Theory-ladenness

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In the philosophy of science, observations are said to be "theory‐laden" when they are affected by the theoretical presuppositions held by the investigator. The thesis of theory‐ladenness is most strongly associated with the late 1950s and early 1960s work of Norwood Russell Hanson, Thomas Kuhn, and Paul Feyerabend, and was probably first put forth (at least implicitly) by Pierre Duhem about 50 years earlier. [1]

Philosophy of science is a sub-field of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions of this study concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. This discipline overlaps with metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, for example, when it explores the relationship between science and truth.

Observation active acquisition of information from a primary source

Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the recording of data via the use of scientific instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during the scientific activity. Observations can be qualitative, that is, only the absence or presence of a property is noted, or quantitative if a numerical value is attached to the observed phenomenon by counting or measuring.

A scientific theory is an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested and verified in accordance with the scientific method, using accepted protocols of observation, measurement, and evaluation of results. Where possible, theories are tested under controlled conditions in an experiment. In circumstances not amenable to experimental testing, theories are evaluated through principles of abductive reasoning. Established scientific theories have withstood rigorous scrutiny and embody scientific knowledge.

Contents

Forms

Two forms of theory‐ladenness should be kept separate: (a) The semantic form: the meaning of observational terms is partially determined by theoretical presuppositions; (b) The perceptual form: the theories held by the investigator, at a very basic cognitive level, impinge on the perceptions of the investigator. The former may be referred to as semantic and the latter as perceptual theory‐ladenness.

In a book showing the theory-ladenness of psychiatric evidences, Massimiliano Aragona (Il mito dei fatti, 2009) distinguished three forms of theory-ladenness. The "weak form" was already affirmed by Popper (it is weak because he maintains the idea of a theoretical progress directed to the truth of scientific theories). The "strong" form was sustained by Kuhn and Feyerabend, with their notion of incommensurability.

Karl Popper Austrian-British philosopher of science

Sir Karl Raimund Popper was an Austrian-British philosopher and professor.

Commensurability is a concept in the philosophy of science whereby scientific theories are commensurable if scientists can discuss them using a shared nomenclature that allows direct comparison of theories to determine which theory is more valid or useful. On the other hand, theories are incommensurable if they are embedded in starkly contrasting conceptual frameworks whose languages do not overlap sufficiently to permit scientists to directly compare the theories or to cite empirical evidence favoring one theory over the other. Discussed by Ludwik Fleck in the 1930s, and popularized by Thomas Kuhn in the 1960s, the problem of incommensurability results in scientists talking past each other, as it were, while comparison of theories is muddled by confusions about terms, contexts and consequences.

However, Kuhn was a moderate relativist [ citation needed ] and maintained the Kantian view that although reality is not directly knowable, it manifests itself "resisting" to our interpretations. On the contrary, Feyerabend completely reversed the relationship between observations and theories, introducing an "extra-strong" form of theory-ladenness in which "anything goes".[ citation needed ]

Immanuel Kant Prussian philosopher

Immanuel Kant was an influential German philosopher. In his doctrine of transcendental idealism, he argued that space, time and causation are mere sensibilities; "things-in-themselves" exist, but their nature is unknowable. In his view, the mind shapes and structures experience, with all human experience sharing certain structural features. He drew a parallel to the Copernican revolution in his proposition that worldly objects can be intuited a priori ('beforehand'), and that intuition is therefore independent from objective reality. Kant believed that reason is the source of morality, and that aesthetics arise from a faculty of disinterested judgment. Kant's views continue to have a major influence on contemporary philosophy, especially the fields of epistemology, ethics, political theory, and post-modern aesthetics.

See also

In philosophy of science, confirmation holism, also called epistemological holism, is the view that no individual statement can be confirmed or disconfirmed by an empirical test, but only a set of statements.

Duhem–Quine thesis in philosophy of science, the thesis that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation, because an empirical test of the hypothesis requires one or more background assumptions

The Duhem–Quine thesis, also called the Duhem–Quine problem, after Pierre Duhem and Willard Van Orman Quine, is that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation, because an empirical test of the hypothesis requires one or more background assumptions. In recent decades the set of associated assumptions supporting a thesis sometimes is called a bundle of hypotheses.

The concept of the metaphysics of presence is an important consideration in deconstruction. Deconstructive interpretation holds that the entire history of Western philosophy with its language and traditions has emphasized the desire for immediate access to meaning, and thus built a metaphysics or ontotheology based on privileging presence over absence.

