Front Page Titles (by Subject) I: Methodology - Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3
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I: Methodology - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, July/September 1978, vol. 1, No. 3 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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To live freely and securely, humans need valid knowledge of their world and of themselves. In the corresponding physical and social sciences, this tendency gives rise to methodology. Cutting across disciplinary fields, methodology investigates the pathways, principles, and procedures to be followed in order to arrive at sound knowledge. So understood, methodological questions are intertwined with epistemological issues concerning the nature, origin, means, and extent of human knowledge.
Methodological concerns involve vital and perennial questions. How can we justify and validate claims to knowledge and theories in science, history, economics, and other branches of learning? What methods must we follow in concept formation within the sciences? Are scientific concepts, theories, and laws objectively grounded in reality, or are they mere subjective correlations, models, and mental constructs that allow us to make useful predictions? In scientific explanations that seek to make individual events intelligible, how do we overcome Hume's problem of induction to frame general, necessary laws from “contingent,” “brute” facts? Finally, in theory formation, how do we “prove” theories or arbitrate among rival theories, each of which may claim to explain phenomena and predict observable consequences?
Such methodological questions surface repeatedly in the following set of summaries. A focus of many of these summaries is Thomas Kuhn's influential book on intellectual history, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962, 1970). Kuhn dissents from the orthodox view of how scientific theories succeed one another and win over intellectual allegiance. Rather than a continuous, cumulative development of knowledge, the Kuhnian concept of science envisions progress by intellectual revolutions. These punctuate the longer interludes of “normal science” when intellectuals follow a dominant, orthodox “paradigm” or canonical set of methods, theories, and standards. Kuhn claims that sociological, psychological, and human “subjective” factors (as well as the purely “objective,” logical, and experimental reasons so stressed by earlier intellectual historians) account for a research community's loyalty to a paradigm. The reader may find a fuller background to Kuhn's views in the following summaries.
Kuhn's challenging ideas were soon applied to fields other than the physical science. They also provoked objections from critics such as Karl Popper, Imre Lakatos, Stephen Toulmin and others who feared Kuhn's sociological and psychological approach turned science and learning into a relativist and subjectivist enterprise bereft of a sound, normative “logic of appraisal.” Kuhn addressed such criticisms and revised certain of his positions in the second edition of his Structure, where he conceded his notion of paradigm (or “disciplinary matrix”) was ambiguous. His more recent book, The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977) supplements and restates his views. In this work, his article “Objectivity, Value Judgment, and Theory Choice” addresses the charge that he rendered theory choice entirely subjective; “Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research?” contrasts his views with Sir Karl Popper's; and “Second Thoughts on Paradigms,” clarifies his rethinking on the ambiguities of one of his central terms. On the mystery of how and why individuals shift from one paradigm to another-a process that involves creativity and innovative perceptions-one can find suggestive hints in Arthur Koestler's The Sleepwalkers andThe Act of Creation.
This section's summaries acknowledge Kuhn's influence by beginning with his views on the history of science. Next follow various criticisms of Kuhn's alleged irrationalism, subjectivism, positivism, and determinism. The Losee and Campbell summaries next present evolutionist paradigms of intellectual progress. The Rasmussen summary broaches the philosophic need for an ontological basis of necessary laws and truths. And the concluding five summaries survey methodological questions in the fields of economics, history, and social science. These may be supplemented by such works as Heinrich Rickert, Science and History: A Critique of Positivist Epistemology (1962); Ludwigvon Mises, Theory and History: An Interpretation of Social and Economic Evolution (1957); and F.A. Hayek, Counter-Revolution of Science (1955).
Scientific Paradigms and History
“The Relations between the History and the Philosophy of Science.” The Essential Tension: Selected Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977: pp. 3–20.
Philosophers of science can learn much from the history of science by discarding the warped image of history as a mere chronicle of isolated facts bereft of scientific explanatory value. History teaches philosophy how to balance its concern for static science and theory structure with a developmental and holistic approach that views theory as a nonempirical paradigm or pattern of laws and assumptions.
Philosophy and history, though distinct, are equally valid as knowledge producing enterprises. Each discipline has a distinct formal object and concentrates on different “essentials.” The philosopher tends to isolate the central generalizations of philosophical positions, independent of space and time, and to criticize them logically; the historian concerns himself with the general only to the extent that it actually guided the real scientist. Galileo, from the viewpoint of the philosopher of science, is a more consistent scientist but a less plausible seventeenth-century historical figure.
An active dialogue between the historians and the philosophers of science can benefit both. From this cross-fertilization, history could sharpen its tools of analysis and learn the structure of idea systems. Philosophy of science (with its concerns about the structure of scientific theories, the status of theoretical entities, and the proper grounds for claims of sound knowledge) would find much relevant information in the history of scientific ideas and techniques.
History need not conform to the natural sciences' “covering law” model (of lawlike generalizations and predictive ability) to earn its prestige as a true science. The explanatory force of history derives not from deterministic laws but from the way it connects the facts of human action into a plausible narrative of convincing human motives.
The history of science, as an autonomous explanatory discipline, can supply data, problems, and interpretations for a rational reconstruction of science and theories. By emphasizing global patterns and relationships, the historian enables the philosopher of science to sift through the different kinds of knowledge claimed for either empirical laws or theories. The historian's experience shows how empirical laws are net additions to knowledge and are not displaced over time. Theories, by contrast, ambitiously cover the entire range of conceivable natural phenomena and are not as empirically limited as are laws. Theories are holistic affairs. Challenge one aspect of them (say Aristotle's notion of the void) and the remaining integrated whole (the physics of space, natural motion, and finite cosmos) stands or falls. Thus new theories do not simply add to earlier theories; they displace them with new paradigms, as Newtonian physics replaced Aristotelian physics in toto.
Accordingly, the historian's viewpoint of theoretical development reveals significant differences between empirical laws and theories, and the way that each develops may be evaluated.
“Kuhn's World.” The Occasional Review 6 (Summer 1977): 119–148.
How can we explain growth and progress in science, knowledge, and truth? By social consensus or by individual reason, argument, and logic? Thomas Kuhn's 1962 book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) discounts the role of objective knowledge in scientific progress and emphasizes both the sociology of knowledge and the subjective process by which scientific communities rally around new “paradigms” during a “crisis” or “scientific revolution.”
Kuhn rejects the image of science as an objective, open-minded, empirical search for truth wherever it leads (in order to accumulate and refine knowledge, and test theories). The history and progress of science reveals a more subjective enterprise, with radical discontinuities between rival mesmerizing paradigms.
Kuhn's scenario of scientific progress runs as follows. “Normal science” is the ordinary orthodoxy of scientists following a socially accepted “paradigm” or model of scientific research. The paradigm framework restricts and blinkers the perceptions of normal science, which seeks to improve the paradigm rather than test it objectively. This subjective view contrasts with the objective image of science as a fact, knowledge, and truth discovering process.
What accounts for new research paradigms or traditions that oust the old normal science? The discovery and awareness of anomalies not covered by the ruling paradigm ushers in a “crisis” period with no social consensus about rival paradigms. A scientific revolution occurs when we meet a transition to a new paradigm. Kuhn holds that this paradigm shift is a noncumulative development like a conversion or gestalt switch. The crucial point is that successive paradigms are logically incompatible and incommensurable. Thus, for Kuhn, the issues of paradigm choice can never be settled by logic or experiment alone. Paradigm debates involve noncomparable world views concerning such nonfactual, value-laden questions as which problems are more important to solve. Einstein's world of space, time, and mass is alien to and incommensurable with that of Newton (e.g., Einstein regards mass not as conserved but as convertible into energy).
Because paradigms are incommensurable, it is not objective or logical criteria which decide paradigm choice but rather personal and aesthetic considerations (such as theoretic simplicity). The reasons that convert individual scientists are not as important as “the sort of community” that endorses a successful paradigm. It is not the problem-solving ability of the new paradigm that serves as the unequivocal criterion of paradigm choice; rather, it is the decision of the scientific group itself.
Several objections weaken Kuhn's theory: (1) Kuhn's account of paradigms applies to his own thesis. By what criterion could we judge Kuhn's paradigm as true? Problematically, by the approval of the relevant scientific community. (2) How objective has Kuhn been in citing historical examples to bolster his case if his own paradigm subtly determines which phenomena he notices as relevant? (3) If scientific change is revolutionary and knowledge is noncumulative, can we rightly call this process “progress”? (4) Is the scientific choice between paradigms a sociological problem? Is the group rather than the individual scientist the fundamental unit of analysis? It seems more plausible to see scientific progress as an evolutionary process whereby individuals gradually accept a new paradigm based on objective criteria (the data given by nature, perception, and reason that is stable intersubjective knowledge and hence commensurable).
By decreeing that paradigm debates cannot be settled by logic, experiments, and objective evidence, Kuhn reduces science to an irrational and subjective enterprise. Without commensurable standards, we can never hope to prove one paradigm better than another. Reason exercised by individuals seems a better paradigm to account for scientific progress.
Paradigm Choice, Art, and Reason
“Kuhn, Paradigm Choice and the Arbitrariness of Aesthetic Criteria in Science.” Theory and Decision 8 (1977): 361–362.
Thomas Kuhn's followers wrongly assume that to the extent that a choice among paradigms depends upon aesthetic criteria (such as simplicity, symmetry, or elegance) the particular choice must be irrational or incapable of rational demonstration.
There is no reason given by Kuhn, however, to call aesthetic judgments irrational in principle. This is true whichever such judgments arise, whether in science or in art. Nevertheless, it should be remarked that aesthetic notions (such as simplicity) are often systematically vague; it is no easy matter to judge which of two theories or paradigms is the simpler. Still, it is possible to base rational justification and objectivity on refined aesthetic notions.
Do Concepts Mold Percepts?
“Is Observation Theory-Laden? A Problem in Naturalistic Epistemology.” Logic, Laws, and Life: Some Philosophical Complications. Edited by Robert G. Colodny. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1977: 188–208.
Kuhn, Feyerabend, and Hanson have made much methodological capital from the theory that observation is theory-laden. They have defended this thesis largely from a selective use of experiments in Gestalt psychology. A broader sampling of the psychological literature does not unequivocally support the notion of theory-laden observation.
The argument is fairly simple. Although some Gestalt experiments demonstrate that what a human subject sees depends upon his mental “set” or expectation, other experiments tell against mental conceptions distorting perceptions. In fact, in some of these experiments, informing the subject that a certain figure may be perceived proves unhelpful. Even given such information, the subject not only does not alter his observation but seems resistant to altering it.
It is unlikely that we can carry out earlier epistemological programs that relied on a firm distinction between theory and observation. Nevertheless, we can salvage something from the popular attacks on observation as a test of theory. In particular, it is now clear that observations do not invariably confirm the pet theory of the observe. In clear-cut cases this has always been conceded to be false, but many have questioned the possibility of crucial, decisive experiments that would put opposing theories or paradigms to the test of observation. Now there is room for crucial experiments even in principle, and even given the strict constraints insisted upon by Kuhn, Feyerabend, and Hanson.
Paradigms vs. Research Programmes
“Kuhn versus Lakatos, or Paradigms versus Research Programmes in the History of Economics.” History of Political Economy 7 (1975): 399–433.
The methodology of science has recently been the field of battle among methods, a Methodenstreit, waged by the late Imre Lakatos, who pitted his “scientific research programmes” against Kuhnian paradigms. At issue is the conflict in view-points between a descriptive and a normative methodology for scientists.
Normative methodology prescribes what sound practice should be in science, even if scientists historically have failed to obey its precepts; descriptive methodology tends more to chronicle the actual, positive history of science. This poses a baffling dilemma. On the one hand, it seems impossible for a descriptive historiography of science to be value free. How can we write positive history without revealing our concept of value-laden “good” vs. “bad” science? On the other hand, it seems arbitrary to preach the value of the normative “proper” scientific method and ignore whether scientists ever followed such norms. This dilemma raises serious problems for an adequate methodology of economics.
Economists generally imbibe methodological discussions through secondary sources. Thus, during the 1950s and 1960s they absorbed the methodology of Karl Popper through Milton Friedman's “Essay on the Methodology of Positive Economics.” Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) likewise filtered through to economics via indirect sources. Now Imre Lakatos and others have indirectly alerted economists to question Kuhn's scientific “paradigm” and “normal science.”
Karl Popper's aim in The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1935) was to distinguish science from nonscience. He replaced the verifiability principle with the falsifiability principle: theories were never finally “verified” as true; they were true so long as they survived efforts to refute them when they formulated falsifiable predictions. Popper's methodology was thus anti-inductionist and normative in that it prescribed correct behavior for scientists.
Kuhn preferred descriptive history over normative methodology. Contrary to Popper, Kuhn believed that doctrinaire adherence to established theories was the rule among “best-practice” science. Kuhn's positive history centered on the tenacity of scientists adhering to orthodox “normal science” and outmoded paradigms. Scientists were reluctant to bow to the pressures of mounting anomalies and shift to a new paradigm. In general, Kuhn stressed the subjective role of values in choosing between rival paradigms; he was suspicious of normative methodology as well as epistemological rationality; and he underlined the determining role of such sociological factors as authority, hierarchy, and reference communities in science.
Lakatos rebelled against Kuhn's relativism and sought to rehabilitate Popper's normative methodology. Unlike Popper, Lakatos welcomed others to scrutinize his own normative methodology of falsifiability as a historical theory of the way science has always progressed. He saw methodology's role as a normative “logic of appraisal” providing the criteria of scientific progress. The units of appraisal are not isolated theories but clusters of interconnected theories or “scientific research programmes” (SRP). He distinguished between “progressive” and “degenerating” research strategies (or SRPs) by asking whether reformulations of any SRP (in response to anomalies) can predict something novel. An SRP is degenerating if it simply patches up a flimsy SRP with ad hoc adjustments to accommodate anomalies.
Elements of Lakatos's SRP consist of a rigid “hard core” of ideas (resembling Kuhn's paradigm) surrounded by a “protective belt of auxiliary hypotheses which has to bear the brunt of tests” and be reformulated to survive empirical objections and crises. A “positive heuristic” in any SRP supplies hints how to rehabilitate the refutable or flexible protective belt.
Lakatos believed his SRP went beyond Kuhn and unraveled the mystery of why paradigms are replaced: “Can there be any objective (as opposed to socio-psychological) reason to reject a programme, that is, to eliminate its hard core and its programme for constucting protective belts?” His answer was “yes”—if the new SRP both explains the previous success of its rival and surpasses it by a superior display of heuristic power, as Einstein's general theory of relativity surpassed Newton's more limited theory of gravitation.
Lakatos also made the startling claim that all the history of science followed this normative “inner history” of objective justification, fundamentally free from the “external history” of social, psychological, or other irrelevant reasons.
In short, Lakatos offered his Progressive Scientific Research Programme as a substitute for naive falsificationism as well as for Kuhn's descriptive paradigms and scientific revolutions.
Kuhn and Historical Truth
“T.S. Kuhn's Theory of Science and Its Implications for History.” American Historical Review 78 (1973): 370–393.
Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions and his description of how scientific research communities pursue truth pose searching questions for history. How is history as a knowledge seeking-discipline affected by the normative implications of Kuhn's philosophy of science (i.e., his sociological interpretation of validity as the evolving consensus of any particular research community)?
Kuhn's critics, such as Karl Popper and Imre Lakatos, fear that a social consensus standard of truth ignores an ideal logic of scientific justification—and its access to an objective natural order—that should serve as a firm standard of truth. Kuhn's champions demur and see the transition from a transcendent objectivity to a socially grounded objectivity as neither capricious nor irrational. Kuhn's view of progress in knowledge resembles Holmes's view that law (science) is what judges (scientists) say it is. This historicization of knowledge need not be irrational since law (science) as a part of culture partakes in culture's rational and moral standards. Kuhn does account for the validity of knowledge within a developmental and relativist perspective. But a partial truce to the warring sides in this debate might ensue if we carefully distinguish the historical sociology of scientific knowledge from the philosophy of scientific justification.
Can history, as a discipline, profit from Kuhn's concern for the relation of tradition to change and from his notions of “normal science,” “anomaly,” “crisis,” rival research “paradigms” and paradigm-shifts? What complicates this question is history's status (in Kuhn's terms) as an immature “proto-science.” Such an immature “science” is constantly in “crisis” without any solid consensus around a recognized paradigmatic research tradition. Aside from the obligation to be “reasonable,” there is little agreement in the historical community as to the nature of “good” history. But Kuhn would neither urge historians to ape such mature “hard sciences” as physics, nor replace narrative history with the “covering-law model” of hypothetico-deductive explanation.
How then is validity in historical explanation achieved? “Who should decide what to the relative satisfaction of whom” within the research community of history? Kuhn's reliance on community consensus for developing and validating knowledge resembles a Darwinian natural selection of theories, or a free market in ideas that produces a spontaneous order and emergence of truth. Would Kuhn admit, however, that professional research communities can make mistakes? Has he successfully avoided the need for a normative, objective standard of validity by concentrating on rival social constituencies? However these questions are resolved, it remains true that no work of historical scholarship will be regarded as “successful” unless it wins a consensus; that is, unless it persuades professional readers that (1) its questions are valid and comprehensible; (2) its sources are relevant to the inquiry; and (3) its analysis of sources is “rational” in the sense that the author's beliefs about human nature and historical causality are shared by his colleagues.
Many more issues are raised concerning valid historical knowledge, historical methodology, and the behavior of the professional community of historians in the light of Kuhn's ideas. These issues may be investigated in the extensive bibliographical footnotes of this article. Criticisms of Kuhn may be found in Imre Lakatos and Alan Musgrave, eds., Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge (Cambridge 1970); differences between Kuhn and Popper appear in David Bloor, “Two Paradigms in Scientific Knowledge?” Science Studies 1 (1971): 101–115. Other important studies include: J.G.A. Pocock, Politics, Language and Time (New York 1971); Hayden V. White, “The Tasks of Intellectual History,” Monist 53 (1969): 619; and Stephen Toulmin, “Rediscovering History: New Directions in Philosophy of Science,” Encounter (January 1971): 53–64.
Paradigms and Determinism
“The Basis For An Alliance Between Social and Intellectual History.” (Delivered at the University of California, Irvine; revised version in a forthcoming book edited by John Higham and Paul Conklin.)
How free are we as laymen or scientists to change our minds and learn from experience? The deterministic implications of intellectual and social history tend to make men the prisoners of paradigms or ultimate presuppositions that arise not from rational, conscious choices but rather from unconscious causes.
Intellectual history shares with social history a comparatively deterministic outlook on human action. Unlike political historians, who focus on the deliberate and free choices of individual human agents, intellectual and social historians have tended to see human affairs in less voluntaristic terms. These latter historians view history as the deterministic product of unconscious mental beliefs or institutional structures.
A recent illustration of the deterministic premise underlying intellectual history is Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Kuhn's book “assumes” that mankind's basic assumptions—the “paradigmatic” ones—are normally immune to the objective, experiential evidence that might modify or falsify them. Kuhn described how orthodox or normal scientific research tenaciously followed a paradigm tradition even when confronted by contrary evidence. If the accumulation of these anomalies became too disturbing, a “crisis” or even a scientific revolution might result: a wholesale shift of legitimacy and community loyalty from one paradigm tradition to another.
Kuhn's major innuendo reflects intellectual history's belief that men, even scrupulous scientists, are normally the slaves of unexamined assumptions. The deepest layers of assumption in belief systems, Kuhn claimed, are so tenacious and mind-numbing that they shape experience more often than are shaped by it. The overarching paradigm that generates theory and experiments normally remains impervious to experience. Presuppositional paradigms determine what the scientist will construe as falsifying evidence, yet these paradigms remain and so are immune to falsification. Except in unforseen revolutionary moments (whose births seem fathered by irrational causes rather than purposeful reasons), paradigms are not tested.
Stephen Toulmin in Human Understanding, vol. I (Princeton, 1972) objected that the very method of intellectual history, in quarrying for influential presuppositions, itself presupposes a deterministic interpretation of human thought and conceptual change. R.G. Collingwood, in his 1940 work An Essay on Metaphysics, had anticipated Kuhn in highlighting the unreasoned and nonobjective process by which people, under the sway of “absolute” presuppositions or “paradigms,” transfer their loyalties from one to another. Toulmin has criticized the determinism of both Collingwood and Kuhn, and has sharpened the issue to an alternative between rational free will and determinism: “Do we make the change from one constellation of absolute presuppositions to another because we have reasons for doing so; or do we do so only because certain causes compel us to?”
Toulmin has also indicted Kuhn's analysis for failing to be a true theory of conceptual change. Kuhn's analysis explains tenacity and tradition rather than the mysterious way that paradigmatic assumptions either withstand anomalies so long or (just as mysteriously) collapse and lose community allegiance.
A Historian Between Paradigms
“J.B. Bury's Philosophy of History: A Reappraisal.” The American Historical Review 82 (1977): 896–919.
J.B. Bury, British classicist and Lord Acton's successor as Regius Professor of Modern History at Cambridge (1903), eludes facile stereotypes. In his theories of historical explanation and cognition, he resembles neither a positivist enamored of “covering laws” nor an idealist repelled by historical generalizations. Bury personifies the “crisis” of paradigms in early twentieth century historiography in his historical ambivalence, eclecticism, and “groping toward new formulations.” Caught between the rival paradigms of nineteenth-century German “scientific” historiography and the older native tradition of British “literary” historiography, Bury displays the tension of allegiances in his “working faith” as a historian. Bury's faith transcended his own value-free scientific notion of historical “development” by embracing the value-laden notion of human “progress” as the march of reason and liberty.
Historical explanation poses hermeneutic and nomological alternatives: Do unique events and human volition in history mean that causal explanations are impossible (the hermeneutic paradigm)? Does historical understanding, on the other hand, require a positivist search for covering laws that describe and predict causal patterns (the nomological paradigm)? Bury chose an intermediate position. Although his 1903 inaugural address celebrated “The Science of History” and praised the German-inspired critical method, Bury disavowed that valid historical generalizations were predictive or deductive laws. But causal patterns are discernable in aggregate human behavior and serve a heuristic value. The historian seeks to weave individual facts into a connected tapestry of meaning and systematic theory.
To what extent did Bury believe that the historian's methods provide “objective knowledge”? On this question of the nature of historical cognition Bury again took an intermediate position. He acknowledged the seemingly insuperable impediments to understanding alien cultures. The historian's present subjective feelings may distort the past. Bury balanced this appreciation of the role of how subjective paradigms limit perception with his hope for the emergence of “a new method of historical psychology” that could overcome such limitations. The historian's imprisonment in his own mental and emotional paradigms need not permanently obscure historical knowledge.
Bury perplexes us by vacillating between his credo of historical impartiality and his occasional praise for a partisan point of view. The key to this enigma is his fitful accommodation to the British historiographical tradition which assumed that superb literary style was wedded to a parti pris, such as Gibbon's or Macaulay's. In a similar manner, the tug of a rival value-laden paradigm impelled him to interpret “development” to mean “progress” in the direction of reason and individual liberty. History, Bury advocated in “The Science of History,” should become “a more and more powerful force for stripping the bandages of error from the eyes of men, for shaping public opinion and advancing the cause of intellectual and political liberty....” Bury, however, did not regard such liberal progress as a historical necessity. Human volition and contingencies undermine deterministic inevitability.
Survival of the Fittest Paradigms?
“Limitations of An Evolutionist Philosophy of Science.” Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science 8 (1977): 349–352
Recently, philosophy of science has been preoccupied with the “rational reconstruction of scientific progress.” One influential type of rational reconstruction is Stephen Toulmin's controversial analogy that reads scientific progress in terms of Darwinian categories borrowed from organic evolution. This epistemological theory looks to natural selection for a model of how scientists acquire and develop knowledge.
In Foresight and Understanding (1961), Toulmin claimed that in science, as in the evolution of biological species, change in concepts results from the selective perpetuation of idea variants. His later book, Human Understanding (1972) constructed an evolutionist model for the development of scientific progress. Just as species evolve through adaptive mutations of individual organisms in response to environmental pressures, so scientific disciplines evolve through changes in paradigms (or concepts, methods, and aims) in response to disciplinary pressures for deeper understanding.
Toulmin's evolutionist epistemology has been challenged by L. Jonathan Cohen in “Is the Progress of Science Evolutionary?” [British Journal of the Philosophy of Science 24 (1973): 41–61]. Cohen exposes weaknesses in the supposed analogy between scientific growth and organic evolution. Firstly, conceptual variants are not “mutations” that arise spontaneously, since scientists deliberately invent conceptual variants to solve problems. Secondly, a biological species differs markedly from a “Population of concepts,” none of whose members needs to be in “competition” with another. Thirdly, the identity-through-change of a biological species differs from the identity-through-change of a scientific discipline. To solve conceptual problems within a discipline requires a set of interrelated concepts, not a population of concepts with similar characteristics.
Fumbling Toward Truth
“Comment on ‘The Natural Selection Model of Conceptual Evolution.’” Philosophy of Science 44 (1977): 502–507.
Natural evolution may be the best model to described the intellectual process of scientific discovery and conceptual innovation. By contrast, another model posits an extreme rationalist “logic of discovery” which claims that intelligent solutions to problems must entail intelligent generation and a clairvoyant, unerring march to the truth. A better paradigm seems to be “fumbling in the dark” after the manner of biological evolution through natural selection. Poincaré and other classic narrators of the creative insight process confirm that we usually approach discoveries through intelligent errors and stumbling indirection. Problem solvers “naturally” generate a “wasteful” welter of idea variations; the selective retention of the best hypothesis proceeds through a groping process toward an “increasing fit” into the selective system.
Creative heuristics follow a natural-selectionist epistemology. The generating stage of discovery does not proceed by way of prescient, logically entailed truth but by “blind” variants, vague hunches, and conjectures; the editing, selecting stage of creativity does, however, employ logical consistency. Innovation involves the vital interplay of both “blind,” “subjective” hunches and rational, “objective” logic.
Necessary Truths and Reality
“Logical Possibility, Iron Bars, and Necessary Truth.” The New Scholasticism 51 (Winter 1977): 117–122.
Some academic disciplines such as economics and political philosophy suffer acute methodological embarrassment when they claim their arguments (e.g., about human nature) are simultaneously necessary truths and factual. This embarrassment arises from the debatable dichotomy which asserts that any necessary truth must be non-factual and merely formal.
Necessary truths, in this view, say nothing about the real, factual world and are necessary only for formalistic reasons of definition and stipulation. Conversely, factual matters (e.g., an iron bar sinks in water) are viewed as non-necessary or contingent: they happen to be so, but, without definitional contradiction, we can conceive of the essence of iron bar and not include the property of sinking in water. Apparently, it is “logically possible” for any given factual state of affairs to be otherwise. Such ontological facts would seem too contingent to firmly support necessary truths.
We can challenge this dichotomy that separates the real world of fact from the necessary world of certain knowledge and necessary truths. We can argue against the supposition that factual matters must be contingent. Statements can, in fact, be both necessary and ontological or factual truths simultaneously.
A valid notion of “logical possibility” requires us to consider all the known data of a certain state of affairs (including the actual specific gravity of iron). We must also look at actual possibility rather than postulate a “possibility” that deliberately ignores known facts (e.g., iron sinks in water). Thus, valid logical possibility considers all the known data. By contrast, the invalid notion of logical possibility (which holds that factual statements about the world must be non-necessary) can exist only when we consider something (say, iron) in isolation from all that we do know about it. The full, known reality of anything forbids us to consider it other than it is.
Next, the valid sense of logical possibility may be joined with Henry Veatch's view of “what-statements” as necessary truths in Two Logics: The Conflict between Classical and Neo-Analytic Philosophy (1969). What-statements (or essential definitions of things) can be necessary truths about the world without claiming absolute, dogmatic infallibility and irreformable omniscience. The possibility that future events may make us revise our essential definitions does not entail that we can pronounce only contingent truths about the world.
Further discussion of natural necessity may be found in Fr. Wallace's book on Causality and Scientific Explanation and in Henry Veatch's review article of R. Harré and E.H. Madden, Causal Powers: A Theory of Natural Necessity [The New Scholasticism 50 (Autumn 1976): 537–541].
Chapter 8, “Conclusions and Applications.” Microeconomic Laws: A Philosophical Analysis. Pittsburgh, Pa., University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976: 181–215.
Microeconomic statements share features common to nomological or lawlike general statements in the natural sciences. Microeconomic statements can thus explain and predict economic events provided that certain antecedent conditions are satisfied. It follows that microeconomic principles qualify as laws in much the same way as do their counterparts in the natural sciences. For a proposition to be a law it must be (a) a lawlike statement, and (b) true.
Methodological problems faced by microeconomics resemble those in the natural sciences. Predictive failure does not brand a theory as false or useless. Natural sciences, in fact, betray similar problems without shame. Examples such as Newton's first law (“In the absence of forces acting upon it, a body remains at rest or in uniform rectilinear motion”) exhibit antecedent conditions (the absence of forces) that cannot be realized in the real world; still, no law could serve more usefully.
What about the relation between macro and micro economics? The aggregation problem is not unique to economics, since it appears also in the natural sciences. The development of adequate correspondence rules linking micro and macro economics would solve the problem. Until Blotmann, physics could not relate thermodynamics and mechanics. We should not prematurely reject microeconomics for lack of its correspondence with macroeconomics.
The motives of the developers of microeconomics need not affect the truth of those laws. Thus, accusations that microeconomics is simply the academic expression of capitalist vested interests, even if true, need not affect the conceptual status of that discipline. Braybrooke's similar accusations to the manner in which motives might corrupt methodology apply equally well to the natural sciences.
“Pure” vs. “Grubby” Knowledge
“Problems in the Economist's Conceptualization of Technological Innovation.” History of Political Economy 7 (1975): 456–481.
Technological innovation is the primary cause of long-term economic development, the crucial, life-sustaining process in human history. But economists share a misconception about such innovation. They tend to overemphasize “pure” forms of knowledge (i.e., scientific knowledge) and discount “mere” technological or engineering knowledge. In this they have been misled by Schumpeter's focus on the charismatic entrepreneur who, by a bold stroke, “innovates.” Schumpeter dismisses subsequent improvements as trivial.
Empirical studies, however, display how such improvements are the major source of more efficient use of resources. Two thirds of all research and development expenditures promote development rather than basic research. Schumpeter's disinterest in the “grubby” technical process misled later economists. As a result, economists overlook economically important knowledge in favor of scientifically interesting knowledge.
The importance of specialized and localized knowledge complements F.A. Hayek's defense of such knowledge in “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” By focusing on economics as a process, Rosenberg implicitly supports the Austrian School's view of dynamic competition as opposed to static perfect equilibrium models.
Paradigms and Social Change
“How People Change Themselves: The Relationship between Critical Theory and its Audience.” Political Theory and Praxis: New Perspectives. Edited by Terence Hall. Minneapolis: Minnesota, 1977, pp. 200–231.
Can theoretical thinking about man and society guide social action without theorists manipulating persons? Yes, if we reject instrumentalism.
The instrumentalist paradigm assimilates the natural sciences with the social sciences. Social events are thus assumed to be part of a determined lawful process. To achieve social change, external events must be altered. This theory implies that only coercive, manipulative means can create a free society. Endorsers of instrumentalism include Skinner, Keynes, Robert Owen, and August Comte.
An alternative paradigm to the instrumentalist threat of “behavior modification” and social engineering is the educative model, which centers around changing people's self-conceptions. People intensify their social oppression because they perceive themselves and their roles in society in ways that perpetuate the oppressive system. To avoid exchanging one form of oppression for another, the educative paradigm encourages people to voluntarily change their self-conception through a method of rational persuasion and discourse.
People should not be coerced into freedom. But equally fallacious is the idealist view that social structures change simply by a shift of ideas. Structural impediments must be overcome as well as intellectual ones. A middle way would steer between mass coercion and intellectualism. The en masse approach is deficient from the viewpoint of the educative paradigm, which is rooted in a critical theory demanding more than a shift in external conditions. The educative paradigm requires the removal of personal misconceptions. The woman's movement exemplifies how a change in self-conception can generate a massive social change towards freedom.