Justifying a Theory Vs. Giving Good Reasons for Preferring a Theory

On the Big Divide in the Philosophy of Science
  • Gerard Radnitzky
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 59)


European intellectual history exhibits an ambivalent attitude towards the idea of progress. Whether there has been progress since antiquity in the art of living and practical wisdom has been and is, with good reason, doubted. For many thinkers the fallibility and finitude of mankind seemd to make the idea of any progress at all dubious.1 But the cognitive progress in the natural sciences became the paradigm of progress for all areas, and in this way the groundwork for progressivism was laid. There was already no longer so much certainty about progress in the liberal arts. Has there, for example, been progress in interpreting Homer’s works? In one sense, certainly, but in another it is not entirely clear what such progress would consist in — say, in a ‘better understanding’ (than, for example, Homer’s contemporaries had) or in something else? To what extent the concept of progress in the natural sciences, if we assume this concept to be satisfactorily clarified, can be applied or at least extended to certain social sciences and liberal arts as well is an open question. Nevertheless, it is unquestionably expedient to clarify the concept of cognitive progress in the natural sciences before turning to this question. Moreover, not only is cognitive progress in the natural sciences the paradigmatic example, but possibly this is the only area in which one cannot deny progress. That there may be undesirable side effects of progress, consequences of the industrial application of technologies based on science which we judge to be negative, is not pertinent to our theme.


Successor Theory Theoretical System Logical Empiricism Newtonian Theory Data Sentence 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gerard Radnitzky
    • 1
  1. 1.Universität TrierGermany

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