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James Yu

Exam No. 1

Question 1 (b)

Philosophy of science is the study of the philosophical aspects and implications of

science. We cannot begin studying aspects of science without knowing what science is.

Therefore, philosophy of science needs to have a way to distinguish science from other

ways of explaining the world (like religion and astrology). The problem of demarcation

is exactly this. In addition, the problem of demarcation can be useful in practice, as seen

from the court case of McLean v. Arkansas. However, specifying specific criteria that is

valid for all sciences can be quite difficult. I think it would be an ideal case if philosophy

of science provided a concrete answer to the demarcation problem. But realistically, the

problem is difficult and controversial.

Finding unique criteria for science can tell us a lot about the methodologies of

science. We can use these criteria as a clue to what methods are (and aren’t) used in

science. This works sometimes for specific sciences, but cannot be held as a general rule.

For example, falsifiability is a criteria heavily pushed by Popper. In short, he

states that for a theory to be scientific, it needs to be falsifiable. This was in contrast to

some theories (like Freudian) whose proponents could always find confirming evidence.

Thus, falsifiability implies that scientists should be open-minded and allow possibilities

which can prove their theory false. The example Popper pointed to was the corroborating

evidence of Einstein’s theory of relativity during an eclipse. At that point, the whole

theory was put to the test, and had an unmistakable risk of being falsified.
Here, we see that falsifiability imparts a normative statement about scientific

theories, and how scientists ought to behave. A lot of science does indeed follow the

falsifiability principle—the core theories can be falsified and updated. Revolutionary

events like these are possible, but can be rare.

The methods of science, too, can shed some light on what constitutes something

being scientific. Kuhn proposed that philosophy of science should reflect what scientists

have done. For example, Kuhn said there are two major distinctions in science: normal

and revolutionary. During normal science, people are basically performing puzzle

solving. They take for granted the core theories within a paradigm, and solve puzzles that

are well-posed within the context of the theory. This has the effect of pushing theories to

their limits and providing depth in the field by analyzing new phenomena using accepted

theory. Revolutionary science occurs when the actual core theories are being challenged,

most likely due to long standing puzzles that refused to be solved.

Kuhn’s account of how scientific theories progress leads us to novel conclusions

about demarcation—that scientific theories can produce well-posed puzzles. These

puzzles may or may not be solvable, but are puzzles nonetheless. From this example, we

see that examining the history of science can lead us to ideas about demarcation.

This is also exemplified by Lakatos’ idea of research programmes. Basically,

Lakatos says that theories have a hard core that is surrounded by auxiliary hypothesis.

The programme uses the auxiliary hypothesis to protect the hard core. In this way, the

theory is protected and the programme can continue. He makes the distinction between

progressive and degenerate programmes. In short, the progressive programmes continue

to make novel predictions, while the degenerate ones are not making predictions and are,
in fact, playing “catch up” to new phenomenon that seem to be inconsistent with their

theories. We see that just by considering some of the qualities present in existing and

past research programmes, we have considered a demarcation quality—that of

progressive and degenerate programmes. This may be used to (for example) refute the

fact that astrology is a science, since it an example of a degenerate research programme.

In conclusion, we have seen that the methods of science and the demarcation

problem are intertwined. Kuhn and Lakatos held the view that the demarcation problem

should be solved by looking to the past and present scientific methods. In some cases, we

see that purely demarcative statements (like Popper’s falsifiability) are normative with

respect to science, while some historical scientific methods (like Lakatos’ research

programmes) are descriptive with respect to the demarcation problem. Studying the

history of science proves to be helpful for demarcating by examining what scientists have

done. Also, studying the demarcation problem can lead us to judge how scientific a

theory is, and also point us to what methods are trademark to a theory being scientific.
Question 2 (a)

The logical empiricists derived their beliefs from the empiricist ideology. Thus, at

its core, the logical empiricists only believed in things and ideas that are observable.

Their concept of truth is grounded in two types: analytic and synthetic.

Analytic truths are truths in virtue of the meaning of the words. These truths are

said to be empty, since if one has knowledge of the meanings, the truth adds no new

knowledge. Synthetic truths are claims about the actual world, and are not true in virtue

of their meanings. These types of truths hold a special view by logical empiricists—that

synthetic truths are only meaningful is verifiable. If a synthetic claim cannot be broken

down to observable phenomenon, then the logical empiricist will say that it is

meaningless. They do not even claim it to be false or true—just meaningless.

Logical empiricists believed in induction to further justify a synthetic statement.

However, their concept of truth is still very much attached to the idea of verifiable claims.

Thus, for example, Einstein’s special relativity is better than Lorentz’s since Einstein

dropped the idea of absolute space. Lorentz’s theory included the idea that there is an

absolute space, but we can never measure it. Even though the two theories are

empirically equivalent, the logical empiricists turn down Lorentz’s theory since it

included elements which can never be verified.

The logical empiricists’ view of science is highly non-theoretical. When they talk

about a concept in science, like a cathode ray, they are really talking about the observable

consequences of a cathode ray (like how they bend in a magnetic field). The theory

behind the cathode ray is meaningless, since we cannot “know” an electron without
seeing consequences. Thus, science to an empiricist is a tool to relate statements about

observations and sensations.

Popper is the ultimate skeptic when it comes to scientific truth. His basic belief is

that no theory can be proved true. The closest thing to truth Popper admits is that a

particular theory is not falsified.

Popper gives no real way to justify a scientific claim other than to say that it isn’t

falsified. Any apparent confirmation is just a non-falsification. He does, however, make

a normative statement that good theories need to be bold and risky, and avoid ad hoc

changes that always finds confirmations.

There has been a lot of criticism about Popper’s falsification criteria, which has

made Popper admit to another property: corroboration. Popper says that non-falsified

theories land in two categories: severely tested and not. The ones that are severely tested

he deems corroborated. However, he stresses that this is not the same as confirmation,

and is merely like a report card that shows the track record of the theory. It makes no

predictions on the validity of the theory in future tests. But he does say that when there is

nothing else rational to go on, we should choose well corroborated theories.

The view of science that Popper gives us is one of conjecture and refutation.

After a new hypothesis is made, scientists are to keep an open mind and continually test

their hypothesis until it is falsified. This cycle continues with another hypothesis that is

conjectured to replace it. Thus, Popper’s view of science is one of continued falsification

—the real truth may be out there, but, we will never know when we have happened upon

it, nor will we know if we will ever find it. All we can do is come up with new

hypothesis for us to test.