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Offline coberst

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The Structure of Science?
« on: 15/01/2009 10:11:57 »
The Structure of Science?

The main philosophical problems of modern society are intimately associated with Tom and Jane’s enchantment with Science.  Normal science is, for too many, an enchanted idol that is perceived as the savior of humanity.  No matter what dastardly things humans may do, Science will save us.

Science—normal science—as Thomas Kuhn labels it in “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” moves forward in a “successive transition from one paradigm to another”.  A paradigm defines the theory, rules and standards of practice.  “In the absence of a paradigm or some candidate for paradigm, all of the facts that could possible pertain to the development of a given science are likely to seem equally relevant.” 

The Newtonian scientific paradigm was a mathematical, quantified, pattern capable of reducing reality to an atomic level.  It’s ideal, if there was one, was man as a machine or more likely a cog in a machine.  In such a science we lose the individual man and woman.  Rousseau was offering something entirely different.  It was holistic and non-reducible.  It was a gestalt that included man as neutral manipulator of scientific experiments but also as a subject with values who was a totally thinking, feeling, free agent.

“Rousseau showed that morality had to be instrumented, by man according to an ideal formulated by him; the science of man could only have meaning as an active ideal-type of science.”  Newtonian paradigms left no room for such and ideal.  It had no room for a holistic woman or man.  The solution proposed by Rousseau was to make humanity first and science second; science was to be the servant of wo/man rather than wo/man as the servant of science.

The paradigm of Newtonianism turned out to be a tougher nut than the Enlightenment could crack.  Such individuals as Darwin and Spencer appeared on the scene and quickly humanity was sequestered again into the background by Science.  Dewey’s long life time proved insufficient to the challenge and the reason why: “pragmatism contained no moral criteria by means of which a man-based value science could be instrumented.”

Marx recognized the problem inherent in scientism and shifted ground from Rousseau’s ideal-type to the possible-type.  Marx said that we should do what is possible and possible in our time.  Marx advocated the victory of the laboring class. 

“What are the main problems of modern society; how can man’s situation in the world be improved?”  Marx determined that the Newtonian paradigm was morally unedifying; the social problem was the alienation of man.  But with Marx the ideal vision of the Enlightenment was swallowed up in the Revolution.  The ideal of a full and free liberation of the human potential was destroyed in the Revolution.

And therein lay the rub.  What is a paradigm of normal science as Kuhn so succinctly wrote about and which, as a concept, was unrecognized in Kuhntonion form a century ago, but was nevertheless, even then, the heart of normal science.

Kuhn says that practitioners of normal science have: a paradigm that makes a science normal when most if not all members agree upon a theory as being true.  When this agreement breaks down then a new paradigm is agreed upon.  The paradigm defines a map for action.  The thing that separates a paradigm from some kind of, green light and red light group agreement about crossing the street is that there is more careful control, calculation, instrumentation, and a greater willingness to place before the world a conjecture to be evaluated as to its truth.  A paradigm defines the theory, rules, and standards of practice.

It seems that almost all domains of knowledge wish to emulate Science.  Science for most people is technology and if questioned we would probably find that science means physics.  We have placed Science on a very high pedestal because technology has been so successful.  Every domain of knowledge wishes to be as good as Science.

I suspect that the way to judge how well a domain of knowledge is like science is to discover if it does or does not have a paradigm.  Like Kuhn notes in his book that without a paradigm any knowledge is as good as any other.  Paradigm converts chaos into system.

Many of the ideas and quotes in this OP are derived from Ernest Becker’s book “Beyond Alienation”.   Me and Ernest agree that the “main philosophical problem for modern society” is that we need a paradigm for the “science of wo/man”.  Have you a paradigm for this new science?  Me and Ernest do but we disagree on some aspects.




 

Offline Chemistry4me

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #1 on: 15/01/2009 10:31:12 »
I'm sorry coberst, but I am not sure what your post is about? Mainly, a lot of people and examples that you have used are unfamiliar to me. What did you have in mind when you decided to start this topic? Perhaps you can start us off...?

Me and Ernest agree that the “main philosophical problem for modern society”is that we need a paradigm for the “science of wo/man”. 
What have you got so far?
 

