Roy Bhaskar on Scientific Progress and the Fallibility of Cognition: A Critique of Four Approaches

Journal of Philosophical Theological Research 23 (1):131-148 (2021)
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So far, various approaches have been proposed to explain the progress of science. These approaches, which fall under a fourfold classification, are as follows: semantic, functional, epistemic, and noetic approaches. Each of these approaches, based on the intended purpose of science, defines progress on the same basis. The semantic approach defines progress based on the approximation to the truth, the functional approach based on problem-solving, the epistemic approach based on knowledge accumulation, and the noetic approach based on increased understanding. With a stratified description of the world, Roy Bhaskar sees science as the movement toward deeper layers aimed at discovering productive mechanisms. He also explains progress based on the layering and acquisition of knowledge of the underlying layers. But because he believes in the social nature of science and considers knowledge a social product and subject to change, he acknowledges the fallibility of cognition. Hence, it is believed that moving to a new layer does not necessarily lead to the progress of science. However, it is possible that by acquiring knowledge about the new layer, our previous knowledge will be revised and corrected. In this article, while expressing the Bhaskar theory of scientific progress and explaining its contingency with respect to the fallibility of cognition, we pursue a basic goal. This goal is summarized in the review of all four approaches in order to show their lack of attention to the fallibility of cognition and its effect on explaining progress. What has been done in this article is based on two phases: explaining the contingency of the progress of science for Bhaskar and examining the four approaches to the progress of science in order to show their inattention to the fallibility of cognition. In his philosophy, referring to the two dimensions of transitive and intransitive, Roy Bhaskar considers the purpose of science to be the acquisition of knowledge about intransitive objects, and this knowledge is achieved through a social activity. Since this cognition is a social product and belongs to the transitive dimension of science, it will be fallible and subject to change. Bhaskar concludes with philosophical arguments that the world contains generative mechanisms, but that it is the task of science to discover their nature and exactly what mechanisms are at work. This requires work in two theoretical dimensions, namely the use of conceptual tools and a practical dimension, that is, the use of experimental tools. Now, as the theoretical and technical conditions under which cognition is formed and evaluated are themselves expanding and subject to change and modification, our knowledge may also be expanded or corrected. In this study, it was found that the semantic approach is unaware of the effect of fallibility on the evidence used to estimate the approximation to the truth and, consequently, progress. The functional approach ignores this effect in solving the problems posed by theories. The epistemic approach does not take into account the fallibility of evidence used to justify and validate the evidence, and finally, the noetic approach neglects the effect of the fallibility on what the explanation and prediction are based on. These have led to these approaches, which consider the satisfaction of the criteria in question necessarily leads to progress.



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A realist theory of science.Roy Bhaskar - 1975 - New York: Routledge.
A Realist Theory of Science.Roy Bhaskar - 1976 - Mind 85 (340):627-630.
Scientific progress: Knowledge versus understanding.Finnur Dellsén - 2016 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 56 (C):72-83.

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