falsifiability fetish was Re: anti-depressants

JKSCHW at aol.com JKSCHW at aol.com
Wed Aug 30 11:41:05 PDT 2000

Sure. the basic problem is pointed out by Quine, not in the context of falsifiability per se, that any theory can be held true by making suitable adjustments elsewhere. (This in Two Problems of Empiricism). Thus, no theory is falsifiable in the sense that the early Popper hoped strictly scientific theories might be. Popper recognized this by the time of Conjectures and Refutations, and his greatest disciple, Imre Lakatos, worked up a complex theory about "progressive" and "degenerating" research programmes to preserve the spirit of falsifiability within the framework of the Quinean insight. the idea is that the latter sort keep coming up with failures that have to be explained away rather than successes that extend the range and scope of the theory, and at some point only cranks believe it. Lakatos, a Hungarian emigre, cited Marxism as the prime example of a degenerating research program.

--jks (formerly a philosopher of science, or couldn't you tell)

<< >>Is there any good critique of the falsifiability fetish? I suspect it's questionable, but I can't put my finger on why.


For fairly ortho vacation reading on the topic try:

Can theories be refuted? : Essays on the Duhem-Quine thesis. Edited by Sandra G. Harding 1976

Social Epistemology. By Steve Fuller 1988 [this one sort of launched the science studies movement and has a great appendix on the tensions between the authoritarian proclivities of expert knowledge and the democratic "demand" for holding big science accountable; it takes some great swipes at Popper and his ilk]

Justin probably has some good suggestions....



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