Popper and Kuhn: Two Views of Science Essay example

Popper and Kuhn: Two Views of Science Essay example

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Popper and Kuhn: Two Views of Science


In this essay I attempt to answer the following two questions: What is Karl Popper’s view of science? Do I feel that Thomas Kuhn makes important points against it? The two articles that I make reference to are "Science: Conjectures and Refutations" by Karl Popper and "Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?" by Thomas Kuhn.

In the article, "Science: Conjectures and Refutations", Karl Popper attempts to describe the criteria that a theory must meet for it to be considered scientific. He calls this puzzle the problem of demarcation. Popper summarizes his arguments by saying, "the criterion of the scientific status of a theory is its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability." Kuhn says that he and Popper often agree as to what constitutes science and non-science. He claims that he differs with Popper in the methods that he uses to arrive at his conclusions. Kuhn says that if a line of demarcation is to be sought between science and non-science, we shouldn’t look for a "sharp or decisive" one, because science is not objective, as Popper would have us believe, but subjective.

Popper claims that the common answer to the problem of delineating between science and pseudo-science is that science uses an empirical method, deriving from observations and experiments. This explanation does not satisfy Popper. He has a gut feeling that areas of study like astrology are not science, and he attempts to come up with a theory to prove it. One of the problems I have with Popper is that instead of looking at a concrete problem and trying to come up with an explanation, Popper first made up his mind that astrology is not science, and then set out to prove it. By Popper’s own admissions, confirming evidence is everywhere, but means little. This could be applied all of Popper’s examples.

Popper is "dissatisfied" with the Marxist theory of history, psychoanalysis, and individual psychology. He sets out to describe why his gut tells him that these are unscientific theories. He argues against theories that have explanatory power. Popper has a problem with Marxists because no matter what happens in the world, they can explain the event in light of their theory. When a person believes a theory to be true, everything that happens is a verification of the truthfulness of the theory. Popper’s example is how a Marxists can’t...


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...ctly what it was besides an instinct that it was different from more traditional sciences like chemistry or physics. Why was he so determined to separate empirical science from pseudo-science? If I could talk to Popper, I would ask him, "why bother trying to draw a line at all?" It would be more fruitful to try and distinguish between what is or isn’t true and what is or isn’t significant.

I have a tendency to lean towards Kuhn over Popper. It don’t think that Popper’s ideal of proper science is useful, and he seems to agree with me ("neither a problem of meaningfulness or significance, nor a problem of truth or acceptability.") Kuhn looks at how the world really works, a far more significant area of study. Popper thinks that he has all of the answers. I distrust people who think that they know everything. I agree with Socrates, who said something like, "The only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing." Kuhn doesn’t make rules about how science should be done, he makes suggestions. Popper wants to draw a line down the middle between science and non-science. The more I look at the problem, the more it becomes obvious that the line is not sharp, if it can be drawn at all.

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