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Monday 30 July 2018

What is Science 1

What is Science 1 

Is there a specific method of acquiring knowledge, which is peculiar to Science? Starting with Bacon up to Kuhn, perhaps the Philosophers of Science had thought so, though the methods that they had identified were not the same. They were in agreement that Science differs from other subjects and systems of knowledge mainly because there was a “scientific method” in acquiring knowledge. Feyerabend1 on the other hand was of the opinion that there was no scientific method as such.

Science is not very much different from other disciplines but that does not mean that there is no difference at all between Science and other systems of knowledge. Western thinking is based on dualities and the so called scientific methods are categorized under empirical or rationalistic headings. In empiricism sense experience is primary while rationalists are associated with the deductive method.  Bacon is supposed to be an empiricist while Galileo is called a rationalist who followed the deductive methods.

This is an unnecessary categorization, as there are neither pure rationalists nor empiricists from the time of ancient Greeks in the western tradition. Induction (inductive reasoning) does not come under logic but arises from the extension of a property of some members of a population from a limited number of observations in a sample(s) of the population to the entire membership of the population, whether on a statistical basis or not. The population could be infinite. It is not different from having an idea in rationalism.

Rationalism begins with basic ideas that may be in the form of axioms or hypotheses or whatever one calls them, all of which will be called “axioms” hereafter. The jump from observations of a property of a limited number of members of a population to all the members of the population, whether it is finite or not, will be called a generalization. There is no empirical basis for this jump, and is based on an idea or axiom. Neither is there any logic in an Aristotelian sense. It does not follow any rule of inference. It is an idea or a hypothesis as in rationalism. Generalizations come under rationalism. Generalizations in a finite population are said to be concrete, when the generalization could be imagined. Otherwise, a generalization is said to be abstract.  These generalizations are results of a process known as inductive reasoning.

When it is said that induction does not come under logic, it means that induction is not deductive starting from a set of “axioms” using rules of inference and Aristotelian two valued two-fold logic. Inductive statements are not different from “axioms”, which need not be observed for the entire population. They are ideas imposed on the population. For example, the oft quoted statement All men are mortal cannot be observed, and it is an abstract generalization.  

The syllogism in a way can also be considered as a test. For example, consider the syllogism:

All men are mortal

Socrates is a man

Socrates is mortal.

The statement "All men are mortal" is obtained from a limited number of observations by generalization. It is an induction. If one considers syllogism as a deduction, it is not significant, as Socrates is mortal is included in the premise All men are mortal. It is transparent at the very beginning and the so-called deduction has no significance.   

However, one can consider it as a test of the generalization or the “axiom” all men are mortal. Here is Socrates. If Socrates is mortal as implied by the “axiom” then the axiom holds. Otherwise the “axiom” is invalid, and inductive knowledge “all men are mortal” is not consistent with observations.    

The jump from observed to unobserved is not empiricism but rationalism, which cannot be solved in empiricism alone. This is one of the problems that Hume2 associated with induction, which has no solution within the sphere of pure empiricism. Most of the problems of Hume including causality arose from being a pure empiricist, if one may call so. Western thinking, or more specifically Chinthanaya (it is much more than thinking) is dualistic, and empiricism and rationalism are considered as two tight compartments without any interaction or association. Induction, as mentioned, however could be tested, which brings back us to a form of empiricism.      

On the other hand, deductions in rationalism make use of rules of inference, which are obtained through induction. The rule if a=c and b=c, then a=b is nothing but a generalization from limited observations such as if two people are equal in height to a third person, then the two people concerned are themselves equal in height to one another.  The rule if a=b then b=a, or the rule a=a are rules of inference obtained through induction by observing a limited number of cases.  (To be continued)