[OPE-L:6623] Re: what is the more important question?

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Fri Feb 22 2002 - 10:45:44 EST

Re Nicky's [6622]:

> 2.  The most IMPORTANT question is then Jerry's 2) which theory BEST
> explains 'C'?

Good. I'm glad we agree on that.

> The SUBSIDIARY and related question is Jerry's 1) how does
> each theory explain 'C'?  It seems logical to suppose that we need to ask
> the 'how' question in order to ask the 'best' question.

My point simply was that 2) is the more important question that needs to
be raised. Note that I didn't assert that 1) was not important -- only that
2) is more important.  IF one gets agreement that 2) is then the more
important question, THEN one can go on to discuss HOW that
question can be discussed and answered.

> BUT:
> 3.  This introduces a knotty new question: WHAT CRITERIA do the advocates
> of Theory Y and Theory Z use to compare their theories?  Do they agree on
> the criteria for evaluation?  What makes it possible to conclude that one
> theory is BETTER than the competing one at explaining 'C'?
> To put it another way.  Can the advocates of Theory Y and Theory Z AGREE
> on > criteria for judging the comparative worth of their different
> If > the answer is YES and all participants are rational, one theory will
to be
> abandoned by unanimous agreement (a paradigm shift); If the answer is NO
> then competing theories of 'C' will coexist, because no common agreement
> on  what is the 'scientific' way to judge which is better!

I hear what you're saying but let me suggest an alternative method for at
least BEGINNING a discussion of 2).

Suppose that the advocates for Theories A and B (developed originally by
Y and Z) have arguments for WHY they think that their respective theory is
BETTER THAN the alternative.

Let them begin by LISTING those arguments.

E.g. advocates for Theory A might list the following arguments: A1, A2, A3,
A4, A5. Advocates for theory B might also have arguments for why their
theory is better: B1, B2, B3, B4, B5 .  (I am assuming equal quantities of
arguments as a simplifying assumption).

In listing and EXPLAINING A1-A5 or B1-B5 each group has the opportunity
to CLARIFY -- and perhaps MODIFY -- their own arguments. This is a
very useful exercise in itself since it gets each group to think more
about WHY they consider their theory to be a superior explanation for C (the
subject matter).

THEN -- the next step -- is for each group to CRITIQUE the arguments put
forward by advocates of  the other theory and to ANSWER THE CRITIQUE
from advocates of the counter-perspective of their own arguments. In so
doing,  either or both sides may be forced to abandon one or more of their
arguments: e.g. if  A1 states that A is a superior theory since Y  was a
'great person' (indeed even a 'genius') then A1 must be rejected by all
since it is really an appeal to authority (and also irrelevant) rather than
a real argument.

NOW we get to the question you ask: can we, assuming there is still
disagreement (a safe assumption, I would think): can the advocates of A
and B jointly develop criteria with which the outstanding questions can be
answered? This is indeed a "knotty" issue, as you suggest, but my point is
that AS A PRACTICAL MATTER I don't see how one gets to that issue
until one has gotten past the above steps in the discussion of A and B.
In other words, the FIRST issue isn't so much how one ultimately resolves
differences in perspective (if that is possible) but rather to get advocates
of A and B to recognize what is "the more important question" and to
begin in good faith to attempt to answer that question.  Until that question
is answered then the realm of discussion might very well be limited to the
SECONDARY question -- what was Y's perspective? (Q1).  In
other words if you don't begin by recognizing that Q2  *IS*  the more
important question then you may never really get around to
discussing it!

In solidarity, Jerry

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