The scientific methodWhen is research scientific? What is the definition of, or the criteria for, the scientific method?Is there such a thing as the scientific method?The problem of demarcation (Karl Popper 1934): how to demarcate between science and pseudo-science (e.g., metaphysics cf. logical empiricism, the Vienna Circle)?N.B. Pseudo-science must not be confused with non-science. Clearly non-scientific human practices, e.g., art or sport, are not pseudo-scientific, whereas practices/disciplines like astrology, graphology, creationism, spiritual healing, anthroposophy, etc., are usually taken to be.Not everything must be made scientific, but practices/disciplines that do not fulfill the criteria for scientificity should not pretend to be scientific.
The scientific method (contd)Is there a single correct scientific method (the scientific method), or are there several?Methodological monism (or methodological optimism): there is only one correct scientific method, and it can be discovered (cf. logical empiricism, the unity of science movement).Methodological pluralism: there are several different, equally correct scientific methods (e.g., reflecting the differences of various disciplines, such as the natural and the human sciences).Radical pluralism: methodological anarchism (Paul Feyerabend: anything goes!) cf. relativism.
The scientific method (contd)Charles S. Peirce, The Fixation of Belief (1877): four different ways of fixing beliefs about the world.(1) the method of tenacity(2) the method of authority(3) the method of what is agreeable to reason (the intuitive method, the a priori method)(4) the scientific methodA criterion for reality: independence of what any number of persons may think, hope, etc.Our beliefs should be fixed by an external permanency.Yet, the world may not be independent of thought in general.Well return to the issue of realism within pragmatist philosophy of science (which Peirce founded).
The scientific method (contd)On the basis of Peirces (and others) reflections on the scientific method, we may emphasize the following corner stones of scientific rationality (among others):ObjectivityPublicityCritical thinkingSelf-correctivenessAutonomyProgressivenessProblem: who is supposed to set these criteria, from which perspective, on what grounds? Is this the task of the philosophy of science, or of the scientific community and/or research process itself?Traditional (autonomous) vs. naturalized philosophy of science!
Naturalism and relativismNaturalism: there is no first philosophy no autonomous philosophical perspective over and above science itself (W.V. Quine). Rather, science and philosophy (of science) must be seen as continuous with each other.The problem of circularity: if science itself, instead of any prior, more fundamental philosophical theory of the nature of science, establishes its own normative criteria, does it have any foundation at all? How does this situation differ from, e.g., the religious fundamentalists claim that the Bible establishes its own authority as a sacred text?Naturalism challenges the traditional normative nature of the philosophy of science: the norms of scientific research cannot be established from outside science.
From naturalism to relativism?We may sketch the following loose argument:(1) Naturalism: there is no first philosophy that could normatively determine what science is, or what it ought to be, from a perspective lying outside science itself. (Premise.)(2) Therefore, science itself determines its own criteria. In particular, the problem of demarcation (between science and pseudo-science of metaphysics) can be settled only science-internally; if understood as a general philosophical problem, it is a mere pseudo-problem. (Follows from (1). The structure of the argument could be made more explicit by adding the premise that the criteria of science can only be settled either science-internally or science-externally.)
From naturalism to relativism (contd)(3) There is no ahistorical criterion, independent of the historical phase of the development of science (or a particular scientific discipline), for determining what is (good, proper, correct) science. (Follows from (1) and (2), at least by adding the obvious premise that science is a historically developing phenomenon.)(4) There are, in the history of science, radically divergent stages with very different conceptions of the criteria of (good, proper, correct) science and of the science vs. pseudo-science demarcation. (Premise, a historical statement of fact. Cf. Thomas S. Kuhn: paradigms, scientific revolutions.)(5) Therefore, we must accept relativism: the criteria of science (and demarcation) are relative to the historical stage of science (or a particular scientific discipline), a (Kuhnian) paradigm, a perspective or point of view, a tradition, a local scientific community, a culture, a social context, or some other background that makes it possible for scientists to pursue their disciplines. (Follows from (3) and (4).)
From naturalism to relativism (contd)The argument above is not strictly deductively valid but can easily be transformed into a more explicit, deductively valid argument by adding relatively obvious premises.It seems that relativism follows from the naturalist denial of there being any foundational first philosophy which would determine the normative criteria of the scientific method.Challenge: is there a middle ground option available, a moderate form of naturalism with no radically relativist consequences? (Well examine this issue in relation to pragmatist philosophy of science.)
Forms of relativismMoral relativismCognitive relativismConceptual (ontological) relativismPerceptual relativism (cf. the theory- and concept-ladenness of observation)Alethic relativism (relativism about truth)Logical relativism (relativism about valid inference or the criteria of rationality)No exhaustive survey of different relativisms is possible here. Nor am I implying that moral and cognitive relativisms would always be easily distinguishable.Relative to culture, paradigm, conceptual scheme
Examples of relativist philosophy of science or of overhasty accusations of relativism?W.V. Quine: ontological relativityT.S. Kuhn: paradigms, incommensurabilityP. Feyerabend: anarchism, anything goes, against methodR. Rorty: radical neopragmatism, ethnocentrismA. Fine: natural ontological attitude (NOA)All these (very different) approaches in the philosophy of science and elsewhere risk losing trans-cultural and trans-paradigmatic normativity, but none are clearly examples of radical relativism; on the contrary, these thinkers typically deny that they are relativists!Even Feyerabend rejects relativism, because potentially every tradition is all traditions.Accusing someone of relativism is always problematic, contextual.The reflexive charge (cf. Plato): is relativism merely relatively true?
