In the fairly strict sense understood here, the idea of a research program(me) was introduced and developed by Imre Lakatos in a number of papers in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Lakatos may be seen as seeking some sort of reconciliation of the views of Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn. Lakatos characterized research programs as consisting of a hard core of central theoretical principles or laws, surrounded by a protective belt of auxiliary hypotheses. Research programs are series or sequences of theories which are connected by the hard core of the program which all members of the program share. The hard core of a research program is not open to modification. However, the protective belt may be altered, and changes to the protective belt constitute shifts between different phases of the research program. Research programs are capable of making progress in a theoretical sense when they make predictions, as well as in an empirical sense when the predictions are confirmed. Programs are evaluated in terms of their progressiveness, and a rational choice between competing programs is made on the basis of comparative judgements of progress. In some respects, Lakatos's idea of a research programme is intended as a refinement of Kuhn's idea of a paradigm. Larry Laudan later developed a related proposal with his notion of a research tradition.
The classic reference for Lakatos is his paper (see Lakatos 1970). Lakatos addresses the question of how to evaluate competing theories of scientific method in his Lakatos 1971. These and other papers are reprinted in his collected papers (see Lakatos 1978 and Lakatos 1978). An important text relevant to the issue of research programs is Lakatos & Musgrave 1970, which contains contributions by Popper, Kuhn,
Feyerabend, among others, in addition to Lakatos's 'Falsification and
the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes'. Laudan 1977 contains good discussion of the idea of a research program, as well as
related discussion of Kuhn, and Laudan's own idea of a research
tradition. An interesting discussion of Lakatos may be found in Ian Hacking's review of the collected papers (see Hacking 1979).
Thirty years after the publication of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, sharp disagreement persists concerning the implications of Kuhn’s "historicist" challenge to empiricism. I discuss the historicist movement over the past thirty years, and the extent to which the discourse between two branches of the historical school has been influenced by tacit assumptions shared with Rudolf Carnap’s empiricism. I begin with an examination of Carnap’s logicism --his logic of science-- and his 1960 correspondence with Kuhn. I focus on (...) problems in the analysis applied to the unit of metascientific study or appraisal, arguing for a reassessment of historicist treatment of the internal/external distinction and historiographic meta-methodology. The critique of objectivism and relativism that eventuates from this re-assessment is a double-edged blade, undercutting both objectivist and relativist treatments of cognitive evaluation and scientific change. I use it to cut across an otherwise diverse group of historicist-influenced writers, including Imre Lakatos, Larry Laudan, H. M. Collins, Stephen Stich. I. Introduction.. (shrink)
Laudan's thesis that conceptual problem solving is at least as important as empirical problem solving in scientific research is given support by a study of the relation between the chromosome theory and the Mendelian research program. It will be shown that there existed a conceptual tension between the chromosome theory and the Mendelian program. This tension was to be resolved by changing the constraints of the Mendelian program. The relation between the chromosome theory and the Mendelian program is shown to (...) be a good illustration of the influence of science itself on the rational standards governing scientific development. (shrink)
Although Kuhn, Lakatos and Laudan disagree on many points, these three widely accepted accounts of scientific growth do agree on certain key features of scientific revolutions. This minimal agreement is sufficient to place stringent restraints on the historical development of science. In particular it follows from the common features of their accounts that scientific history can never repeat. Using the term 'supertheory' to denote indifferently the large scale historical entitites employed in all three accounts, it is shown that a supertheory (...) cannot succeed itself, or reappear after a number of intervening scientific revolutions. The relation of these arguments to the details of the three accounts is briefly examined. (shrink)
Summary For Imre Lakatos hismethodology of scientific research programmes was not only a philosophical theory of science and scientific change but also the conceptual foundation of empirical and historical studies of science. At least terminologically this view is today widely accepted: The concept of aresearch programme is used in all sorts of literature on science. In the present paper I argue that this concept can lead to serious distortions of empirical and historical studies of science if it is not detached (...) from the Lakatosian philosophical framework. Themethodology of scientific research programmes has three main pitfalls, which may lead to disorientations of empirical and historical studies of science: (1) Contrary to what the term research programme may suggest, it offers no perspective on scientific research as an object of analysissui generis; (2) its concept of science is too narrow and covers only minor parts of what counts as science in the real world; (3) it reduces history of science to a mere sequence of research programmes and thereby eliminates the fact that there is an evolution of the structure of research programmes, too. (shrink)
Research Programme and Development of Science. For Imre Lakatos his methodology of scientific research programmes was not only a philosophical theory of science and scientific change but also the conceptual foundation of empirical and historical studies of science. At least terminologically this view is today widely accepted: The concept of a research programme is used in all sorts of literature on science. In the present paper I argue that this concept can lead to serious distortions of empirical and historical studies (...) of science if it is not detached from the Lakatosian philosophical framework. The methodology of scientific research programmes has three main pitfalls, which may lead to disorientations of empirical and historical studies of science: (1) Contrary to what the term "research programme" may suggest, it offers no perspective on scientific research as an object of analysis sui generis; (2) its concept of science is too narrow and covers only minor parts of what counts as science in the real world; (3) it reduces history of science to a mere sequence of research programmes and thereby eliminates the fact that there is an evolution of the structure of research programmes, too. (shrink)
Some peculiarities of the evaluation of theories within scientific research programmes (SRPs) and of the assessing of rival SRPs are described assuming that scientists try to maximise an 'epistemic utility function' under economic and institutional constraints. Special attention is given to Lakatos' concepts of 'empirical progress' and 'theoretical progress'. A notion of 'empirical verisimilitude' is defended as an appropriate utility function. The neologism 'methodonomics' is applied to this kind of studies.
