Paradigm: A Criterion for Choosing Problems

How does science work? And what's all this about quantum mechanics?

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coberst
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Paradigm: A Criterion for Choosing Problems

Post by coberst » Fri Jul 18, 2008 5:52 pm

Paradigm: A Criterion for Choosing Problems

I graduated in 1959 as an electronics engineer. I had been taught how to use math to solve engineering problems. I was taught how to do math but never taught what math and science was really about. After reading Thomas Kuhn’s book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” several years ago I began to understand the ways of math and the ways of solving problems in the natural sciences.

Normal science is a puzzle-solving enterprise. Normal science is a slow accumulation of knowledge by a methodical step-by-step process undertaken by a group of scientists.

“One of the things a scientific community acquires with a paradigm is a criterion for choosing problems that, while the paradigm is taken for granted, can be assumed to have solutions…A paradigm can, for that matter, even insulate the community from those socially important problems that are not reducible to the puzzle form, because they cannot be stated in terms of the conceptual and instrumental tools the paradigm supplies.”

The author notes that all “real science is normally a habit-governed, puzzle-solving activity” and not a philosophical activity. Paradigm and not hypothesis is the active meaning for the ‘new image of science’. Paradigm is neither a theory nor a metaphysical viewpoint.

Kuhn’s new image of science—the paradigm—is an artifact (a human achievement), a way of seeing, and is a set of scientific problem solving habits. Normal science means research based upon one or more past achievements ‘that some particular community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice…and these achievements are sufficiently unprecedented to attract an enduring group pf adherents away from competing modes of scientific activity’ furthermore they are sufficiently open-ended to leave all sorts of problems for the redefined group of practitioners to solve’. Such achievements Kuhn defines as paradigm.

“A puzzle-solving paradigm, unlike a puzzle-solving hypothetico-deductive system, has also got to be a concrete ‘way of seeing’.”

Kuhn constantly refers to the ‘gestalt switch’ when discussing the switch in reference from one paradigm to another as ‘re-seeing’ action. Each paradigm has been constructed to be a ‘way-of-seeing’. Here Kuhn is speaking not about what the paradigm is but how the paradigm is used. He is defining a paradigm as a newly developed puzzle-solving artifact that is used analogically to understand another artifact; for example, using wire and beads strung together to facilitate understanding the protein molecule.

I think that we place “Science” on too high a pedestal and thereby distort our comprehension of political and social problems. We cannot solve social and political problems like we solve the questions formed by the normal sciences.

Do you think that we place Science on too high a pedestal?

RachelAnn
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Post by RachelAnn » Fri Jul 18, 2008 6:36 pm

I think that we place “Science” on too high a pedestal and thereby distort our comprehension of political and social problems. We cannot solve social and political problems like we solve the questions formed by the normal sciences.
FINALLY!! Some common sense!! NO, we cannot solve social and political problems with the methods of "hard science," for lack of better way of saying it.
Gosh darned it, Coberst, you are the very first person with a college education who really "gets" this point!!!

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Arising_uk
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Post by Arising_uk » Fri Jul 18, 2008 7:18 pm

RachelAnn wrote:
I think that we place “Science” on too high a pedestal and thereby distort our comprehension of political and social problems. We cannot solve social and political problems like we solve the questions formed by the normal sciences.
FINALLY!! Some common sense!! NO, we cannot solve social and political problems with the methods of "hard science," for lack of better way of saying it.
Gosh darned it, Coberst, you are the very first person with a college education who really "gets" this point!!!
But we equally cannot solve them by the methods that were around before the 'hard sciences' produced the results they have. What we need are methods that make sense alongside the 'hard sciences'.

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bullwinkle
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Post by bullwinkle » Fri Jul 18, 2008 9:52 pm

coberst wrote:I think that we place “Science” on too high a pedestal and thereby distort our comprehension of political and social problems. We cannot solve social and political problems like we solve the questions formed by the normal sciences.

Do you think that we place Science on too high a pedestal?
I have a scientific background too and I also read Kuhn a few years ago. It's a good read and I think it has a lot going for it but there are a few problems. One was that Kuhn seems to mean 2 things when he uses his term paradigm change; one meaning is the gestalt shift and the other being a more gradual shifting of confidence. I think the other charge he has faced is that of relativism in that his theory doesn't seem to catch the idea of progress that clearly. Notwithstanding that I think it's one of the best accounts of science I've read and I currently have Kuhn's book 'The Copernican Revolution' on my reading pile. If you want to pursue this line of thought deeper then I think you get an even better account in Polanyi's 'Personal Knowledge'.

Regarding your question though: I wouldn't put it the way you have. I think we just get a bit carried away with method and we think that we can solve all our problems with one successful method. Physics in particular gets viewed as being objective and successful and we try to transfer that method when we should be considering the subject matter more and finding methods that are more appropriate. Mary Midgley has much to say on this.

I wouldn't say 'pedestal' just over-optimistic mis-application.

Bullwinkle

philofra
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Post by philofra » Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:21 pm

Coberst,

I think most of us know that Science can't solve everything and not everything can be measured in scientific terms. Nevertheless, I think it is good to have the rigors of scientific procedures around to push us to devise the best possible methods, even though we know that the absolute answer will always elude us.

Perhaps you can give us your interpretation of what Quine was saying when he said "Philosophy of science is philosophy enough".

RachelAnn
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Post by RachelAnn » Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:43 pm

Science measures facts; i.e., things done, phenomenal happenings, viewed in retrospect. It believes that all the facts can be found, and when the facts have been found, it will also be able to predict successive steps in an 'evolutionary' process. These steps could then be measured quantitatively.
People, on the other hand:
"Plant a radish, get a radish. With children you never know."

coberst
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Post by coberst » Sat Jul 19, 2008 8:43 am

philofra wrote:Coberst,

I think most of us know that Science can't solve everything and not everything can be measured in scientific terms. Nevertheless, I think it is good to have the rigors of scientific procedures around to push us to devise the best possible methods, even though we know that the absolute answer will always elude us.

Perhaps you can give us your interpretation of what Quine was saying when he said "Philosophy of science is philosophy enough".
I do not know what Quine means by that statement. I must admit I have little use for or little knowledge of analytic philosophy.

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