[OPE-L:4160] Re: Re: (Fwd) Re: Who agrees with Popper? [re OPE-L:4154]

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Thu Oct 19 2000 - 09:14:22 EDT

Steve writes [OPE-L: 4159]

>I haven't kept up with the philosophy of science since Lakatos--though I
>have read all the references you note below. I dispute that it is Popper's
>litmus test which has been rejected. What has been rejected are his
>concepts of how scientists do and should behave. I would find it strange
>for any philospher of science to define as a science a set of propositions
>which has been designed to be unfalsifiable--though of course adjusting
>ancillary assumptions is a normal part of the development of a SRP.

Pulling a book off my shelf.... it seems Popper thought that objectivity in
the social sciences depends on the 'critical method' implied by
falsification, since 'only in the rarest cases can the social scientist
free himself from the value system of his own social class and so achieve
even a limited degree of "value freedom" and "objectivity" (Logic of the
Social Sciences, in Adorno 1976 edn. *The Positivist Dispute in German

"Truth" wins out through a process of criticism?! Does anyone disagree with

Like Andy, I'd like to see some justification for a claim that
falsifiablity is the *only* criterion for judging a theory 'scientific'.
Steve's present answer doesn't stand up to the Duhem-Quine thesis that any
single hypothesis is immune to falsification because of its theoretical
auxiliary hypotheses?  Adjusting assumptions doesn't help you to solve the
problem!  Another basic question is the one of whether the objective tests
you devise as your litmus test can be disentangled from the theoretical
biases of the theory from which they are derived? 

As for the 'critical' element in the social sciences, I recall from
undergrad Philosophy of Social Sciences that Habermas had something
interesting to say about it.  Something to do with how far people in their
communications have the competence to raise questions.  Might it not be,
then, that positive methodologies imply a closure of debate (rather than an
invitation to criticism).  After all, restricting the definition of what
counts as science effectively ensures that alternative voices struggle to
be heard (don't we know it!). 

In one of his papers Mirowski made a similar point about the futility of
applying a Lakatosian framework to an evaluation of the 'truths' expounded
by different schools in economics.  For the simple reason that there is a
*lack* of agreement between these schools as to what counts as science and
therefore no commonly held criterion of judgement, and no commonly held
methodological magic wand for revealing what is to count as 'truth' in the
first place.  What you take as unproblematic, Steve, is very problematic

Popper, of course, rejects the view that theories are fundamentally
incomensurable, remarking caustically on the 'myth of the framework'.  He
supports his remark only by ignoring any debate about the nature of
'science' and the nature of 'truth' in his discussions of the nature of the
'critical stance' - either as critical rationalism or as a critical theory
of society.  He certainly ignores the political/ideological foundations of
his own view.  As Adorno points out - in the same book that contains
Popper's 'Logic' - 'there is more than one ghost in the machine' (p.xv).

So, does this mean I agree with Andy.  Not necessarily since I don't think
that Marxian theory should be put above empirical testing.  To say that it
should be is surely to put up another set of artificial boundaries about
*what constitutes Marxism as science*.  I prefer to think that the question
is open to social (re)construction and debate.


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