CRUCIAL ISSUES IN POST MODERN PHILOSOPHY OF SCIENCE
(Induction, Psychologism, and Demarcation)
Dr. James D. Strauss
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A SURVEY OF SOME FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS 2
The Problem of Induction
Elimination of Psychologism
Deductive Testing of Theories
The Problem of Demarcation
Experience as Method Falsifiability as a Criterion of Demarcation The Problem of the “Empirical Basis”
Scientific Objectivity and Subjective Conviction
ON THE PROBLEM OF A THEORY OF SCIENTIFIC METHOD 6
Why Methodological Decisions Are Indispensable
The Naturalistic Approach to the Theory of Method
Methodological Rules as Conventions
Karl Popper’s book, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, is an attack upon logical positivism. Popper has made such a tremendous impact upon the world as a result of his common sense realism, which indicates that reality exists independently of our conceptions of it, though it may coincide with them. (Trigg, Roger, Reality at Risk: A Defense of Realism in Philosophy and the Sciences (NJ: Barnes and Noble, 1980, p. 3.) Properly stated, Karl Popper holds to the view that there is a real world with real people, plants, and animals.
In opposition to Popper’s view, logical positivism holds that “. . .any significant assertion must either be an empirical statement or else must be an arbitrary stipulation about how words are going to be used. (Barker, S.F., Induction and Hypothesis: A Study of the Logic of Confirmation (London: Cornell University Press, 1957), p. 18))
How can words be used differently? This positivistic approach to the usage of words is not only a matter for which common sense realism is concerned, but is also a hermeneutical concern. Is there only one meaning or are there multiple meanings behind reality and its usage of words?
Within his preface, Popper wrote:
Language analysts believe that there are no genuine philosophical problems, or that the problems of philosophy, if any, are problems of linguistic usage, or of the meaning of words. I, however, believe that there is at least one philosophical problem in which all thinking men are interested. . .the problem of understanding the world—including ourselves, and our knowledge, as part of the world. . . . Admittedly, understanding the functions of our language is an important part of it; but explaining away our problems as merely linguistic “puzzles” is not. (Popper, Sir Karl R. The Logic of Scientific Discovery (New York: Harper & Row Publishes, 1968, p. 15)
This paper is by no means an attempt to improve upon the words already written by Sir Karl. However, this paper is purposed to give an accurate, but concise, “review” of Popper’s work so that the reader(s) may have a more astute knowledge of the development and replacement of theories as seen in The Logic of Scientific Discovery.
A SURVEY OF SOME FUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMS
Popper states: “In . . . empirical sciences he (the scientist, whether theorist or experimenter) constructs hypotheses (i.e., statements or system of statements) and tests them against experience by observation and experiment. . . .” (Popper, p. 27) The task of the logic of scientific discovery is to analyze the method of the empirical sciences. (Ibid.) Notice the following “methods of the empirical sciences.”
The Problem of Induction:
Inductive reasoning is the passing from singular statements to universal statements, such as hypotheses or theories (Ibid). By definition, induction is—Reasoning in which general principles are derived from particular facts or instances (The American Heritage Dictionary (NY: Dell Pub. Co., 1983). The process of induction is—Assuming the simplest law that can be made to harmonize with our experience (Barker, p. 11). This process has no logical foundation, for its grounding is purely psychological (Ibid).
The empirical sciences claim that the logic of scientific discovery is identical with inductive logic (Popper p. 27). Therefore, the empirical sciences see its role of making generalizations from singular statements as being finite and universally verifiable until another postulate of better reasoning arises; but this is not the logic of scientific discovery. Using the inductive illustration, “. . .no matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white.” Popper opposes these claims of the empirical sciences (Ibid).
The “problem of induction” is: The question of whether inductive inferences are justified or not. (Ibid, p. 28). There are some who believe that this whole problem should be dropped (Barker, p. 13), while others, including this writer, realize that this problem must be addressed and dealt with properly.
The empirical sciences try to equate inductive inferences with deductive principles, but this is not an accurate assumption. Hume’s problem concerned the fact that one does not have the right to assume that the future will be like the past (Ibid, p. 10). Cassirer has written that the problem of induction’s only capable solution is to accept along with Hertz the supposition that “there is a certain accord between nature and our minds. Experience teaches that the postulate can be met, and therefore such a rapport actually exists.” (Cassirer, Ernst, The Problem of Knowledge: Philosophy, Science and History Since Hegel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950, p. 114) Popper has stated that in order to justify inductive inferences, one must first of all try to establish a principle of induction, which would classify those inferences into a logical form. (Popper, p. 28) If there were a purely logical principle of induction, then there would be no problem of induction; but there is no logical principle of induction (Ibid). There, the problem of induction continues.
