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Observation, meaning and theory: Review of For and Against Method by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend

Maxwell, N; (2000) Observation, meaning and theory: Review of For and Against Method by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend. [Review]. Times Higher Education Supplement (1,427) p. 30. Green open access

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Abstract

Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend initially both accepted Popper's philosophy of science, but then reacted against it, and developed it in different directions. Lakatos sought to reconcile Kuhn and Popper by characterizing science as a process of competing research programmes, competing fragments of Kuhn's normal science. Feyerabend emphasized the need to develop rival theories to facilitate severe empirical testing of accepted theories, but then, as a result of a disastrous mistake, came to hold that theories that are incompatible with one another cannot be compared empirically. He ended up rejecting method in science. All four philosophers, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend missed the decisive defect in Popper's philosophy of science: persistent acceptance of unified theories only when endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals are available means that physics makes a big, highly problematic metaphysical assumption about the nature of the universe: it is such that some kind of underlying unity exists in nature. We need to adopt a new conception of science. In order to subject this implicit metaphysical conjecture to sustained critical assessment in an attempt to improve it, we need to see science as making a hierarchy of metaphysical assumptions about the knowability and comprehensibility of the universe, these assumptions becoming less substantial and more likely to be true as we ascend the hierarchy. Elements of Popper, Kuhn and Lakatos are to be found in this picture, but it also differs radically from all three. It more closely resembles Einstein's mature views about the nature of science. Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend began

Type: Article
Title: Observation, meaning and theory: Review of For and Against Method by Imre Lakatos and Paul Feyerabend
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Karl Popper, Paul Feyerabend, Imre Lakatos, Albert Einstein, Philosophy of Science, Scientific Method, Science and Metaphysics, Falsificationism, Scientific Research Programmes
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Science and Technology Studies
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/105655
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