Overview[ edit ] In the scientific methodan experiment is an empirical procedure that arbitrates competing models or hypotheses. However, an experiment may also aim to answer a "what-if" question, without a specific expectation about what the experiment reveals, or to confirm prior results. If an experiment is carefully conducted, the results usually either support or disprove the hypothesis. According to some philosophies of sciencean experiment can never "prove" a hypothesis, it can only add support.
References and Further Reading 1. Introduction Most people, philosophers included, think of explanation in terms of causation. Very roughly, to explain an event or phenomenon is to identify its cause. The nature of causation is one of the perennial problems of philosophy, so on the basis of this connection one might reasonably attempt to trace thinking about the nature of explanation to antiquity.
Among the ancients, for example, Aristotle's theory of causation is plausibly regarded as a theory of explanation. But the idea that the concept of explanation warrants independent analysis really did not begin to take hold until the 20th century.
Generally, this change occurred as the result of the linguistic turn in philosophy. More specifically, it was the result of philosophers of science attempting to understand the nature of modern theoretical science. Of particular concern were theories that posited the existence of unobservable entities and processes for example, atoms, fields, genes, etc.
These posed a dilemma. On the one hand, the staunch empiricist had to reject unobservable entities as a matter of principle; on the other hand, theories that appealed to unobservables were clearly producing revolutionary results.
A way was needed to characterize the obvious value of these theories without abandoning the empiricist principles deemed central to scientific rationality.
In this context it became common to distinguish between the literal truth of a theory and its power to explain observable phenomena. Although the distinction between truth and explanatory power is important, it is susceptible to multiple interpretations, and this remains a source of confusion even today.
The problem is this: In philosophy the terms " truth " and "explanation" have both realist and epistemic interpretations.
On a realist interpretation the truth and explanatory power of a theory are matters of the correspondence of language with an external reality.
A theory that is both true and explanatory gives us insight into the causal structure of the world. On an epistemic interpretation, however, these terms express only the power of a theory to order our experience.
A true and explanatory theory orders our experience to a greater degree than a false non-explanatory one. Hence, someone who denies that scientific theories are explanatory in the realist sense of the term may or may not be denying that they are explanatory in the epistemic sense.
Conversely, someone who asserts that scientific theories are explanatory in the epistemic sense may or may not be claiming that they are explanatory in the realist sense. The failure to distinguish these senses of "explanation" can and does foster disagreements that are purely semantic in nature.
One common way of employing the distinction between truth and explanation is to say that theories that refer to unobservable entities may explain the phenomena, but they are not literally true. A second way is to say that these theories are true, but they do not really explain the phenomena.
Although these statements are superficially contradictory, they can both be made in support of the same basic view of the nature of scientific theories.
This, it is now easy to see, is because the terms 'truth' and 'explanation' are being used differently in each statement. In the first, 'explanation' is being used epistemically and 'truth' realistically; in the second, 'explanation' is being used realistically and 'truth' epistemically.
But both statements are saying roughly the same thing, namely, that a scientific theory may be accepted as having a certain epistemic value without necessarily accepting that the unobservable entities it refers to actually exist.
This view is known as anti-realism. One early 20th century philosopher scientist, Pierre Duhem, expressed himself according to the latter interpretation when he claimed:Human intelligence, mental quality that consists of the abilities to learn from experience, adapt to new situations, understand and handle abstract concepts, and .
THOMAS KUHN'S CONCEPT OF PARADIGM, i.e. NARRATIVE DISPLACEMENT IN HISTORY OF SCIENCE. Thomas Samuel Kuhn was born on July 18, , in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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