Objectivity in the Natural Sciences [Chapter 3 of Objectivity]

In Objectivity. Cambridge, UL; Malden, MA: Polity Press; Wiley. pp. 69-108 (2016)
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Abstract

Chapter 3 surveys objectivity in the natural sciences. Thomas Kuhn problematized the logicist understanding of the objectivity or rationality of scientific change, providing a very different picture than that of the cumulative or step-wise progress of theoretical science. Theories often compete, and when consensus builds around one competitor it may be for a variety of reasons other than just the direct logical implications of experimental successes and failures. Kuhn pitted the study of the actual history of science against what Hans Reichenbach referred to as the “logical substitutes” logicists used to reconstruct the rationality of theory change. Such substitutes were promoted to show that theory confirmation is a purely epistemic affair, where purely epistemic implies purely inferential. But where the positivists saw logical compulsion as the reason for theory change, Kuhn saw psychology in values as relevant to how theories are actually confirmed or accepted by the scientific community.

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Guy Axtell
Radford University

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