Cognitive architectures - task-general theories of the structure and function of the complete cognitive system - are sometimes argued to be more akin to frameworks or belief systems than scientific theories. The argument stems from the apparent non-falsifiability of existing cognitive architectures. Newell was aware of this criticism and argued that architectures should be viewed not as theories subject to Popperian falsification, but rather as Lakatosian research programs based on cumulative growth. Newell's argument is undermined because he failed to demonstrate (...) that the development of Soar, his own candidate architecture, adhered to Lakatosian principles. This paper presents detailed case studies of the development of two cognitive architectures, Soar and ACT-R, from a Lakatosian perspective. It is demonstrated that both are broadly Lakatosian, but that in both cases there have been theoretical progressions that, according to Lakatosian criteria, are pseudo-scientific. Thus, Newell's defense of Soar as a scientific rather than pseudo-scientific theory is not supported in practice. The ACT series of architectures has fewer pseudo-scientific progressions than Soar, but it too is vulnerable to accusations of pseudo-science. From this analysis, it is argued that successive versions of theories of the human cognitive architecture must explicitly address five questions to maintain scientific credibility. (shrink)
This paper concerns the problem of how to give historical explanations of scientist's decisions to prefer one theory over another. It is argued that such explanations ought to contain only statements about the beliefs and preferences of the agents involved, and, in particular, ought not to include evaluative premises about the theories themselves. It is argued that Lakatos's attempt to build into such historical explanations premises of an evaluative kind is deficient. The arguments of Laudan to the effect that such (...) explanations depend crucially upon evaluative assumptions about the rationality or irrationality of decisions are examined. It is argued that they do not establish the need for such assumptions. Similar criticisms are then shown to be applicable to a version of the 'hermeneutical' model of explanation for human actions. (shrink)
A case study of the development of quantum field theory and of S-matrix theory, from their inceptions to the present, is presented. The descriptions of science given by Kuhn and by Lakatos are compared and contrasted as they apply to this case study. The episodes of the developments of these theories are then considered as candidates for competing research programs in Lakatos' methodology of scientific research programs. Lakatos' scheme provides a reasonable overall description and a plausible assessment of the relative (...) value of these two programs in terms of progressive and degenerating problem shifts. Also discussed are the roles of various types of models as they have been used in these areas of theoretical high-energy physics. (shrink)
In this paper I assess the obstacles to a transfer of Lakatos's methodology of scientific research programmes to mathematics. I argue that, if we are to use something akin to this methodology to discuss modern mathematics with its interweaving theoretical development, we shall require a more intricate construction and we shall have to move still further away from seeing mathematical knowledge as a collection of statements. I also examine the notion of rivalry within mathematics and claim that this appears to (...) be significant only at a high level. In addition, ideas of ‘progress’ in mathematics are outlined. (shrink)
Over the past thirty years Paul Feyerabend has developed an extremely distinctive and influentical approach to problems in the philosophy of science. The most important and seminal of his published essays are collected here in two volumes, with new introductions to provide an overview and historical perspective on the discussions of each part. Volume 1 presents papers on the interpretation of scientific theories, together with papers applying the views developed to particular problems in philosophy and physics. The essays in volume (...) 2 examine the origin and history of an abstract rationalism, as well as its consequences for the philosophy of science and methods of scientific research. Professor Feyerabend argues with great force and imagination for a comprehensive and opportunistic pluralism. In doing so he draws on extensive knowledge of scientific history and practice, and he is alert always to the wider philosophical, practical and political implications of conflicting views. These two volumes fully display the variety of his ideas, and confirm the originality and significance of his work. (shrink)
Abstract The paper is an attempt to interpret Imre Lakatos's methodology of scientific research programmes (MSRP) on the basis of his mathematical methodology, the method of proofs and refutations (MPR). After sketching MSRP and MPR and analysing their relationship to Popper's and Poly a's work, I argue that MSRP was originally conceived as a methodology in the same sense as MPR. The most conspicuous difference between the two, namely that MSRP is fundamentally backward?looking, whereas MPR is primarily forward?looking, is due (...) to the fact that Lakatos could not carry out his project in the full sense. I also explain why he could not. (shrink)
In the first part of this article I investigated the Popperian roots of Lakatos's Proofs and Refutations, which was an attempt to apply, and thereby to test, Popper's theory of knowledge in a field-mathematics-to which it had not primarily been intended to apply. While Popper's theory of knowledge stood up gloriously to this test, the new application gave rise to new insights into the heuristic of mathematical development, which necessitated further clarification and improvement of some Popperian methodological maxims. In the (...) present part I analyze this second phase in the development of Lakatos's Popperian programme in mathematics, and its connection to the methodology of scientific research programmes. (shrink)
