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Beyond positivism and relativism : theory, method, and evidence / Larry Laudan

Main Author Laudan, Larry Country Estados Unidos. Publication Boulder : Westview Press, 1996 Description IX, 277 p. ; 24 cm ISBN 0-8133-2469-6 CDU 167 501
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Monografia Biblioteca de Ciências da Educação
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

With the decline of logical positivism after 1950, much work in the philosophy of science has careened toward an uncritical relativistic approach. Many scholars, faced with a choice between a narrowly restrictive positivism and an "anything goes" relativism, have sought to find a middle path in the debate.In this collection of papers, several of which appear here for the first time, Larry Laudan argues that resolving this dilemma involves not some centrist compromise position but rather a conception of scientific knowledge that goes beyond both positivism and relativism. This conception must begin with the rejection of assumptions about knowledge that these apparently opposed positions hold in common. Relativism, for Laudan, is a particularly self-defeating form of neopositivism.In showing the connections between these two approaches and clarifying the positions of such influential philosophers as Thomas Kuhn and Paul Feyerabend, Laudan does the great service of laying the foundation for an account of science that rejects the errors of positivism without providing aid and comfort to the enemies of reason. He also takes a fresh look at many other central issues of scientific philosophy, including the science/non-science demarcation, the underdetermination of theory by evidence, and the contested role of social factors in the legitimation of scientific knowledge. Beyond Positivism and Relativism is a major statement about the nature of science and evidence that will command the interest of philosophers of science, epistemologists, sociologists of knowledge, and all who are seriously concerned about science, scientific progress, and the implications for knowledge in many other fields.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Preface (p. ix)
  • Part 1 Introduction (p. 1)
  • 1 ""The Sins of the Fathers . . .""Positivist Origins Of Postpositivist Relativisms (p. 3)
  • Part 2 Theory And Evidence (p. 27)
  • 2 Demystifying Underdetermination (p. 29)
  • 3 Empirical Equivalence And Underdetermination (p. 55)
  • Part 3 Methods And Progress (p. 75)
  • 4 A Problem-Solving Approach To Scientific Progress (p. 77)
  • 5 For Method Answering the Relativist Critique of Methodology Of Kuhn and Feyerabend (p. 88)
  • 6 Reconciling Progress and Loss (p. 113)
  • Part 4 Choosing The Aims And Methods Of Science (p. 123)
  • 7 Progress or Rationality? The Prospects for Normative Naturalism (p. 125)
  • 8 The Rational Weight of The Scientific Past: Forging Fundamental Change In A Conservative Discipline (p. 142)
  • 9 Normative Naturalism Replies to Friendly Critics (p. 154)
  • Part 5 History And Sociology Of Science (p. 181)
  • 10 The Pseudo-Science Of Science? (p. 183)
  • 11 The Demise of The Demarcation Problem (p. 210)
  • 12 Science at the Bar--Causes for Concern (p. 223)
  • 13 Dominance and the Disunity Of Method: Solving the Problems Of Innovation and Consensus (p. 231)
  • Credits (p. 245)
  • Notes (p. 247)
  • Selected Bibliography (p. 271)
  • About the Book and Author (p. 273)
  • Index (p. 274)

Reviews provided by Syndetics


Laudan stakes his epistemological position not between the familiar polarities of positivism and relativism (were we not taught that the two spanned the field?) but, as his title explicitly states, beyond them--it being very much his argument that, far from being antipodal, positivism and relativism are sisters under the skin, the sterility of the latter deriving from the slavish formalism of the former. So he is eager to move the explanation of the scientific enterprise, in which he strongly believes, to ground where it does not get waylaid by the too-rigorous postulations of a Popper or a Carnap, and so be subject to the anarchistic snipings of a Kuhn or a Feyerabend, for whom no world picture is superior to any other. Clearly Laudan has one foot solidly planted in reality--and he is ready, along with Samuel Johnson, to kick the nearest pebble, refuting the extremists "thus!" He writes lucidly and provides convincing, original arguments to defend science against those too eager to find loopholes in its basically empirical and progressively cumulative process. This is a wise, beautifully written book that commands attention and respect, even as the author takes on both narrow and radical theories that collectively produce ironies enough, he laments, "to make grown men weep." General; upper-division undergraduates through faculty. M. Schiff College of Staten Island, CUNY

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Larry Laudan is professor of philosophy at the University of Hawaii. He is author of many articles and books on the nature of knowledge, including Progress and Its Problems, Science and Relativism, Science and Hypothesis, and Science and Values.

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