Archive for July, 2020

July 31, 2020

My views on science and relativism

by Neil Rickert

When I posted a review of “Science and Relativism” last week, I indicated that I would follow up with my own views on that topic.  So here it is.

When Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” came out, I thought it painted a somewhat better picture of science than what has been traditionally presented.  I didn’t agree with everything that Kuhn said, but I did like that he was challenging the traditional picture.

When, many years later, I read Feyerabend’s “Against Method”, I thought it a pretty good read.  I took Feyerabend to be poking fun at traditional philosophy of science, and I saw that as a good thing.  When he suggested that voodoo might work as well as science, I was not sure whether he was serious — and I’m still not sure.  In any case, I did not see him as a threat to science.

Where philosophy goes wrong

In my opinion, much of what people see as criticisms of science are really a reaction to the idea (from epistemology) that knowledge is justified true belief.  As best I can tell, most scientists and most mathematicians see knowledge as distinct from belief.

read more »

July 23, 2020

Science and Relativism

by Neil Rickert

I have been procrastinating on posting this.  I want to say more about truth and how it is actually used.  So I’ll start with a review of the book “Science and Relativism” by Larry Laudan.

I’ll note that the book was published in 1990.  I purchased it, maybe 15 or more years ago.  I recently returned to it for a second reading.

The author, Larry Laudan, is a philosopher of science.  I assume that he is semi-retired by now, but that’s just a guess.

In this post, I shall mainly refrain from expressing my view of the issues.  I plan a followup post where I present that.

What is relativism?

Broadly, relativism if the position that something is relative to something else.  And cultural relativism is that something is relative to culture and cultural traditions.  Most commonly, we hear of moral relativism.  However, when discussing science the issue typically has to do with scientific conclusions and scientific truth.

I’ll quote Laudan from his preface:

But it can be defined, to a first order of approximation, as the thesis that the natural world and such evidence as we have about that world do little or nothing to constrain our beliefs.  In a phrase, the relativists’ slogan is “The way we take things to be is quite independent of the way things are.”

read more »