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Philosophy of Scientific Knowledge in Kuhn’s and Popper’s Views Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Dec 13th, 2020

Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper are two prominent philosophers and writers who made a significant contribution to the discussion of the relationships between the concepts of knowledge, science, and philosophy. Compared to a conflicting point about the importance of induction and falsification supported by Popper, Kuhn defines science as a set of revolutionary paradigms around which people’s opinions can be built. This paper aims at evaluating Kuhn’s and Popper’s positions about the scientific method and its role in the identification of the philosophy and practice of science.

The philosophies developed by Kuhn and Popper have many distinct characteristics. Kuhn (1970) underlines that scientific development cannot be ignored because all added items constitute techniques and knowledge gathered by scientists who elaborated numerous facts, theories, and methods. Popper (1959), in his turn, chooses the position according to which theories and natural science can never be empirically verified. I like the idea that Popper has a plan in terms of which he wants to explain the worth of the theoretical truth through the falsification of other theories. There is a necessity to find out a “criterion which would enable us to distinguish between the empirical sciences on the one hand, and mathematics and logic as well as metaphysical systems on the other,” also known as the problem of demarcation (Popper, 1959, p. 501). Popper rejects mistakes and underlines rationalism in thinking.

Kuhn’s approach differs from the Popper’s one as it denies the existence of one particular system for demarcation. Scientific investigation is the main source to gather information and introduce it as a part of normal science. I find the discussion about competence and respect to the past achievements developed by Kuhn rather provocative. A theory is defined as “seldom or never just an increment to what is already known” (Kuhn, 1970, p. 7). Science is based on the achievements of people. People are the humans who can make mistakes, be prejudiced about something, and stay concerned about certain ideas. Kuhn does not impose one specific criterion on all theories but promotes a variety of approaches based on past experiences.

Though Kuhn and Popper are the authors of different theories and approaches, both of them help to understand that theory plays an important role in the practice of science. According to Popper (1959), the scientific practice has to be characterized by a number of efforts with the help of which people can test their theories, revise their outcomes, and use the scientific method as a tool to achieve the desired results. Kuhn (1970) suggests using observations as a means to define and improve the existing theoretical and philosophical beliefs. Theory can help to survive the crisis of thought. As soon as a crisis begins with “the blurring of a paradigm,” the idea should not be rejected at once because the past experience and additional explanations can be given, and a problem may be solved in more than one way (Kuhn, 1970). Popper (1959) does not agree and wants all theories to be falsified until one definite theory is left to prove the correctness of the scientific practice. Both approaches have a point, and both authors explain that the practice of science is based on theories.

In general, I believe that it is wrong to focus on the mistakes made by Popper and Kuhn in their judgments. It is better to say that their controversies provide modern students, researchers, and philosophers with an additional background for discussions. Popper’s realism and Kuhn’s revolutions prove the necessity to never stop offering new ideas and protecting personal points of view despite the standards imposed by society.

References

Kuhn, T. S. (1970). The structure of scientific revolutions (Vol. 2) (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago.

Popper, K. A. (1959). The logic of scientific discovery. New York, NY: Basic Books.

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"Philosophy of Scientific Knowledge in Kuhn’s and Popper’s Views." IvyPanda, 13 Dec. 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/philosophy-of-scientific-knowledge-in-kuhns-and-poppers-views/.

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IvyPanda. "Philosophy of Scientific Knowledge in Kuhn’s and Popper’s Views." December 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/philosophy-of-scientific-knowledge-in-kuhns-and-poppers-views/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Philosophy of Scientific Knowledge in Kuhn’s and Popper’s Views." December 13, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/philosophy-of-scientific-knowledge-in-kuhns-and-poppers-views/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Philosophy of Scientific Knowledge in Kuhn’s and Popper’s Views'. 13 December.

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