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Philosophy of Science

Scientific studies are concerned with arriving at logical conclusions by either calculating a set of given data or by drawing on from assumptions and hypothetical premises that are analogous to the field of investigation. Philosophy, on the other hand, ventures beyond science and studies some of the rudimentary aspects related to existence. The realm of philosophical queries includes a broad spectrum of independent topics such as knowledge, law, justice, truth, beauty, cogency, language and so on.

Philosophy attempts to find plausible answers by systematic and critical evaluation of these topics, usually through logically valid lines of reasoning. Philosophy of science deduces from scientific problems and justifies them within a core philosophical framework. It is an advanced morphology of philosophy and science combined together, aimed at representing verified scientific foundations through doctrinal ethics. What makes this discipline a unique one is its varying degree of investigations with regards to observation and deduction of inferences.

In the commonest of cases, the implications generally correspond to observational outcomes which, in turn, are grounded firmly on theoretical basis. This study attempts to look into the arguments and counterarguments related to empirical confirmation of all scientific theories. The purview of this study is based on Larry Laudan and Jarrett Leplin’s epistemological analysis of scientific theories and Samir Okasha’s subsequent arguments on Laudan and Leplin’s proposed model. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Laudan and Leplin’s model had an enormous impact on philosophical assessments of scientific realism and other related studies.

In a way, it challenged the longstanding viewpoint that all scientific proofs have counter equivalences in terms of parallel theory-based phenomena, even if observation is not possible in each of the corresponding cases. To put it differently, any proven scientific theory has in reality another equally credible equivalent. Laudan and Leplin had also raised a second issue concerning the underdetermination of evidential scientific phenomena. The second topic implies that since no such generalization is possible for providing a firm ground for the first presumption, i. e.

, the existence of an empirical equivalence for a given scientific theory, it is not feasible either to arrive at any kind of illation as to a particular scientific theory should hold true for any situation. The term ‘underdetermination’ itself presents a problematic tenet as far as general certainty is concerned, particularly with a lack of possibility for a well established projection of the proposed theory. Kukla (1993) views the second topic as an offshoot of the first one and goes with Laudan and Leplin’s claim that the theory of empirical equivalence implicates the underdetermination model.

The invalidity of the former proposition gives no scope for the latter to be true. The main problems with the empirical equivalence theory, as pointed out by many scholars including Samir Okasha, are related to the rise of numerous vague hypotheses, both systematic and philosophical, by laying down a blueprint of multifaceted interpretations for otherwise static premises. The very claim that all theories can be supported by similar theories calls for an apparently irresolute dichotomy.

What makes this duality less convincing is that philosophy behind it is primarily grounded on inadequate verifiers that do not strengthen the logic of empirical equivalence. The indeterminacy factor associated with the empirical equivalence theory makes the foundation weak per se, thus “challenging the objectivity of criticism on which an entire philosophical culture has depended. ” (Lange, p. 249) However, as for data equivalence as opposed to empirical equivalence, the premise is far more tested and therefore can be banked upon as far as its authenticity is concerned.

This is to do with the philosophical concern of realism and is based entirely on the preconceived notion of observational practices (Worrall, 2009). Before venturing into Okasha’s arguments on Laudan and Leplin’s theory, it is worth casting a glance at what other researchers opine about the same. The earlier premise that any thesis has an empirical rival fails to prognosticate the latter presumptions which involve an entire genre of philosophical renditions presented by Bas van Fraassen, Quine and J. D. Sneed.

Their theories on empiricism are not analogous to the frequent claims made by science that it is capable of discharging theoretical knowledge. What is apparent from the arguments put forward by these scholars, which reflect the problematic precincts of underdetermination, is the broad ineptness of knowledge and its accumulation through tested methodologies. Sarkar & Pfeifer (2006) present the kernel of Laudan and Leplin’s arguments in the following lines of reason: 1) Every theory has indefinitely many empirically equivalent rivals; 2) There is no good reason to believe a theory over its empirically equivalent rivals;

3) Therefore, there are never decisive reasons to believe any theory – that is, theory choice is always underdetermined (p. 840). Both the first and the second assumptions collectively make it clear that it is impossible to derive any adequate proof as to the viability of any theory. Hence, these two premises logically lead to the implied construct of underdetermination, where radical measures are perfectly justifiable. What Okasha argues about Laudan and Leplin’s theory is that observation does not always tally with choice for all cases.

In this context, the theory of knowledge comes into contention in that it is primarily built on the surmise that the outcomes are consistent and in sync with observational evidences. But in reality, this surmise in faulty and therefore, is to be rejected (Balashov & Rosenberg, p. 362). Discarding Laudan and Leplin’s empirical equivalence theory, Okasha sends tremors down the spine of philosophical thinkers in the twentieth century. Okasha’s counterarguments are still considered to be an epoch making approach in the realm of modern epistemology. The basis of Okasha’s argument is concerned with the second premise of Laudan and Leplin’s.

