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Philosophy and the Sciences
Duncan Pritchard, University of Edinburgh
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Duhem and Kuhn
Notes taken on November 21, 2014 by Edward Tanguay
before Karl Popper developed falsification as a possible method of science
Pierre Duhem (1861-1916)
"No scientific hypothesis can ever be tested in isolation, but only in conjunction with other main hypotheses and auxiliary hypotheses"
we don't test Newton's law of gravity by itself
three laws of motion
number of planets
whether attraction between planets is weaker than the sun and the planets
we deduce a piece of evidence from these hypotheses
but often we can't find it
how should we then interpret this negative result?
clearly something has gone wrong with one or more of the hypotheses
but we don't know which hypothesis it is
this is the underdetermination of theory by evidence
Thomas Kuhn
1962 book: "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions"
changed our way of thinking about science
began career as a physicists, then went to history of science
science doesn't have a distinctive method whether inductive or deductive
we need to rethink the notion of progress in science
changed image of science
we used to see science as building on and improving on predecessor
each on delivering a more accurate image of nature
Kuhn argued science goes through three phases
1. normal science
scientists work within a scientific paradigm
scientists work on a specific text book, e.g. Newton's Principa
all scientific activity arises from this textbook tradition
in spite of what Popper said, in periods of normal science there is no attempt to falsify or refute scientific theory
occurs when a sufficient number of anomalies accumulate
paradigm shift
scientific community shifts to new paradigm
new paradigm should be able to solve the anomalies that the old paradigm could not
paradigms are not truer than another but are better than others in their capacity of solving problems
scientific revolutions
there was a shift from Popper falsification to Kuhn problem solving
had implications in the debate on the rationality of theory choice
Kuhn argued that scientific paradigms are incommensurable, they lack a common measure for rational choice
but we can compare paradigms