Offline coberst

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #2 on: 15/01/2009 19:26:45 »
I'm sorry coberst, but I am not sure what your post is about? Mainly, a lot of people and examples that you have used are unfamiliar to me. What did you have in mind when you decided to start this topic? Perhaps you can start us off...?

Me and Ernest agree that the “main philosophical problem for modern society”is that we need a paradigm for the “science of wo/man”. 
What have you got so far?

Becker thinks that we can solve our problem by developing a clear synthesis of what is a proper education for all college and university students.  I am convinced that the first thing that needs to be done is for adults in sufficient number become self-actualizing self-learners before the communality in general can comprehend the nature of our educational problem.  Our (USA) culture is presently not sophisticated enough to comprehend our problems and thus we are not sophisticated enough to develop the kind of educational program required.

I think that our culture has developed within the common citizen an incorrect notion of the meaning of science.  I would say that science is a disciplined, systematic, and empirical study of a domain of knowledge.  I would like to empathesize that physics and chemistry are normal sciences but that we also must develop a more robust understanding of the human sciences that do not qualify as "normal science" as defined by Kuhn.

I think that the human sciences cannot develop paradigms in the rigorous manner that Kuhn speaks of.  That is to say, that the human sciences will never be the “normal science” as Kuhn defines it.  However, it is useful, I think, to use the word “paradigm” but perhaps speaking of it as a “soft paradigm”.

Practitioners of normal science have:
1) A paradigm that defines the theory, rules and standards of practice.
2) Expertise as puzzle-solvers. Puzzles are assumed to have solutions.
3) A criterion for choosing problems for solution.
4) Concrete problems for solution i.e. problems with solutions and only lack of ingenuity causes failure.

Practitioners of other than normal sciences must depend upon their combined wisdom to muddle through problems dropped in their laps by fate. We all, in our normal routine of living, are practitioners of other than normal science. Our educational system offers all of us little preparation for the problems we encounter in life.

In the essay “Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?” in the book “Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge” Thomas Kuhn details a fundamental difference between himself and Sir Karl Popper. This fundamental difference rests on the concept “puzzle”. It relates to the difference between solving puzzles versus problem solving.

All puzzles have solutions. (According to Kuhn) All problems do not have solutions. We have crossword puzzles, math puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, chess puzzles, etc. All domains of knowledge that are guided by paradigms contain scientists who solve puzzles. Science moves forward primarily as a matter of accretion rather than giant steps. This is why science is so successful. Only under revolutionary conditions does science move forward in leaps. A good example might be that Newton’s Law of Gravity was supreme for about 250 years until Einstein presented his Special Theory of Relativity in 1900.

I think it is worth while to try to sit in Popper’s chair or Kuhn’s chair for a minute. These individuals are exploring new intellectual territory and have only common language to communicate their discoveries. A good example is the word “puzzle”. Kuhn sees a very important distinction about science that few people understand. He has chosen 'puzzle' to express the concept he wants to communicate. We must recognize that Kuhn is attempting to describe a forest with this word and if we get all engrossed in hugging this one tree we can never understand the issue Kuhn is trying to communicate.

I think it is important to create a model of the message so that we can understand how to prioritize the different words and concepts. Otherwise we find our self wrestling around in the dust without acquiring new and important information.

 

Offline Chemistry4me

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #3 on: 17/01/2009 07:06:49 »
I am convinced that the first thing that needs to be done is for adults in sufficient number become self-actualizing self-learners before the communality in general can comprehend the nature of our educational problem. 
And how is that going to be done?
 

Offline coberst

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #4 on: 17/01/2009 14:35:35 »
I am convinced that the first thing that needs to be done is for adults in sufficient number become self-actualizing self-learners before the communality in general can comprehend the nature of our educational problem. 
And how is that going to be done?

It is going to be done by individuals like me going on the Internet and demonstrating what it means to be a self-actualizing self-learner.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #5 on: 18/01/2009 04:10:12 »
What do you mean by self-actualizing self-learner exactly?
 

Offline coberst

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #6 on: 18/01/2009 13:55:24 »
What do you mean by self-actualizing self-learner exactly?