In this paper I explore possibilities of bringing post-positivist philosophies of empirical science to bear on the dynamics of mathematical development. This is done by way of a convergent accommodation of a mathematical version of Lakatos's methodology of research programmes, and a version of Kuhn's account of scientific change that is made applicable to mathematics by cleansing it of all references to the psychology of perception. The resulting view is argued in the light of two case histories of radical conceptual (...) innovations. (shrink)
Sometimes themes can be found in common across very different systems in which change occurs. Imre Lakatos developed a theory of change in science, and one involving entities visible at different levels. There are theories defended at a particular time, and there are also research programs, larger units that bundle together a sequence of related theories and within which many scientists may work. Research programs are competing higher-level units within a scientific field. Scientific change involves change within research programs, and (...) change in the ensemble of research programs present at a time, where some will be growing, some shrinking, some progressing, some degenerating. These are also themes in biological evolution. Recent biology has often found itself dealing with the relation between change at a level of "collectives" – such as organisms like us – and change at a lower level – the level of cells, genes, and other evolving parts. This work is continuous with an older discussion, one that arose when biological evolution was no more than a vague speculation, round the beginning of the 19th century. What is the living individual? What is the basic unit of life or living organization? Questions like this were pursued by Goethe, by Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles, and many others. Initially it was plants, especially, that were seen to raise these problems, and then newly described marine animals with strange life cycles. The discussion was influenced by the rise of the cell theory in the early 19th century, but some writers looked for individuals well below the level of the cell. (shrink)
Lakatos’s approach to prediction and novel facts is of considerable interest. Prediction appears in his conception in at least three different levels: a) as an important aim of the research programs; b) as a procedure -a key method- for increasing our scientific knowledge both theoretically and empirically; and c) as the way to assess the scientific character of knowledge claims -means for evaluating results-. At all these levels he envisions a close connection between prediction and novel facts. The paper has (...) four aims. First, to examine his concept of “prediction” in Lakatos’s MSRP, taking into account different aspects (semantical, logical, epistemological, methodological and axiological). Second, to clarify the notion of “novel facts”, which requires the consideration of the various ways in which new facts can be understood. Third, to examine the prediction of novel facts as criterion of appraisal (theoretical, empirical and heuristical). Fourth, to explore Lakatos’s approach (i.e., the concept of prediction linked to novel facts) in connection with the field of economics, in order to shed new light on issues that have been discussed in recent years. (shrink)
This paper analyzes the main features of rational choice theory and evaluates it with respect to the conceptions of Lakatos' research program and Laudan's research tradition. The analysis reveals that the thin rationality assumption, the axiomatic method and the reduction to the micro level are the only features shared by all rational choice models. On these grounds, it is argued that rational choice theory cannot be characterized as a research program. This is due to the fact that the thin rationality (...) assumption cannot be understood as a hard core in Lakatos' terms. It is argued that Laudan's conception of a research tradition better characterizes rational choice theory. On the basis of this conclusion, certain important criticisms of rational choice theory are answered. First, the criticisms concerning the core assumptions of rational choice theory are countered. It is argued that this critique is based on a misunderstanding of rational choice theory as a unified set of models, such as Lakatos' research program. Second, Green and Shapiro's rational choice 'pathologies' - inconsistent predictions, post hoc theory development and arbitrary domain restrictions - are evaluated. Contrary to Green and Shapiro, it is argued that post hoc theory development is a more preferable strategy for developing RCT than domain restrictions based on ex ante rules. (shrink)
This note is intended to address one particular issue in the relative status of Quantum Chemistry in comparison to both Chemistry and Physics. It has been suggested, in the context of the question of the reduction relations between Chemistry and Physics that Quantum Chemistry as a research programme is incapable of furnishing useful guidance to practising chemists. If true, this claim will let us qualify Quantum Chemistry as a degenerating research programme, which, due to its complexity has difficulty to be (...) applied to Chemistry. This claim is shown to be false. The replacement claim I wish to make is that Quantum Chemistry is perfectly capable of furnishing such guidance, but renders the ontological status of many models favored by chemists problematic. Quantum Chemistry, however, validates these models in an instrumental fashion. I will argue that Quantum Chemistry is a progressive research programme. (shrink)
Lakatos, I. History of science and its rational reconstructions.--Clark, P. Atomism vs. thermodynamics.--Worrall, J. Thomas Young and the "rufutation" of Newtonian optics.--Musgrave, A. Why did oxygen supplant phlogiston?--Zahar, E. Why did Einstein's programme supersede Lorentz's?--Frické, M. The rejection of Avogadro's hypotheses.--Feyerabend, P. On the critique of scientific reason.
