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Hps100, Week 03 Notes

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Hps100, Week 03 Notes HPS100

University of Toronto
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We talk about Scientific Method this week. We answer the questions "How do we decide which theory is the best available description of its object?", and "Are there unchangeable rules of theory ass...
Intro to History and Philosophy of Science
Hakob Barseghya
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Anonymous123 on Saturday October 15, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to HPS100 at University of Toronto taught by Hakob Barseghya in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 91 views. For similar materials see Intro to History and Philosophy of Science in History and Philosophy of Science at University of Toronto.

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Date Created: 10/15/16
How do we decide which theory is the best available description of its object? We need a list of rules, criteria. We need a method of appraisal to determine which theory is better in light of the available evidence. Scientific Method: Method: A set of requirements (criteria, rules, standards, etc.) for employment in theory assessment (evaluation, appraisal, comparison, etc.) Example of methods (not necessarily good methods): Accept theories that are simpler. Accept theories with confirmed novel predictions. Accept theories that solve more problems. Accept more precise and accurate theories. Methods should not be confused with methodologies. Methodology: A set of explicitly formulated rules of theory assessment. Methodologies are the rules openly prescribed by the community as the correct way of doing science. Methods are the actual (implicit) expectations of the scientific community. Our openly formulated requirements are often very different from our actual expectations. You may or may not have an openly stated methodology, but you do have a method. You may or may not be aware of what is it that guides you in your choices (that would be your methodology) but you do have a method (your implicit expectations which allow you to choose between competing movies for example). Methodologies are what scientists say they should be doing; methods are what scientists actually do. Focus on the method, not on the methodologies. Methods of theory assessment are not to be confused with techniques used by scientists to construct theories. Research Technique: A set of procedures for theory construction (generation, invention). E.g. brainstorming. If there were a fixed set of rules employed by the scientific community in theory assessment then we would be in a position to say that our current theories are better than the theories of the past. The whole process of scientific change would be governed by this fixed scientific method. Question: Are there such unchangeable rules of theory assessment? What are the requirements of the scientific method? How can they be explicated? To answer this question we must study how theories actually become accepted into the mosaic. Why is it that, in some cases, theories become accepted simply because they are more precise and accurate than their predecessors, while in other cases, theories are required to provide confirmed novel predictions in order to become accepted? Accepted Ontology: The accepted views on the types of entities and interactions that populate the world. Our attitude seems to depend on whether the theory attempts to modify the accepted ontology. Does a new theory try to modify the accepted ontology?  No: In order to become accepted, the new theory must fit the known data with more precision and accuracy than the accepted theory.  Yes: In order to become accepted, the new theory must also provide confirmed predictions of hitherto unobserved phenomena. E.g. Precision and Accuracy: Coulomb’s Law This law didn’t introduce any new ontological elements. It merely quantified a known relation. Coulomb’s Law became accepted because it fit the data. It had no confirmed novel predictions. Novel Predictions: Wave theory of Light Light is a wave that spreads in a universally present medium, ether. Light waves can diffract and interfere when they meet obstacles similar to water waves in a way. The theory’s prediction was confirmed and the theory was accepted after that. Novel Predictions: Superstring theory All known particles and fundamental forces are vibrations of tiny supersymmetric strings – superstrings. This theory introduces new ontological element -> superstrings. Hypothetico-deductive method: A hypothesis is allowed to introduce unobservable entities (e.g. particles, forces, superstrings, etc.) provided that it predicts something novel, hitherto unobserved, and some of these novel predictions are confirmed. Among other things, nowadays, new theories must satisfy these requirements in order to become accepted. Question: Is this scientific method fixed (unchangeable, transhistorical)? -> No Tutorial: Why is the Quine-Duhem thesis significant? <- This question already assumes a position that the Quine-Duhem thesis IS significant. Yes/no questions help us identify the opposing conceptions. Problem (Question) | V Conception (Position on the yes/no question)


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