Naturalism and relativism (summing up)The problem of relativism is a constant challenge in the philosophy of science, especially naturalized philosophy of science rejecting traditional first philosophy. It cannot be avoided; nor should we simply succumb to relativism.Naturalists are right to reject any absolutely autonomous, science-external first philosophy, but they risk sacrificing normativity and ending up with (radical) relativism.We must continuously seek the middle ground: a normatively adequate naturalism, a form of naturalism which doesnt give up (but merely reinterprets or reconceptualizes) the traditional normative task of the philosophy of science.
Pragmatist philosophy of sciencePragmatism is one tradition in the philosophy of science (and philosophy more generally) that hopes to offer such a middle ground.Classical pragmatist philosophers (of science):C.S. Peirce the scientific methodWilliam James perhaps more important in other fields (e.g., philosophy of religion)John Dewey naturalist, experimentalist theory of inquiryG.H. Mead pragmatism and the social sciencesNeopragmatists: Rorty, Hilary Putnam, et al.
Pragmatism, truth, andthe goals of scienceCan pragmatists accept (moderate) cognitivism science aims at truth or must they abandon the idea that science is a truth-seeking activity?Rorty: truth is not a goal of inquiry. (Truth vs. justification.)Again: normative vs. descriptive question: has science been, or should it be, a truth-seeking activity; have pragmatists believed it to be, and should they have?Rortys ethnocentrist neopragmatism (we have to start from where we are) is in the danger of collapsing into radical relativism, with no room for trans-cultural normativity, and thereby with no resources to distinguish, even contextually, science from pseudo-science.Rorty seems to reduce epistemic (scientific) justification to mere local justification for a particular scientific community (we have to start from where we are).Even Rorty will have to use normative concepts!
Pragmatist philosophy of science (contd)Some advantages of pragmatism (to be discussed in more detail later):Moderate naturalism: science is part of the natural world, along with everything else.No sharp nature vs. culture dichotomy.Normativity can be maintained (second nature for us, as the kind of natural beings we are cf. John McDowell).Emergence?Antireductionism, pluralism: no unity of science but the plurality of perspectives, standpoints, and worldviews (cf. W. Jamess pluralistic pragmatism: science, ethics, religion, all relevant to human concerns).
Pragmatist philosophy of science (contd)Advantages of pragmatism (contd):Transcending the realism vs. antirealism opposition: a pragmatic realism as a synthesis of scientific realism and its (constructivist, relativist) alternatives (cf. Putnam)?The realism issue will, in the following, be adopted as the main philosophical context for the defense of a pragmatist approach in the philosophy of science.Taking seriously the socio-historical (including technological) contexts of science and inquiry (cf. Dewey, Hickman, et al.).Perhaps even Kuhn can be interpreted as a pragmatist?
Pragmatist philosophy of science (contd)Pragmatism, however, also has its problems:Is the pragmatists way of going beyond the realism vs. antirealism controversy successful, or does it collapse back to idealism, constructivism, relativism, or something else? (Cf. Kants transcendental idealism.)How can we adequately articulate the practice-internal normativity (of science) pragmatists insist on?There is no short cut to avoiding the problems of relativism and naturalism. Even pragmatist philosophy of science must continuously re-examine its own starting points and conditions of possibility, in critical dialogue with other approaches in the philosophy of science.
Suggested readingDewey, J. (1929), The Quest for Certainty, Finnish translation by P. Mttnen: Pyrkimys varmuuteen, Gaudeamus, Helsinki, 1999.Feyerabend, P. (1975), Against Method, Verso, London.Fine, A. (1996), The Shaky Game, rev. ed. (1st ed. 1986), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.James, W. (1907), Pragmatism, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA, 1975. (The Works of William James, 19 vols, Harvard UP, 1975-88.)Kuhn, T.S. (1970), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (1st ed. 1962), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Niiniluoto, I. (1999), Critical Scientific Realism, Oxford UP, Oxford.Peirce, C.S. (1931-58), Collected Papers, 8 vols, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA.Peirce, C.S. (1992-98), The Essential Peirce, 2 vols, Indiana UP, Bloomington.Pihlstrm, S. (1996), Structuring the World, Acta Philosophica Fennica 59, Helsinki.Pihlstrm, S. (2003), Naturalizing the Trascendental, Humanity/Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY.
Suggested reading (contd)Popper, K.R. (1959), The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934), Routledge, London.Popper, K.R. (1963), Conjectures and Refutations, Routledge, London.Putnam, H. (1990), Realism with a Human Face, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA.Putnam, H. (1995), Pragmatism: An Open Question, Blackwell, Oxford.Putnam, H. (2002), The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA.Quine, W.V. (1969), Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, Columbia UP, New York.Quine, W.V. (1995), From Stimulus to Science, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA.Rorty, R. (1979), Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton UP, Princeton, NJ.Rorty, R. (1982), Consequences of Pragmatism, Harvester Press, Brighton.Rorty, R. (1998), Truth and Progress, Cambridge UP, Cambridge.