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Scientific rationality and methodological change: A critical examination of some recent attempts to naturalize methodology.

Abimbola, Kolapo Ogunniyi (1994) Scientific rationality and methodological change: A critical examination of some recent attempts to naturalize methodology. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science (United Kingdom).

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Abstract

Following the work of Popper and especially of Kuhn in the 1960s, the attention of philosophers of science has been very much concentrated on change in science. Popper's picture was of constant change ("revolution in permanence") at the level of scientific theories, but constant change in accordance with fixed methodological standards of evaluation. Drawing on Kuhn's work, however, many recent philosophers of science have held that the phenomenon of scientific change is much more radical and far-reaching than anything allowed by Popper: specifically, that there have been major changes in methodological standards during the history of science alongside changes in accepted fundamental theory. The chief problem facing this no-invariant-methodology thesis is that it seems to inevitably entail relativism. If the methods and principles of scientific theory appraisal are subject to radical change, then competing theories or research traditions may uphold competing (or conflicting) methodologies. When methodologies do conflict, how can choice between competing theories or research traditions be rationally adjudicated. How can the methods and principles for the correct appraisal of scientific theories themselves evolve rationally. Two major attempts have been made in the recent literature to construct positions which accommodate change in methodological standards while nonetheless avoiding relativism. These are the versions of methodological naturalism developed by Larry Laudan and Dudley Shapere, respectively. This dissertation examines these two positions in detail and argues that they fail: in so far as they really incorporate the no-invariant- methodology thesis they inevitably embrace relativism. I argue that the way to resolve this difficulty is to reject the no-invariant-methodology thesis. Moreover, methodological naturalists (like Laudan and Shapere) have not succeeded in giving any genuine and convincing illustration of radical methodological change.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Philosophy
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/1228

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