TRAMES 2, 6, 2002


Endla Lõhkivi

University of Tartu

Abstract. The Duhem-Quine thesis (DQT) of underdetermination of theories by facts and the consequences of this thesis play a central role in the debates between philosophy of science and sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK). Traditionally, the DQT has been taken as an argument for relativist SSK. In this paper I will demonstrate that such an unconditional acceptance of the DQT may turn against the entire sociological programme, since the application of the underdetermination argument gives rise to an inadequate dichotomy – ‘rational’ vs. ‘social’. The dichotomy involves the ‘arationality assumption’: it is only the arational, which requires sociological explanation. This idea, however, contradicts the main claims of SSK. The analysis of the argument of underdetermination in these discussions leads to the issue of the ‘science wars’ – the radical version of the debates between philosophers and sociologists. Much of the ‘science wars’ controversies is due to mutual misunderstanding based on the dichotomy of rational vs. social.

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