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  1. #1
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    Default Falsification or comparison, which is more suitable?

    Falsification or comparison, which is more suitable?

    Karl Popper’s theory of criticism is that a theory can be falsified if it does not conform to the facts. I argue that this mode of criticism is satisfactory for some domains of knowledge but not for others.

    Popper’s theory of criticism is adequate in matters of the natural sciences wherein knowledge deals only with monological and not multilogical concerns. Physics is a normal science, as defined by Thomas Kuhn, and a normal science is one in which the paradigm defines the boundaries and logic of the particular domain of knowledge under consideration.

    An example might be the development of the atomic bomb. The scientists working on the bomb were confined strictly to the logic of physics; they did not, perhaps could not, accomplish their task if they were to consider matters of morality.

    “Since social and political theories are unavoidably selective, partial and culturally conditioned, the only way to improve them is to force them to explain themselves, to articulate and justify their assumptions and choice of concepts, to defend their interpretations of facts and show why other interpretations are mistaken.”

    Theories of physics are determined to be true or false by physical measurements: by weighing and/or measuring. Theories in the human sciences must be defended by narrative. The defense of Darwin’s theory of natural selection is such an example.

    “Facts destroy a social or political theory not so much by falsifying it as by undermining its integrity and credibility, by making it incoherent…What one needs, therefore is not a boxing match…and the victory goes to the one who deals a knock-out blow…but a sympathetic and imaginative dialogue in which each contestant tries to learn from the rest.”

    Social and political knowledge grows as a result of both criticism and sympathetic imagination through dialogical reasoning; thereby incorporating insight from an ever more sophisticated and broadening vision.

    Quotes from Knowledge and Belief in Politics edited by Robert Benewick, R.N. Berki, and Bhikhu Parekh

  2. #2
    Senior Member Aleph-One's Avatar
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    I have serious doubts that giving economists further excuses for their theories to elude the generation of falsifiable predictions and claims is good for anyone. Anything which has pretensions of being called science must put its neck out. So, despite all the high-sounding calls to syncretism, dialectic and judging some theory's paradigm in historical context, social sciences still won't be sciences until they can put their experimental money where their mouths are.
    Social and political knowledge grows as a result of both criticism and sympathetic imagination through dialogical reasoning; thereby incorporating insight from an ever more sophisticated and broadening vision.
    Do you or the authors have some metric which can show a difference between the quantity of social and political knowledge gained through rigorous experimentation and attempts at refuting precisely stated claims, and the quantity of social and political knowledge gained through the kind of syncretism you seem to be arguing for? Without that metric and accompanying statistics, the quote is merely an assertion. And an assertion which, considering that such a program would weaken the practical value of any theory by reducing the precision of its claims and their amenability to evidence (and thus their ability to do anything measurable), is very probably wrong.
    Aleph-One, you look like the kind of person who would spend his spare time building a giant robot to hold the government for ransom. -Some Guy on the Internet

  3. #3
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    Aleph

    Some things cannot be measured. They can only be analyzed and discussed to discover their shortcomings. Measuring is easy but judging which goal is better than another is difficult and can often be more important than those problems that can be measured.

    We live in two very different worlds; a world of technical and technological order and clarity, and a world of personal and social disorder and confusion. We are increasingly able to solve problems in one domain and increasingly endangered by our inability to solve problems in the other.

    Normal science, as defined by Thomas Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, is successful primarily because it is a domain of knowledge controlled by paradigms. The paradigm defines the standards, principles and methods of the discipline. It is not apparent to the laity but science moves forward in small incremental steps. Science seldom seeks and almost never produces major novelties.

    Science solves puzzles. The logic of the paradigm insulates the professional group from problems that are unsolvable by that paradigm. One reason that science progresses so rapidly and with such assurance is because the logic of that paradigm allows the practitioners to work on problems that only their lack of ingenuity will keep them from solving.

    Science uses instrumental rationality to solve puzzles. Instrumental rationality is a systematic process for reflecting upon the best action to take to reach an established end. The obvious question becomes ‘what mode of rationality is available for determining ends?’ Instrumental rationality appears to be of little use in determining such matters as “good” and “right”.

