Published On Jun 18, 2017
Imre Lakatos gives a BBC Radio talk in 1973 on "Science and Pseudoscience". Lakatos was a Hungarian philosopher of science and mathematics, best known for his thesis of the fallibility of mathematics and its 'methodology of proofs and refutations' in its pre-axiomatic stages of development, and also for introducing the concept of the "research program" in his methodology of scientific research programs.
In this talk, Lakatos outlines his distinctive view of the importance of the 'demarcation problem' in the philosophy and history of science, namely the normative methodological problem of distinguishing between science and pseudo-science, and of why its solution is not merely an issue of ‘armchair philosophy’, but also one of vital social and political significance, and even of life and death itself. It reviews what he saw as the inadequacies of previous attempted solutions, such as both probative and probabilist inductivism, and how his own methodology of scientific research programs solves some of the problems posed by the history of science for those of Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn. He proposes that scientists regard the successful theoretical prediction of stunning novel facts – such as the return of Halley’s comet or the gravitational bending of light rays – as what demarcates good scientific theories from pseudo-scientific and degenerate theories, and in spite of all scientific theories being forever confronted by “an ocean of counterexamples”. The talk includes his novel fallibilist analysis of the development of Newton’s celestial dynamics, Lakatos’s favorite historical example of his methodology.
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