Kuhn's criticism of Popper's account of the scientific method

Term Paper, 2013

6 Pages, Grade: 2.6


The idea of scientific method and theory is a long-term discussion of philosophers since centuries. The distinction between real science and pseudo-science is not quite clear, especially for those who seek for acceptance and recognition of their own theories by defending them. Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn are two 20th century philosophers who argued about what in their view a scientific theory might be. Popper’s idea in Science: Conjectures and Refutations can be derived from the following example premises: (P1) Only theories which can be falsified are scientific theories. (P2) Albert Einstein’s theory can be falsified. (C) Therefore Albert Einstein’s theory is a scientific theory. The following essay will discuss Popper’s view on scientific method and Kuhn’s criticism on Popper’s theory beforehand and next will evaluate Kuhn’s disagreement with Popper’s account of the scientific method. At the end we might have an answer whether Kuhn’s criticism turns out to be successful or wrong.

Unlike many other philosophers Karl Popper focuses his concept as introduced in the previous paragraph on the falsification of theories. According to that, theories are only considered as scientific if they are falsifiable. Otherwise there are not scientific and therefore pseudo-scientific. Once a newly instituted theory passes the test of falsifiability and hence is approved as scientific further tests can be done. If the theory turns out to be not falsifiable again it is assumed that the theory could be true and is used for further testing. If the theory can be falsified again it is proved to be false and the theory is going to be discarded. Popper derives this idea from his analysis that many so called theories of the past turned out to be non-scientific. Adherents of the theories of Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler looked always for confirmations of the theories in order to strengthen the scientific relevance of their hypotheses because […] the world was full of verification of the theory (Popper, cited in Cottingham, 2008, p. 454). Popper sees a certain dogmatic approach of pseudo-science in this activity because it doesn’t allow calling a theory into question. According to that what matters is not a theory’s verifiability but […] its willingness to subject a theory to the possibility of refutation (Cottingham, 2008, p. 453). Nevertheless even an approved false theory is in a certain way reinterpreted […] in such a way that it escapes refutation (Popper, cited in Cottingham, 2008, p. 455). For Popper this procedure damages the value of […] its scientific status (Popper, cited in Cottingham, 2008, p. 455) and sets up a clear demarcation criterion between science and non-science.


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Kuhn's criticism of Popper's account of the scientific method
The Open University
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Mark-Oliver Morkos (Author), 2013, Kuhn's criticism of Popper's account of the scientific method, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/273207


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