I am a retired engineer with a good bit of formal education and twenty five years of self-learning.  I began the self-learning experience while in my mid-forties.  I had no goal in mind; I was just following my intellectual curiosity in whatever direction it led me.  This hobby, self-learning, has become very important to me.  I have bounced around from one hobby to another but have always been enticed back by the excitement I have discovered in this learning process.  Carl Sagan is quoted as having written; “Understanding is a kind of ecstasy.”

I label myself as a September Scholar because I began the process at mid-life and because my quest is disinterested knowledge.

Disinterested knowledge is an intrinsic value.  Disinterested knowledge is not a means but an end.  It is knowledge I seek because I desire to know it.  I mean the term ‘disinterested knowledge’ as similar to ‘pure research’, as compared to ‘applied research’.  Pure research seeks to know truth unconnected to any specific application. 

I think of the self-learner of disinterested knowledge as driven by curiosity and imagination to understand.  The September Scholar seeks to ‘see’ and then to ‘grasp’ through intellection directed at understanding the self as well as the world.  The knowledge and understanding that is sought by the September Scholar are determined only by personal motivations.  It is noteworthy that disinterested knowledge is knowledge I am driven to acquire because it is of dominating interest to me.  Because I have such an interest in this disinterested knowledge my adrenaline level rises in anticipation of my voyage of discovery.

We often use the metaphors of ‘seeing’ for knowing and ‘grasping’ for understanding.  I think these metaphors significantly illuminate the difference between these two forms of intellection.  We see much but grasp little.  It takes great force to impel us to go beyond seeing to the point of grasping.   The force driving us is the strong personal involvement we have to the question that guides our quest.  I think it is this inclusion of self-fulfillment, as associated with the question, that makes self-learning so important.

The self-learner of disinterested knowledge is engaged in a single-minded search for understanding.  The goal, grasping the ‘truth’, is generally of insignificant consequence in comparison to the single-minded search.  Others must judge the value of the ‘truth’ discovered by the autodidactic.  I suggest that truth, should it be of any universal value, will evolve in a biological fashion when a significant number of pursuers of disinterested knowledge engage in dialogue.

In the United States our culture compels us to have a purpose.  Our culture defines that purpose to be ‘maximize production and consumption’.  As a result all good children feel compelled to become a successful producer and consumer.  All good children both consciously and unconsciously organize their life for this journey.

At mid-life many citizens begin to analyze their life and often discover a need to reconstitute their purpose. Some of the advantageous of this self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment.  The self-learning experience I am suggesting is similar to any other hobby one might undertake; interest will ebb and flow.  In my case this was a hobby that I continually came back to after other hobbies lost appeal.

I suggest for your consideration that if we “Get a life—Get an intellectual life” we very well might gain substantially in self-worth and, perhaps, community-worth.

I have been trying to encourage adults, who in general consider education as a matter only for young people, to give this idea of self-learning a try.  It seems to be human nature to do a turtle (close the mind) when encountering a new and unorthodox idea.  Generally we seem to need for an idea to face us many times before we can consider it seriously.  A common method for brushing aside this idea is to think ‘I’ve been there and done that’, i.e. ‘I have read and been a self-learner all my life’. 

I am not suggesting a stroll in the park on a Sunday afternoon.  I am suggesting a ‘Lewis and Clark Expedition’.  I am suggesting the intellectual equivalent of crossing the Mississippi and heading West across unexplored intellectual territory with the intellectual equivalent of the Pacific Ocean as a destination.
 

Offline Chemistry4me

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #7 on: 19/01/2009 02:59:43 »
Some of the advantageous of this self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment. 
This I can totally relate to. I'll keep your words in mind coberst :)
 

Offline coberst

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #8 on: 19/01/2009 15:02:47 »
Some of the advantageous of this self-learning experience is that it is virtually free, undeterred by age, not a zero sum game, surprising, exciting and makes each discovery a new eureka moment. 
This I can totally relate to. I'll keep your words in mind coberst :)

Better yet take this message, which you agree with to others because few comprehend such matters.  I post these things in the hope of exciting the interest of the reader sufficiently such that s/he will go to the books and learn more about such matters.
 

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The Structure of Science?
« Reply #8 on: 19/01/2009 15:02:47 »

 

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