In this paper a model is presented for the growth of knowledge in a dynamic scientific system. A system which is in some respects an idealization of a Lakatosian research program. The kinematics of the system is described in terms of two probabilistic variables, one of which is related to the evolution of its theoretical component and the other--to the growth of the empirical component. It is shown that when the empirical growth is faster than the theoretical growth the posterior (...) probability of the theoretical component increases. Thus, empirical progressiveness of a research program, as explicated in this model, is accompanied by an increase in the degree of confirmation. In such a case the system grows in a Popperian-like spirit, while learning from experience in a Bayesian manner. (shrink)
Heuristic is a central concept of Lakatos' philosophy both in his early works and in his later work, the methodology of scientific research programs (MSRP). The term itself, however, went through significant change of meaning. In this paper I study this change and the ‘metaphysical' commitments behind it. In order to do so, I turn to his mathematical heuristic elaborated in Proofs and Refutations. I aim to show the dialogical character of mathematical knowledge in his account, which can open a (...) door to hermeneutic studies of mathematical practice. (shrink)
Research programmes are sets of problems preferred on epistemic grounds and including preferred heuristics for inquiry. Charles Lyell's research programme for biogeograpy includes the problem of explaining the distribution of species constrained by laws governing locomotion and containment of species. Included in the programme are laws governing the supernatural introduction of replacement species. Wallace and Darwin derected arguments against the putative intelligibility of this aspect of Lyell's programme before discovering natural selection, and their defence, at this time of natural laws (...) governing the introduction of new species is interesting as a defence of a noval programme of research, not a defence of a proposed theroy. These arguments are presented and an epistemological foundation is offered for them. 1 The author is indebted to a referee for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. (shrink)
Popper has provided a model for the scientific explanation of human actions and a metaphysical theory of man which can guide scientific research. In this paper I discuss the problems of the empirical content and nomicity of the Rationality Principle and extend the method of situational analysis to the problem of explaining beliefs. The domain of applicability of the Rationality Principle is bounded on one side by cases in which behavior is determined by processes which can not be influenced by (...) criticism and on the other side by the phenomenon of substantive creativity. However, a large part of human activity lies within its scope. (shrink)
Imre Lakatos' philosophical and scientific papers are published here in two volumes. Volume I brings together his very influential but scattered papers on the philosophy of the physical sciences, and includes one important unpublished essay on the effect of Newton's scientific achievement. Volume II presents his work on the philosophy of mathematics (much of it unpublished), together with some critical essays on contemporary philosophers of science and some famous polemical writings on political and educational issues. Imre Lakatos had an influence (...) out of all proportion to the length of his philosophical career. This collection exhibits and confirms the originality, range and the essential unity of his work. It demonstrates too the force and spirit he brought to every issue with which he engaged, from his most abstract mathematical work to his passionate 'Letter to the director of the LSE'. Lakatos' ideas are now the focus of widespread and increasing interest, and these volumes should make possible for the first time their study as a whole and their proper assessment. (shrink)
Two books have been particularly influential in contemporary philosophy of science: Karl R. Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery, and Thomas S. Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Both agree upon the importance of revolutions in science, but differ about the role of criticism in science's revolutionary growth. This volume arose out of a symposium on Kuhn's work, with Popper in the chair, at an international colloquium held in London in 1965. The book begins with Kuhn's statement of his position followed by (...) seven essays offering criticism and analysis, and finally by Kuhn's reply. The book will interest senior undergraduates and graduate students of the philosophy and history of science, as well as professional philosophers, philosophically inclined scientists, and some psychologists and sociologists. (shrink)
Lakatos: An Introduction is the first comprehensive analysis on the intellectual life and theories of the distinguished thinker Imre Lakatos. This book clearly presents Lakatos's development of a philosophy of mathematics and empirical science, Lakatos's thought as an important hybrid of Popperian philosophy and Hegelian-Marxist thought, the relationship between Lakatos's views on science and mathematics and his more general philosophical beliefs. Brendan Larvor clearly locates Lakatos in the liberal-rationalist tradition and explains connections between the philosopher's life, philosophy, politics, and technical (...) work in science and mathematics. (shrink)