[OPE-L:4161] Re: Who agrees with Popper?

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Thu Oct 19 2000 - 09:49:56 EDT


Many thanks for the reply. 

The 'return to practice' view, now prevalent amongst philosophers of 
science, is precisely the relativist view that it is *not* the job of 
philosopher to *prescribe* to scientists, to provide a definition of 
science, as eg 'producer of falsifiable hypotheses', against which 
actual scientific practice must be judged. Rather, a particular 
science is what particular scientists do, according to this view. So 
what you would 'find strange' doesn't occur. Philosophers of 
science do not define science *a priori* at all. Rather they study 
the practice of particular sciences, and may attempt to define them 
*a posteriori*. Not surprisingly, in the case of neoclassical 
economics, they conclude that neo-classical economics has very 
little to do with falsifiablity.

Thus, there is no critical edge to the prevalent philosophy of 
science. It is thoroughly 'post-modern', if you like. Lakatos went out 
of favour in philosophy of science circles a long time ago; in 
economic methodolgy circles (as opposed to circles of practicising 
economists) few adherents of Lakatos are left - though there are 
some. Have another look at the excellent intro to the Backhouse 
collection on all this (there are other useful and more recent 
collections which i don't have to hand). 

My own limited knowledge on this comes from my being well 
acquainted with critical realism (eg. I'm co-editing a book collection 
on CR and Marxism). CR was born in the philosophy of science 
discipline as a synthesis of the Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos tradition with 
the realist tradition (eg Harre, Hansen, Hesse). It spent its early 
years (the 70s) arguing against positivism (but also Feyerabend) 
but now spends its time arguing against post-modernism - this 
indicates the sea change in the philosophy of science (away from 
Popper-Kuhn-Lakatos), and in the social science and humanities 
more generally, towards post-modernism.

I disagree with the 'return to practice' view and with CR, and also 
with any 'falsifiability' view, by the way, at least as the term 
'falsifiablility' is usually understood. The tension between 
prescription and description is a manifestion of the contradiction 
between the universal and the particular that drives the dialectic. 

But I remain very interested to find out where other people stand. 
Who believes in 'falsifiablity' as a litmus test for science? This is an 
important question. For example, the fact that Steve and myself 
have very different readings of Capital will be related to our different 
readings of the state of play in contemporary philosophy of science.

Thanks again,



On 19 Oct 2000, at 22:53, Steve Keen wrote:

> This will be an almost as brief reply as my previous one, because of other
> time pressures.
> I interpret Lakatos' concept of Scientific Research Programs as being
> potentially degenerative as describing the way in which Marxists have
> reacted to the criticisms which have been cast under the rubric of the
> transformation problem: they have forever adjusted the "protective belt" of
> ancillary hypotheses in order to protect what they perceive as the "hard
> core"--being the assertion that labor is the only source of surplus value.
> I see Lakatos' concepts as continuing Popper's distinction between science
> and non-science, though in a far more subtle, sophisticated and
> historically accurate form.
> 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.
> Steve
> At 11:40 19/10/00 +0100, you wrote:
> >Steve,
> >
> >I ask again, a point of agreement amongst whom? I flatly disagree 
> >with you if you say it is agreed by either economic methodologists 
> >or by philosophers of science. See for example the well known 
> >collection on economic methodology edited by Roger Backhouse, 
> >'New directions in economic methodology' (Routledge 1994).  But 
> >more than that consider the entire development of economic 
> >methodology since Blaug's seminal text on the topic. Blaug 
> >asserts not just Popper-Lakatos's general view but also the specific 
> >one regarding the litmus test. And it is this litmus test, more than 
> >anything else, that *has* been rejected by most people in the field. 
> >What on earth is the current 'return to practice' if it isn't a rejection 
> >of the litmus test? How then can you assert that it (the litmus test) 
> >remains a point of agreement?
> >
> >At the very least you must argue for this contentious assertion (one 
> >that is incorrect on my view!)
> >
> >Andy
> >
> >PS I have been unable to solve the problem of the 'send reply to' 
> >field. Any help on this would be appreciated.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >------- Forwarded message follows -------
> >Date sent:      	Thu, 19 Oct 2000 21:04:54 +1000
> >To:             	Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk
> >From:           	Steve Keen <s.keen@uws.edu.au>
> >Subject:        	Re: [OPE-L:4155] Who agrees with Popper? [re OPE-L:4154]
> >
> >Popper's theory of how a science does develop and should practice has been
> >rejected since Kuhn. But his litmus test remains a point of agreement.
> >
> >Steve

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