ELIMINATION OF PSYCHOLOGISM
In recent years, Psychologism has been replaced with linguisticism, which attempts to construe the statements of logic and mathematics as expressing certain facts about language, which in turn is encompassing reductionism. (Chisholm, Roderick M., The Foundations of Knowing (University of Minnesota, 1982, p. 119)
The scientist’s work is the putting forth and the testing of theories (Popper, p. 31). How the theory is initiated is irrelevant when considering logical analysis. The major concern for logical analysis is verification justification (Ibid). For example, “Can a statement be justified? If so, how? Is it testable?” (Ibid)
Popper holds that there is no such thing as a logical method of having new ideas, or a logical reconstruction of this process; for he believes that there is an “irrational element” or a “creative intuition.” (Popper, pp 31-32)
Einstein has stated, “. . .there is no logical path leading to these . . .laws. They can only be reached by intuition, based upon something like an intellectual love. . .of the objects of experience (Popper, p. 32)
DEDUCTIVE TESTING OF THEORIES
By definition, deduction is the reaching of a conclusion via reasoning (The American Heritage Dictionary, 1983) Deductive testing of theories is:
. . .the method of critically testing theories, and selecting them according to the results of tests, always proceeds on the following lines. From a new idea, put up tentatively, and not yet justified in any way—an anticipation, a hypothesis, a theoretical system, or what you will—conclusions are drawn by means of logical deduction. . .(which) are then compared with one another. . .to find what logical relations exist between them. (Popper, p. 32)
According to Popper, there are four different lines along which these theories can be tested. First, there is the comparison of the conclusions among themselves (Ibid). Second, there is the investigation of the logical form of the theory to determine whether it is empirical, scientific or tautological (Ibid). Third, there is a comparison with other theories to determine whether the theory would constitute a scientific advance should it survive the testing (Ibid). Finally, there is the testing of the conclusions which are derived from it. (Ibid). Dewey has stated that by definition deduction as it usually occurs in science is not true deduction, for true deduction is concerned with meanings in their relation to one another, rather than with meanings directly referred to existence (Popper, p. 34). Furthermore, the reader(s) should note that a positive decision can only temporarily support the theory, for negative decisions may overthrow that theory at another time (Ibid).
THE PROBLEM OF DEMARCATION
The problem of demarcation is criterion which determines the distinction between the empirical sciences on the one hand, and mathematics, logic and metaphysical systems on the other. (Popper, p. 35) The positivists, on the other hand, look at this problem of demarcation in a naturalistic way, believing they must discover a difference between empirical science and metaphysics. (Ibid) In doing so, positivists try to reduce metaphysics to nonsensical information (i.e., that which has nothing to do with reality). In fact, “. . .what the positivists really want to achieve is not so much a successful demarcation as the final overthrow and the annihilation of metaphysics.” (Ibid, p. 36)
The first task of the logic of knowledge is to put forward a concept of empirical science so that linguistic usage is made as definite as possible and so that a clear line of distinction is drawn between science and metaphysical ideas. (Popper, pp. 38-39)
EXPERIENCE AS A METHOD
Empirical science is intended to represent the “world of our experience.” This experience must not be metaphysical in nature: therefore, experience is a distinctive method by which one theoretical system may be distinguished from others. The task of the theory of knowledge is the analysis of the method or procedure peculiar to empirical science (Popper, p. 39). Dewey has made the analogy between experience and fire. He states that fire is fire, but making fire is relational, for it takes thought from fire to the other things that either help or prevent its occurrence. In the same way, experience is experience, but its occurrence is affected by the attitudes and dispositions of the recipient of that experience (Dewey, pp. 232-237).
FALSIFIABILITY AS A CRITERION OF DEMARCATION
The doctrine of verification was defined in precise terms by the Vienna Circle in 1929 and defended by logical positivists otherwise known as logical empiricists (Chisholm, p. 123). This doctrine came to be known as the “verifiability theory of meaning” (Chisholm, p. 123). The Vienna Circle defined this theory of verification in this way:
(1) the more puzzling sentences of traditional philosophy differ from the sentences of the empirical sciences in that the latter but not the former are verifiable; and (2) a sentence (other than one expressing a truth or a falsehood of logic or mathematics) is meaningful, and there fore either true or false, if and only if it is verifiable (Ibid).
Russell and Whitehead, in their Principia Mathematica, implied that some statements are meaningless (Ibid). Therefore, if one can perceive that a sentence is meaningless, then one does not need to give further consideration to its truth or falsehood (ibid). Other philosophers, who were influenced by Wittgenstein, say that language can enunciate that certain philosophical statements are meaningless (Chisholm, p. 124). Once again, one must recall that logical positivists do not want a successful demarcation, but an annihilation of metaphysics (Popper, p. 36).
On the other hand, Popper holds to the fact that a hypothesis is not confirmed via verification, but rather via the falsification of some of its rival hypotheses (Barker, p. 156). Popper’s view is in no way dependent upon induction (Barker, p. 157). Polanyi has stated that even the slightest deviation would entail a complete refutation of the theory (Polanyi, Michael , Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (University of Chicago Press, 1962, p. 21). Polanyi has further stated:
Life is too short to allow us to go on testing millions of false H’s (hypotheses) in order to hit on a true one. . . .To select good questions for investigation is the mark of scientific talent, and any theory of inductive inference in which this talent plays no part is a Hamlet without the prince (Polanyi, p. 30).
