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sdsundah In relation to my prior post, would one not expect that apart from sharing ontological models, member of a paradigm also strive to share heuristic or metaphorical models? Especially, taking into account our prior discussion, the existence of certain field of natural science that can only be described with metaphors (e.g. quantum physics). Or could a distinction be made between fields as to which ones need consistent usage of metaphorical models and those that don't?
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sdsundah When one regards this ability of the student being introduced into a paradigm to liken one variety of situation to another, i.e. to discern regularities in nature where before there were no regularities, one is inexorably led to the question of how this process of paradigm acquisition is able to commence before the student has any experience with thinking that can be classified as scientific. How is it possible that a person can become introduced into a holistic whole of concepts, laws and theories if one does not have the first inkling of any of the paradigm's parts? Could we assert that something like Wittgenstein's language games are at work here? Can a paradigm be reduced to something which is primarily linguistic? Or is something more at work work here? Perhaps an inherently human (Kantian?) ability to share a manner of recognition in nature?
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DaanDB Kuhn makes the difference between exemplars on the one hand and rules and criteria on the other. I think it is worth a discussion on this difference. Following quote on p. 196 could help with this I think: "What is built into the neural process that transforms stimuli to sensations has the following characteristics: it has been transmitted through education; it has, by trial, been found more effective than its historical competitors in a group’s current environment; and, finally, it is subject to change both through further education and through the discovery of misfits with the environment. Those are characteristics of knowledge, and they explain why I use the term. But it is strange usage, for one other characteristic is missing. We have no direct access to what it is we know, no rules or generalizations with which to express this knowledge. Rules which could supply that access would refer to stimuli not sensations, and stimuli we can know only through elaborate theory. In its absence, the knowledge embedded in the stimulus-to-sensation route remains tacit. "
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DaanDB I don't really think I understand completely why the term "paradigm" is inappropriate here. Why does Kuhn wants to replace his term with "disciplinary matrix"?
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Seppe Segers This is quote is the crux of Kuhn’s argument against the accusation of being a relativist. I don not see how this argument can work, however. What would ‘ontological development’ amount to? What’s more: in order that one can speak of ‘a better instrument for solving puzzles’, mustn’t one assume some kind of ontology? It seems to me that this much is undeniable. If this is the case, than how does Kuhn prevent a relativistic discussion about ontological choices?
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Seppe Segers To me, these passages arouse a sour feeling. I think that one of the most interesting claims of Kuhn’s work, are the one’s wherein he is offering just an argument to state relativism. I refer to a quote on p.94: “When paradigms enter, as they must, into a debate about paradigm choice, their role is necessarily circular. Each group uses its own paradigm to argue in that paradigm’s defense.” This argument has been reiterated in diverse other fields such as ethics (to defend meta-ethical relativism) and epistemology (to defend epistemic relativism) – a characteristic of his own work Kuhn accepts by the way (p.208). The fact that Kuhn tries to blunt the sharp edges of his previous statements seems to me an admission of the fact that he’s afraid to bite the bullet. Kuhn tries to push off the relativistic consequences of his own argumentation, by having recourse to the possible developmental nature of science as a consequence of the puzzle-solving activity. I do not see, however, how that argument could possibly succeed (see the other quote).
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Seppe Segers Kuhn is defending himself against the accusation of ‘glorifying’ subjectivity and irrationality. I think he’s right to do so. However, it looks like he’s keeping some words back. Because, sure thing, Kuhn can’t be wrongfully accused of ‘recognizing’, or at least pointing to the important influence of irrationality in the scientific process. It’s to the merit of Kuhn that we have an adjusted concept of science, which now includes aspects of irrational behavior. Kuhn doesn’t glorify, but does recognize these irrational aspects, and, again, I think he’s right to do so.
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sdsundah More and more, while reading this book, I've become aware of the way Kuhn seems to describe scientific practice as something which is in fact in its base wholly irrational. I know this is one of the main criticisms of this work, but the way in which he describes the entire process of paradigm formation seems to be quite persuasive, despite his loose usage of the paradigm concept. And when you see the quote I selected, you see that he explicitly uses religious terminology. My question is thus whether on a meta-level there are indications in the process of paradigm selection that show that this process does not, in fact, depend wholly on sociological factors or share parallels with religious conversion; i.e. that the process is not an irrational one.
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sdsundah This talk of the exact precision of observation permitted by a certain paradigm brought the question to my mind whether, as in the example of Newton's mechanical theory compared to Einstein's relativity theory or quantum theory, one could not have different paradigms applicable to different ontological levels (think of zooming in and out) that have results that are perhaps incommensurate with one another but that nonetheless can coexist. I recall Kuhn mentioning the rare occurrence of peacefully coexisting paradigms and I was wondering what the exact context of such a coexistence could be.
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Seppe Segers Apart from being a great quote, it also became kind of a tradition for me to grasp the opportunities where they lay and thus try to link Kuhn’s work to Foucault’s insights. I think this quote is just another instance of the resemblance between these two thinkers. If I read Kuhn well, he’s acknowledging the fact that in the sciences “might makes right”. This however, mustn’t be seen as some kind of purely authoritarian power, but rather as a positive power to choose. This power depends upon the rules that govern the scientific community. Again, the Foucauldian echo is apparent to me. In much the same way, Foucault understands ‘power’ as a productive mechanism; not purely negative. It is a positive power that opens up opportunities. In this case: it opens up opportunities to choose this paradigm, rather than that paradigm. Power can only be restrictive if it first defines the possibilities to act – power can only have its negative effect by the grace of its productive nature. As Foucault himself states in Truth and Power (p.119): “What makes power hold good, what makes it accepted, is simply the fact that it doesn’t only weigh on us as a force that says no, but that it traverses and produces things, it induces pleasure, forms of knowledge, produces discourse.” I suggest the hypothesis that in much the same way Kuhn’s thesis can be read as a Foucauldian conception of power. The member of a mature scientific community is not subjected to power as if he were a slave; instead, he’s subjected to a constructive power, which at the same time limits and opens up his possibilities of choice.
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Seppe Segers With this quote I’d like to simply reiterate a comment we didn’t discuss last week. At first glance this probably doesn’t relate to the content of Kuhn’s work, although it might be of ideological importance. This is a critique of Poppers idea of falsification, according to which one anomaly is a sufficient condition for theory-rejection. Kuhn seems to deem this view as blatantly naïve. According to Kuhn, scientists do not regard anomalies as a falsification of the theory in se: “they do not, that is, treat anomalies as counter-instances”. Kuhn assumes that scientists are quite conservative in their ‘choice’ of paradigms (as seen in Chapter VIII). Popper, in stead, assumes scientists as being more ‘progressive’, and, for that sake, maybe less dogma-bound. Would there be any link to their respective political views? For as Popper has been labeled as conservative, liberal as well as libertarian…

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