Does science consist in the progressive development of objective truth? Contrast the views of Kuhn with one other writer on this topic.

Better Essays
Does science consist in the progressive development of objective truth? Contrast the views of Kuhn with one other writer on this topic.

The philosopher and historian of science Thomas Kuhn introduced the term paradigm as a key part of what he called “normal science”: In normal (that is non revolutionary) periods in a science, there is a consensus across the relevant scientific community about the theoretical and methodological rules to be followed. (Marshall 1998). Paradigms tend to shift over time as new scientific discoveries are made, and anomalies or observations that conflict with the current paradigm begin to accumulate. Eventually this leads to a scientific revolution. There is a shift from one paradigm to another and a new period of normal science begins. So, what seems to be scientifically relevant at one time may not be so in years to come. An example of a paradigm shift would be when it was discovered that Earth was not the centre of the universe and that the sun did not revolve around the earth. This was a widely held belief up until, and even after there was proof to show that these beliefs were held falsely. Kuhn argued that the way scientists choose what conceptual and theoretical framework (what "paradigm") they should apply in framing their scientific questions and in seeking to resolve scientific puzzles is necessarily heavily influenced by subjective factors, including prevailing social norms and conventions. This implies that scientific theories are subjective and therefore so is the “truth” they aim to show.

Kuhn argued that an old scientific paradigm is occasionally displaced by a new one and that in some senses the scientist finds himself working in a “different world”. For Kuhn, what counts as true in one paradigm is different from what counts as true in a different paradigm. Another way of putting this is that truth does not survive a scientific revolution. This means that Kuhn can be seen as a relativist as his argument suggests that there is no external reality by which we are able to measure the truth of scientific theories and that the truth changes with each new paradigm. Thomas Kuhn observed that science, as it's actually practiced, isn't the logical and cumulative building up of a true picture of the world that it was generally believed to be. He showed that there is no fixed, defined criterion for deciding bet...

... middle of paper ...

...not there is an objective truth or reality. His main point is that scientific progress is a continuing refinement of our ideas about what might be the case. He says there's no single criterion for selecting one theory over another, not even success at predicting phenomena. The only judge is the consensus of the scientific community, and that clearly changes so it can't be used in advance to decide one theory over another. Popper also argued that we can never be sure that our theories will never be falsified and so all knowledge or truth is provisional and can change. It seems therefore that although Popper seems to follow a realist account of scientific progress and Kuhn a relativist one, that actually they both believed that there is progress in science but that we could not know if we were progressing towards an objective truth.

Ekelund, Robert, Jr. and Robert F. Hebert. A History of Economic Theory and Method. Fourth edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Second edition. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1970.

Popper, Karl R. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1959.
Get Access