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Progress and Its Problems: Towards a Theory of Scientific Growth
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Laudan's model of science is based on the concept of a "research tradition," which is a set of metatheoretic commitments (methodological, ontological, metaphysical, etc.). Theories are of minor importance; they are merely "designed to particularize" (p. 81) the research tradition in which they were conceived. These little particulars don't matter much; it is the research tradition that scientists care about: "a scientist's cognitive loyalties are based primarily in the research tradition rather than in any of its specific theories," which means that "he generally has no rational vested interest in hanging onto those individual theories" (p. 96).
History shows that in reality the priorities are the reverse, so Laudan is forced to falsify history to fit his model. For example, he claims that Leibniz and others "were seriously prepared to dismiss Newtonian physics because its ontology was incompatible with the accepted metaphysics of the day." (p 64). Leibniz was certainly uncomfortable with action at a distance (as was Newton), but to say that he was prepared to "dismiss" Newton's theory is ridiculous. Indeed, Laudan provides no evidence for his interpretation and gives no reference to support it. (This is not the only time Laudan provides an imaginative interpretation of history without giving any reference to support it; see, e.g., p. 88.)
The idea that theories are "designed to particularize" metatheoretic commitments also requires tinkering with history.Read more ›