Monday, September 19, 2011

"Kuhn and Rationality," Centre for Logic and Philosophy of Science, Ghent University, September 23, 2011.

Kuhn's description of the aggregate dynamics of scientific change rests on a vague and fragmented account of how scientists choose between theories. Criteria of theory choice are not an algorithmic set of rules waiting to be discovered but rather "rules of thumb": vague and conflicting. Theory choice
can therefore never be settled by logic and experiment alone, but relies on "persuasion" and "conversion". And once converted, scientists "dogmatically" stick to their paradigm even when good reasons arise for its rejection. The lack (impossibility?) of rationality on Kuhn's approach is one of the main reasons why Kuhn's philosophy of science failed to gain widespread acceptance despite its intuitive appeal and popularity among practicing cientists. 50 years after the publication of the Structure of Scientific Revolutions the following questions still arise:

- Is an account of Kuhnian rationality impossible or did Kuhn just fail to articulate one?
- In what sense can Kuhnian scientists be said to be rational?
- Can new perspectives (network theory, bounded confidence,...) on rationality clarify Kuhn's claims to rationality?

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