Åêîíîì³÷í³ íàóêè/14. Åêîíîì³÷íà òåîð³ÿ

Marynenko N. Iu.

Ternopil Ivan Pul’uj state technical university




The ability of any theory to form the basis for the development of scientific thought is based on the possibility to explain and forecast conformities of the world economy development. It is very important in the case of research and study of the scientific-research programmes (paradigms). Each of such paradigms is a special method of the researching the historical process of economy and economic idea development, and at the same time is a certain interpretation of the history maintenance and the object of economic history and history of economic thought study.

K. Popper is the primary architect of falsification as a method of science. In his “The logic of scientific discovery”, he has outlined the basic approach taken in what is called the scientific method. He proposed that scientific knowledge grows through a process of making hypotheses about the nature of problems and the falsification or testing of those hypotheses. R. Popper argued that it is the duty of every scientist to try to disprove or reject his or her hypotheses. If a hypothesis cannot be rejected by empirical evidence, it may be retained as “probably true”. All knowledge then is probabilistic, it has not yet been falsified. The process is subject to what statisticians call type I and II (or alpha and beta) errors. Type II errors occur when a false hypothesis is accepted as “true”. When a “true” hypothesis is rejected as false a type I error has occurred [1, p. 34].

T. Kuhn has offered another explanation for the evolution and change of scientific thought in the “hard sciences”. His explanation is often applied to economics and social sciences. T. Kuhn used the concept of “paradigms” to explain the process. The term “paradigm” is often used and abused in discussions. T. Kuhn’s approach is essentially a “truth by consensus” which is contained in the paradigm. This paradigm (and its associated “truth by consensus”) is practiced until there are “anomalies” or problems that the existing paradigm cannot explain. Then an alternative paradigm with greater explanatory powers replaces it. He argued that a science operates within a paradigm. This paradigm is characterized by the: “community structure of science”; “disciplinary matrix” which consists of symbolic generalizations (deployed without question); shared commitments to a set of beliefs and a set of values. In the book “The structure of scientific revolutions” T. Kuhn argued that science does not progress via a linear accumulation of new knowledge, but undergoes periodic revolutions, also called “paradigm shifts” (although he did not coin the phrase), in which the nature of scientific inquiry within a particular field is abruptly transformed. In general, science is broken up into three distinct stages. Prescience, which lacks a central paradigm, comes first. This is followed by “normal science”, when scientists attempt to enlarge the central paradigm by “puzzle-solving”. Thus, the failure of a result to conform to the paradigm is seen not as refuting the paradigm, but as the mistake of the researcher, contra K. Popper’s refutability criterion. As anomalous results build up, science reaches a crisis, at which point a new paradigm, which subsumes the old results along with the anomalous results into one framework, is accepted. This is termed revolutionary science. T. Kuhn has argued that rival paradigms are incommensurable – that is, it is not possible to understand one paradigm through the conceptual framework and terminology of another rival paradigm. For many critics this thesis seemed to entail that theory choice is fundamentally irrational: if rival theories cannot be directly compared, then one cannot make a rational choice as to which one is better.

I. Lakatos’ contribution to the philosophy of science was an attempt to resolve the perceived conflict between K. Popper’s falsificationism and the revolutionary structure of science described by T. Kuhn. The members of the science use thå paradigm to resolve anomalies. When an anomaly of major significance or a large number of anomalies cannot be explained, the paradigm must be questioned and a new paradigm for that science developed. In this manner “science progresses” I. Lakatos’ method is expressed in his book, “Proofs and Refutations”. I. Lakatos’ approach, while in the tradition of one of his teachers, K. Popper, is critical of both K. Popper and T. Kuhn. He advocated a more sophisticated form of falsification of “groups of theories” and combined it with “scientific research programmes” (SRP’s) which were more specific than paradigms. I. Lakatos’ SRP consists of two elements: the “hard core, protective belt” and the “positive heuristic”. The hard core is constructed of “basic axioms and hypotheses” that are accepted without question and is used as a defense mechanism. The positive heuristic is the T. Kuhn sees knowledge as paradigms. I. Lakatos took the view that a research programme contained “methodological rules”, some that instruct on what paths of research to avoid (“negative heuristic”) and some that instruct on what paths to pursue (“positive heuristic”).

The scientists involved in a research programme will attempt to shield the theoretical core from falsification attempts behind a protective belt of auxiliary hypotheses. Whereas K. Popper was generally regarded as disparaging such measures as “ad hoc”, I. Lakatos wanted to show that adjusting and developing a protective belt is not necessarily a bad thing for a research programme. Instead of asking whether a hypothesis is true or false, I. Lakatos wanted us to ask whether one research programme is better than another, so that there is a rational basis for preferring it. He showed that in some cases one research programme can be described as progressive while its rivals are degenerating. A progressive research programme is marked by its growth, along with the discovery of stunning novel facts, development of new experimental techniques, more precise predictions, etc. A degenerating research program is marked by lack of growth, or growth of the protective belt that does not lead to novel facts. I. Lakatos claimed that not all changes of the auxiliary hypotheses within research programmes (the scientist called them “problem shifts”) are equally as acceptable. He took the view that these “problem shifts” can be evaluated both by their ability to explain apparent refutations and by their ability to produce new facts. If it can do this then I. Lakatos claims they are progressive. However if they do not, if they are just “ad hoc” changes that do not lead to the prediction of new facts, then he labels them as degenerate. If a research programme is progressive, then it is rational for scientists to keep changing the auxiliary hypotheses in order to hold on to it in the face of anomalies. However, if a research programme is degenerate, then it faces danger from its competitors: it can be “falsified” by being superseded by a better (i.e. more progressive) research programme. This is what I. Lakatos says is happening in the historical periods T. Kuhn describes as revolutions and what makes them rational as opposed to mere leaps of faith (as he considered that T. Kuhn took them to be). I. Lakatos claimed that he was extending K. Popper’s ideas, which had themselves developed over time. The idea that it is often not possible to show decisively which of two theories or research programmes is better at a particular point in time whereas subsequent developments may show that one is “progressive” while the other is “degenerating”, and therefore less acceptable was a major contribution both to philosophy of science and to history of science.

In conclusion it has to be said that T. Kuhn’s approach can be contrasted with that of K. Popper and I. Lakatos. K. Popper saw the advancement of knowledge as the result of the falsification of testable hypotheses. Those hypotheses that were not disproved were accepted as “probably true”. I. Lakatos took the middle ground. Rather than falsifying a hypothesis or the whole paradigm, he felt that the process was based on “scientific research programs”. A school of economic thought may represent a paradigm (in a Kuhnian sense) or a scientific research program (in a Lakatian sense).


1. R. Larry Reynolds. Alternative Microeconomics, 2005. – 164 p.

2. I. Lakatos. The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes: Philosophical Papers Volume 1 // Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

3. I. Lakatos. Proofs and Refutations // Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1976. – 188 p.

4. K. Popper. The Logic of Scientific Discovery // Routledge: New edition, 2002. – 544 p.

5. Kuhn, T. S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions // Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 3rd edition, 1996. – 226 p.