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Logical positivism and logical empiricism, which together formed neopositivism, was a movement in Western philosophy whose central thesis was verificationism, a theory of knowledge which asserted that only statements verifiable through empirical observation are meaningful. The movement flourished in the 1920s and 1930s in several European centers.

Imre Lakatos Hungarian mathematician, philosopher

Imre Lakatos was a Hungarian philosopher of mathematics and science, known for his thesis of the fallibility of mathematics and its 'methodology of proofs and refutations' in its pre-axiomatic stages of development, and also for introducing the concept of the 'research programme' in his methodology of scientific research programmes.

Paul Feyerabend Austrian-born philosopher of science

Paul Karl Feyerabend was an Austrian-born philosopher of science best known for his work as a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he worked for three decades (1958–1989). At various different points in his life, he lived in England, the United States, New Zealand, Italy, Germany, and finally Switzerland. His major works include Against Method, Science in a Free Society and Farewell to Reason. Feyerabend became famous for his purportedly anarchistic view of science and his rejection of the existence of universal methodological rules. He was an influential figure in the sociology of scientific knowledge. Asteroid (22356) Feyerabend is named in his honour.

In Philosophy of Science and in Epistemology, Instrumentalism is a methodological view that ideas are useful instruments, and that the worth of an idea is based on how effective they are in explaining and predicting phenomena. Instrumentalism is a pragmatic philosophy of John Dewey that thought is an instrument for solving practical problems, and that truth is not fixed but changes as problems change. Instrumentalism is the view that scientific theories are useful tools for predicting phenomena instead of true or approximately true descriptions

Scientific realism is the view that the universe described by science is real regardless of how it may be interpreted.

Empirical evidence knowledge acquired by means of the senses

Empirical evidence is the information received by means of the senses, particularly by observation and documentation of patterns and behavior through experimentation. The term comes from the Greek word for experience, ἐμπειρία (empeiría).

<i>The Structure of Scientific Revolutions</i> book

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Eliminative materialism Philosophical view that states-of-mind as commonly understood do not exist

Eliminative materialism is the claim that people's common-sense understanding of the mind is false and that certain classes of mental states that most people believe in do not exist. It is a materialist position in the philosophy of mind. Some supporters of eliminativism argue that no coherent neural basis will be found for many everyday psychological concepts such as belief or desire, since they are poorly defined. Rather, they argue that psychological concepts of behaviour and experience should be judged by how well they reduce to the biological level. Other versions entail the non-existence of conscious mental states such as pain and visual perceptions.

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Pierre Duhem French physicist, historian of science

Pierre Maurice Marie Duhem was a French theoretical physicist who worked on thermodynamics, hydrodynamics, and the theory of elasticity. Duhem was also a historian of science, noted for his work on the European Middle Ages. As a philosopher of science, he is remembered principally for his views on the indeterminacy of experimental criteria.

The demarcation problem in the philosophy of science and epistemology is about how to distinguish between science and non-science, including between science, pseudoscience, and other products of human activity, like art and literature, and beliefs. The debate continues after over two millennia of dialogue among philosophers of science and scientists in various fields, and despite broad agreement on the basics of scientific method.

Verificationism, also known as the verification idea or the verifiability criterion of meaning, is the philosophical doctrine that only statements that are empirically verifiable are cognitively meaningful, or else they are truths of logic (tautologies).

Conventionalism is the philosophical attitude that fundamental principles of a certain kind are grounded on agreements in society, rather than on external reality. Although this attitude is commonly held with respect to the rules of grammar, its application to the propositions of ethics, law, science, mathematics, and logic is more controversial.

Epistemological anarchism

Epistemological anarchism is an epistemological theory advanced by Austrian philosopher of science Paul Feyerabend which holds that there are no useful and exception-free methodological rules governing the progress of science or the growth of knowledge. It holds that the idea of the operation of science by fixed, universal rules is unrealistic, pernicious, and detrimental to science itself.

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Paul Hoyningen-Huene is a German philosopher who specializes in general philosophy of science and research ethics. He is best known for his Neo-Kantian interpretation of Thomas S. Kuhn's ideas. Hoyningen-Huene holds the chair for theoretical philosophy, particularly philosophy of science at Leibniz Universität Hannover (Germany) and is director of the Center for Philosophy and Ethics of Science.

References

  1. Bogen, Jim (2014): "Theory and Observation in Science", In: Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition).