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A Philosophical Dialogue between Leonardo Diaz and Andrés Mirego (2 of 4)

A Philosophical Dialogue between Leonardo Diaz and Andrés Mirego (2 of 4)

(AM): For several years I developed a line of research on the work of Thomas Kuhn. As part of your research, you have made several publications. One of them was an article published in the magazine INDOXpublic. 27, 2011, p. 251-270.). There she recounts that in 1989, Kuhn was invited to participate in a panel discussion with philosopher Charles Taylor, in which they discussed the distinction between the natural sciences and the humanities. Taylor defended the classic distinction postulated by the philosopher Wilhelm Dilthey, between the natural sciences and the spiritual sciences. Accordingly, the natural sciences deal with things devoid of meaning, alien to any historical and cultural identification, while the human sciences are comprehensive or hermeneutic projects that deal with phenomena full of historical and cultural meanings.

Thomas Cohn

Such an approach, according to yours, is inconsistent with Kuhn’s view, which asserts that the objects of natural sciences have meaning and are historically and culturally specific, because the entities of the world are constructed from a dictionary given by culture.

So, for Kuhn, science is not exempt from the relationship of knowledge, language, and culture?

Leonardo Diaz (LD): Not so. Cohn considered himself a “Kantian with shifting categories”. I believed that there was a truth independent of us, which cannot be known and cannot be described. But also, for him, there was the truth, the enormous world, which consisted of the set of data generated by external stimuli detailed in categories, and this was the product of culture. Since data is inseparable from categories, when the categories change, the data also changes with them. Therefore, Kuhn asserts that “the sky of the ancient Greeks is not our sky.” The Greeks had a system of categories by which they shaped reality in a different way from ours. For them, the moon was not a satellite, but a planet, while the sun was not a star. For Kuhn, the method of classification is not just a method of naming, but an inextricable network of observing language and interpreting the world.

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(Am): In an article resulting from this discussion: “Natural and Human Sciences”, (The path of the structure, 2002, ed. Bedus, p. 257-265) Kuhn says there is an important difference between the nature of science training and humanities education. Kuhn believes that humanistic education enhances the ability to reinvent a method, school, or system of thought, while science education is geared more toward enhancing the problem-solving skills provided by the research tradition.

(LD): That’s right. We must remember that, in The structure of scientific revolutions, Kuhn wrote that scientific training is based on textbooks where models exist, and problem-solving models that serve as guides for developing the ability to solve future problem situations. Thanks to them, the consensus of the scientific community is achieved. Students of science do not need to read the classics in their disciplines: Galileo, Newton, or Darwin to be proficient in their craft. They learn the concepts of the classics through the teaching of their teachers and the mediation of textbooks. This reading does not encourage questioning of the founders of the system, but rather it encourages efficacy in solving specific questions within a series of papers presented by tradition. For this reason, Kuhn considers that science education does not promote criticality, since his goal is to develop what he calls natural science, which is uncritical. Natural science is not uncritical because it lacks analysis. It is clear that the hypotheses and concepts are called into question, but the foundations of the research tradition that provides the basis for scientific training have not been questioned.

On the other hand, Cohn considers that humanities education reinforces this critical importance. For example, students of philosophy should read the classics of the system and encourage them to criticize them. This generates a process in which intellectual traditions are in a state of constant questioning and disciplinary re-establishment. This education fosters a critical attitude towards the fundamentals that govern our practices, but does not allow the development of research aimed at solving problems; Restrictions on science education are not intended to encourage continued questioning of the foundations of tradition; Its advantages are that it allows us to focus on some very specific research problem and to solve ourselves effectively.

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(Trustworthy the The structure of scientific revolutions (1970), Kuhn introduces the concept of the paradigm, a paradigm of scientific achievements accepted in the scientific community. The model allows consensus. Cohn explains how: “The pre-model period (…) is regularly characterized by frequent and in-depth discussions of acceptable methods, problems, and criteria for solutions, even though these discussions serve to change schools more than produce agreement” (ibid. 87).

(LD). Yes, this description is consistent with his model of scientific progress. In this model there is a pre-typical stage, characterized by disagreement about the basic problems, the procedure for addressing them, and possible solutions. This stage leads to another stage where a research tradition is established that establishes a dominant conceptual framework, the stage of ordinary science. When a crisis occurs within a research tradition, the process of a scientific revolution begins, establishing a new research tradition.

The cosmological model is a generalization of what he understood as the characteristic process of astronomy. It should be remembered that he was a specialist in Copernican astronomy, to which he devoted a book. But it is not a model that can be extended to all scenarios of scientific development. We can see that in many sciences, new research traditions coexist with old ones and do not lead to what Cohn calls “world change.”

(AM): Kuhn says that in the structure: “When (…) the model tends to win the battle, the number and strength of convincing arguments in its favor will increase. Then more scholars will turn and the exploration of the new paradigm will continue. Gradually, the number of experiments, tools, articles and books will multiply based on the model. Still other men, convinced of the usefulness of the model. The new vision, they will adopt the new method of practicing natural science, until there are still a few who will eventually resist it.” (ibid. 246). Does this approach still apply in these electronic and innovative times?

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(LD) – Before responding to you, I consider it appropriate to make a clarification. One of the problems that Kuhn’s theory generates is that of the factors that influence the paradigm shift. One of the most controversial responses was the one she cited, the role of persuasive arguments. It was a controversial topic, because for a more traditional view of the philosophy of science, Kuhn argued that scientific discussions were not rational, but rather more like the emotional character of politics or religion. This idea is reinforced by this statement from the structure Cohen pointed out that a paradigm shift involves a kind of “religious transformation.”

Perhaps the statement was unfortunate and distracted from the really important topic Kuhn wanted to highlight: scholarly debates do not respond to an intellectual dynamism where it suffices to listen to the reasons for abandoning our conceptual frameworks as if they were tools. We don’t use conceptual frameworks, we live in a world that was created by them. So counterarguments, contradictions, and conclusive experiences do not define the debates per se. Not in the way Karl Popper thought. The way evidence and conflicting arguments are evaluated is mediated by our conceptual frameworks.

On the other hand, Kuhn offered a small hint – he did not develop a theory – about the need for persuasion. A research path has been developed on this issue that addresses rhetoric in the promotion of scientific ideas.

Having made this point, I see that the answer to your question is in the affirmative. Not in the sense that one paradigm has been abandoned and appropriated by others. But if there were research traditions establishing and drawing lines of research that would produce: research foci, journals, and epistemological authorities; They will marginalize other lines of research and those who dedicate themselves to it