Could Lakatos, even with Zahar's criterion for novel fact, evaluate the copernican research programme?
British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 43 (2):161-200 (1992)
Why did Copernicus's research programme supersede Ptolemy's?’, Lakatos and Zahar argued that, on Zahar's criterion for ‘novel fact’, Copernican theory was objectively scientifically superior to Ptolemaic theory. They are mistaken, Lakatos and Zahar applied Zahar's criterion to ‘a historical thought-experiment’—fictional rather than real history. Further, in their fictional history, they compared Copernicus to Eudoxus rather than Ptolemy, ignored Tycho Brahe, and did not consider facts that would be novel for geostatic theories. When Zahar's criterion is applied to real history, the results are distinctly different. Finally, most of the historical and conceptual problems in applying Zahar's criterion to the Copernican Revolution primarily arise from a deep difficulty in Lakatos's programme: the necessity of individuating research programmes and identifying their originators. 1 Working closely with David Dahl was crucial in developing this paper. Robert Westman's valiant effort to keep me on the historical straight and narrow drastically limited my tendency to a priori historical pronouncements. The Vassar Philosophy Department, John Tompsich, and Jean Sterling were also helpful.
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