How does Kuhn’s philosophy differ from Popper’s philosophy?

Karl Popper and Thomas Kuhn were the most dominant philosophers of science in the twentieth century. Piggott shows that both Popper and Kuhn are often referenced in academic works, and their viewpoints remain valuable to researchers. Whereas Sir Karl Popper was studied logic and the scientific method, Kuhn worked in the history of science. According to Piggott, the differences in areas of interest were among the factors that affected the scholars’ perceptions of the nature of science and the role of scientists in developing scientific knowledge.

The Popper-Kuhn debate stemmed from these differences in perception. For instance, Popper believed that there was a unified scientific method that could be used to resolve problems via a process of conjecture and refutation. On the other hand, Kuhn opposed the idea, stating that the method used by scientists to resolve a specific scientific problem depended on the paradigm, i.e., that the scientists choose a particular method from the variety of available options. In addition, both scholars reflected on the idea of scientific knowledge and power. Whereas Kuhn strongly took up the issue of the dynamics of science tackled by Popper, the latter argued to show the limitations imposed by logical empiricism. In particular, Popper emphasized that general theories drawn specifically from empirical observations cannot be proved by scientists to be true. As such, all theories must remain cautious knowledge to be falsified by conflicting observations. On the other hand, Kuhn highlighted that in real science, any theory could be immediately falsified by contrary observations. These observations are always contemporary; science, however, generally ignores or, in some cases, even overwhelms observations dissenting with the current theory to maintain the theory being widely acknowledged. Lastly, the scholars also disagreed on the value of scientific knowledge and its differences from other kinds of knowledge. Popper presented a viewpoint that is popular among the scientists, stating that scientific knowledge is more valuable as it has been empirically tested and proven to be true; Kuhn, however, disagreed, arguing that scientific knowledge could change depending on the researchers’ paradigms and approaches to testing.

Overall, Kuhn and Popper present two drastically different viewpoints on science and the work of researchers. The differences in their viewpoints stem from their chosen fields of work. For example, Kuhn studied the history of science and thus saw how science changed over time, whereas Popper taught logic and believed that empirically testable knowledge was the most valuable.

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