    There is a striking difference between the logic of technical problems and that of dialectical problems. The principles, methods and standards for dealing with technical problems and problems of “real life” are as different as night and day. Real life problems cannot be solved only using deductive and inductive reasoning.

    Dialectical reasoning methods require the ability to slip quickly between contradictory lines of reasoning. One needs skill to develop a synthesis of one point of view with another. Where technical matters are generally confined to only one well understood frame of reference real life problems become multi-dimensional totalities.

    When we think dialectically we are guided by principles not by procedures. Real life problems span multiple categories and academic disciplines. We need point-counter-point argumentation; we need emancipatory reasoning to resolve dialectical problems. We need Critical Thinking skills and attitudes to resolve real life problems.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Aleph-One's Avatar
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    Any claim which cannot be held accountable to physical evidence is a claim which can have no measurable consequence whatsoever. That is the very definition of irrelevant. It might well be the case that we would have to slip between contradictory positions to analyze such a claim, but any examination (dialectic or not) will be fruitless and prone to self-deception because, again, statements which cannot be countermanded by the configuration of the world say nothing about the world. I am most certainly not willing to leave important "real-life" problems up to something which is vacuous and unreliable by construction.

    I would add, also, that it is probably true that a dialectic approach would increase the number of statements, but this does not mean that it is increasing knowledge at the same time. I cannot see how you can assert that a dialectic approach broadens our knowledge if, at the same time, you are not demanding that the truth of those statements depends on the configuration of the world. An ever growing body of tautologies, logical falsehoods, or semantic train wrecks is not an increase in knowledge about the world or our problems -- it is an increase in clutter.

    I should also mention that I have not conceded (nor am I prepared to concede) to the assertion that science exists in some "paradigm" which isolates it from the rest of human experience. It is not an arbitrary game, and its success is due to the demands scientists make of their claims: they must be testable by experiment, parsimonious, and discarded when wrong. Precise thinking and the willingness to abandon refuted positions would correct a great deal of political, national, and international conflict. So rather than demanding that disparate ideologies walk hand-in-hand (an untenable solution since most ideologies define themselves in reaction to their competitors), we should demand that people leave their old superstitions and prejudices behind altogether.

    I will say finally that I can do nothing but object in the most strenuous terms to your trivialization of science as a process which "solves puzzles". If I could pick only one thing from the last 100 years of science to demonstrate that this trivialization is totally unwarranted, here it is. But of course the last century of science has seen much more than that. There was an explosion of theories which have explained who and what we are, what we're made out of, how we got here, the age of the universe and its structure, what makes the stars shine, and so on... but now for the first time we have such a vast body of evidence supporting those theories that, even if some particulars are eventually found to be wrong, we can confidently say, for the first time in all of human history, that we have a very good idea of how the universe works and of the story of life on this planet. Science does not merely solve puzzles. It casts definitive light on ancient mysteries and it can do this where all mythology has failed because it puts its neck out and holds everything up to the flame of evidence. All of human inquiry should do the same because to say "it works" is a vast understatement.

    And this statement:
    Science seldom seeks and almost never produces major novelties.
    Is totally counterfactual, ahistorical, and displays an astonishing ignorance of the scientific developments of even the last decade, not to mention the last century. My generosity ends here -- put Thomas Kuhn's nonsense back on the shelf and take an actual course in something like astronomy if you want to see the sorts of major novelties science can and does produce on a regular basis. Science ALWAYS seeks novelties (submit a paper for peer review which does not make novel predictions and it will come back with a big red stamp) and every major thing we know was, when discovered by science, a major novelty. It wasn't a major novelty when the geocentric model of the universe was overthrown? It wasn't a major novelty when Charles Darwin developed his theory of common descent and modification through natural selection? It wasn't a major novelty when we discovered that the universe is not static, but expanding? It wasn't a major novelty when we found that this expansion is accelerating? I can keep this up all day, but have no desire to entertain this patent absurdity further.
    Aleph-One, you look like the kind of person who would spend his spare time building a giant robot to hold the government for ransom. -Some Guy on the Internet

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