Hertz was convinced that not every single element of a theory was susceptible or in need of verification (Cassirer, p. 106). However, as Polanyi has stated above already, even the slightest deviation would entail a complete refutation of the theory (Polanyi, p. 21). Hertz is incorrect. Cassirer has written that the assumption is untrue which states that every hypothesis employed by physics can be accepted on its own merits and separately tested by experience, after which that theory is verified it is then given its final place in the system (Cassirer, p. 113).
Logical positivists want to verify their statements inductively, while Popper is requiring that the system’s logical form must be able to be singled out via empirical tests in a negative sense, thereby allowing that system to be refuted by experience (Popper, p. 41).
THE PROBLEM OF THE “EMPIRICAL BASIS”
This problem may be defined in terms of the fact that subjectivism can never justify statements. Subjectivism is exactly what the empirical basis consists of. Therefore, one must distinguish between subjectivity and objectivity (this distinction shall be considered in the next section). In order to recall an accurate assessment within the falsification process (Popper, p. 44)
SCIENTIFIC OBJECTIVITY AND SUBJECTIVE CONVICTION
Popper’s definitions of objectivity and subjectivity were no different than that of Kant (Ibid). “Objectivity” indicates that scientific knowledge must be justifiable independently of anyone’s whim: furthermore, it must be tested and understood by anybody before one can say that it is truly objective (Ibid). In contrast, “subjectivity” is applied by Kant and Popper to one’s feelings of conviction (Ibid).
Dewey has stated that subjectivism makes the scientific knowledge absolute and fixed, while pure objectivism is a doctrine of fatalism (Dewey, p. 240). The subjectivist will conclude that there is no possibility of anyone having any evidence of the existence of unexperienced objects: therefore, there is no valid argumentation which claims to obtain the conclusion that independent things exist from the premise of sense experiences (Barker, p. 8). According to Popper, the objectivity of scientific statements lies in the fact that they can be “inter-subjectively tested” (Popper, p. 44). Science must, therefore, seek with all its might to “eliminate from science such passionate, personal, human appraisals of theories, or at least to minimize their function to that of a negligible by-play” (Polanyi, pp. 15-16).
ON THE PROBLEM OF A THEORY OF SCIENTIFIC METHOD
The theory of scientific method is primarily concerned with the choice of methods—with decisions about the way with which scientific statements are to be dealt (Popper, p. 49). The proposal of rules to insure the testifiability of scientific statements is imperative when considering empirical methods (Ibid).
WHY METHODOLOGICAL DECISIONS ARE INDISPENSABLE
The way one views methodological decision is dependent upon one’s attitude to science (Ibid). the empiricists, on the one hand, will give one answer which will be dependent upon their principles of verifiability (Ibid). While Popper and others like him have a very different approach: One of perceiving the revisions of propositions as a result of the correct usage of methodological decisions, which brings about advancement in the realm of science (Ibid).
Those who, like empiricists, uphold a theory or a system of theories dogmatically, are not doing the work of the true scientist, for the real work of the scientist consists of not verification but of falsification (Popper, p. 50). “If you insist on strict proof (or on strict disproof) in the empirical sciences, you will never benefit from experience, and never learn from it how wrong you are” (Ibid).
If therefore we characterize empirical science merely by the formal or logical structure of its statements, we shall not be able to exclude from it that prevalent form of metaphysics which results from elevating an obsolete scientific theory into an incontrovertible truth (Ibid).
THE NATURALISTIC APPROACH TO THE THEORY OF METHOD
The naturalistic methodology is also known as the “inductive theory of science.” Popper, of course, rejects this theory on the basis that it is uncritical, for the ones upholding this view, whether they realize it or not, are only proposing conventions which turn into dogma. (Popper, p. 53)
METHODOLOGICAL RULES AS CONVENTIONS
Methodological rules or conventions may be described as the rules of the game of empirical science (Ibid). For example, the empirical scientist practices the theory of verification in order to verify or justify his theory. Upon the completion of his verification, if his theory is indeed verified, then that theory is regarded as such until another theory is able to take its place. Until that occurs, the empiricist “retires” from the game of empirical science (Popper, pp. 53-54).
The verified theory may not “drop out” until it is replaced by another via falsification of one of the consequences of the hypothesis, or until another which is better testable arises (Ibid).
Having studied this portion of Sir Karl R. Popper’s book, The Logic of Scientific Discovery, that Popper has crushed the head of logical positivism is quite evident. Furthermore, if the Church would only build upon Sir Karl’s work, in addition to realizing that Jesus is Lord of all including knowledge, one is staggered by all the possibilities. Naturalism and Inductionism has taken knowledge and the credibility of knowledge away from the Church, but God has opened the door to the regaining of this knowledge in its proper perspective. Through His glorious sovereignty He used one of the greatest minds of all time—Sir Karl R. Popper-to accomplish His task. If the Church does not seize this opportunity, then she has defied the sovereignty of our God and has failed to penetrate the sin in this world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. However, when the Church regains the authoritative truth of God and stands upon it, the sin, turmoil and chaos within this world will diminish under the grace of Christ.
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