which is not science). I could argue that life on this planet was created by a invisible undetectable troll deity, but my theory is not science unless there is some way it could potentially be tested and falsified. Even if all the prominent "scientists" in my country advocated that life was created by the troll deity and then, say, a theory of evolution came along, it does not mean that there was a paradigm shift. It means that these so called "scientists" were never really advocating a scientific theory in the first place. If you accept the validity of something that cannot be falsified, then how could a paradigm shift ever occur at all anyway?

    On the other hand, there have been many falsifable paradigms that were eventually falsified through empirical observation. Continental drift theory being replaced by plate tectonics is a good example.
     
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  18. Aaron Thyne

    Aaron Thyne Regular Poster

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    Absolutely. I can tell you're Ti because of how dedicated you are to 'the logic'. But unlike Dom Ti's, your words are not short, snappy and concise. They are more verbose and circuitous, like you're trying to cover all your bases. So I guessed ENTP.
     
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  19. Pin

    Pin "Magnificent Bastard" / Ren's Counterpart

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    Being a Te-dom is definitely more practical in my opinion, not to slight anyone.
     
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  20. Aaron Thyne

    Aaron Thyne Regular Poster

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    Sure, but us INTP's don't care about practicality. That's not what gives us that dopamine hit.
     
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