He infers from the second presupposition that any two theories and their observational implications are exactly the same. So there can in fact be a rationale behind underscoring the point that even if two theories bear identical observational evidences, it is not that well defined so as to infer a generalized law that would be applicable in all scenarios. Since Laudan and Leplin firmly hold the viewpoint that no credible inference should be drawn from empirically equivalent theories, Okasha challenges his predecessors’ arguments and maintains that there can be a possibility where the universality of scientific theories can be held true.

To prove his argument, Okasha discards the core presupposition of Laudan and Leplin. No two theories can be exactly the same in that there has to be some kind of dissimilarities, either philosophical or mathematical, that would take away the point of identicalness. As an example, Okasha introduces the factor involving ‘simplicity’. By all common as well as advanced philosophical standards, this factor is deemed a very basic one. Now since two empirically identical theories are most likely to be variable on the ground of simplicity, it is quite obvious that one of them would be given preference over the other one.

In relation with underdetermination, Psillos & Curd (2008) discusses a point of pragmatic significance involving the subtle discernment in the philosophy of language. What is said by a speaker in the context of a particular topic is generally held as the speaker’s honest view. Yet in some cases, this simple justification is rendered null and void for there is ample scope for arguing that the semantics of speech may be misgiving due to intertextual references and clues (p. 294).

So what will be the likely deduction drawn from a conversation which seems innocuous on the surface level? The plausible reply is that one should go for simplicity, or what can be read easily into a situation. This is one of the cornerstones of Okasha’s denial of Laudan and Leplin’s fundamental premise. The epistemic parity of the two primary conjectures is given additional importance for the sake of arriving at the end-result. Okasha refutes Laudan and Leplin’s arguments by claiming that logically consequent results have no choice but to tally with their common source of truth.

In other words, if two statements are supported by a third true statement, it is rationally conclusive that the empirically equivalent sets of statements must lead to the epistemic parity (Okasha, p. 252). The Continental Drift Theory and its relevance within the doctrinal framework of Laudan and Leplin’s theory are worth arguing in this context, particularly to analyze Okasha’s opposition. The two basic premises that Laudan and Leplin take into account go as follows: 1) The earth’s climate is of a widely varied nature, and the modern climatic conditions differ a great deal from what they used to be like in the distant past.

2) The magnetic polar alignment of earth in modern times is markedly different from that of the earlier periods These are the two fundamental statements that need to be logically proved in relation to the philosophical symmetry. As is obvious, the Continental Drift Theory is entirely dependent on 1) and 2). Now what Laudan and Leplin propose is that the notion of magnetism is in direct sync with 2), and in tacit sync with 1) also. Yet they maintain that the phenomenon of earth magnetism not imply 1).

This is because 1) is reversely backed by 2) by virtue of the theory of magnetism being directly involved with 2) and not 1). Hence, the Continental Drift Theory presents a consequential philosophical chain in which the former presupposition comes next in the line of joint statements each of which is independently true. Till this point of reasoning, there is hardly any reason whatsoever to disprove of Laudan and Leplin’s argument. But the crucial factor missing from their arguments, as observed rightly by Okasha, is that deductive reasoning from 1) to 2) does not necessarily implicates the cogency of the inference.

However, in order to justify the inference drawn by Laudan and Leplin, Okasha assumes a philosophical mood by arguing that “if evidence confirms a hypothesis, it confirms anything that entails the hypothesis” (Okasha, p. 253). He also traces a very interesting juxtaposition in Laudan and Leplin’s arguments here. By arriving at an inference from a reverse sequential route, Laudan and Leplin merge together two distinctly different theories and therefore, one must be erroneous, as argued by Okasha.

Since both 1) and 2) are true according to individual merits, the basic theory of Continental Drift needs not be grounded on both of them simultaneously. Albeit there is no problem with such empiricism as such, it is redundant from doctrinal perspectives. The principle of underdetermination manifests itself clearly through the arbitrariness of both 1) and 2), regardless of which order they fit into the argument. References Balashov, Y. , & Rosenberg, A. (2002). Philosophy of science: contemporary readings. Madison Avenue: Routledge. Kukla, A. (1993). Laudan, Leplin, Empirical Equivalence and Underdetermination.

Analysis, 53, 1-7. Lange, M. (2006). Philosophy of science: an anthology. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. Okasha, S. (1997). Laudan and Leplin on Empirical Equivalence. Brit. J. Philo. Sci. , 48, 251-256. Psillos, S. , & Curd, M. (2008). The Routledge companion to philosophy of science. Madison Avenue: Routledge. Sarkar, S. , & Pfeifer, J. (2006). The philosophy of science. London: Taylor & Francis. Worrall, J. (2009). Underdetermination, Realism and Empirical Equivalence. Theoretical Frameworks and Empirical Underdetermination Workshop, Dusseldorf April 10-12, 2008.

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