Critique of Nicolas Maxwell’s Aim-Oriented Empiricism Essay

2254 Words Sep 8th, 2008 10 Pages
Critique of Nicolas Maxwell’s Aim-Oriented Empiricism In his paper, “Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos and Aim-Oriented Empiricism,” Nicholas Maxwell proposes the latest version of his conception of natural science, which he calls aim-oriented empiricism (AOE). Maxwell states that AOE “is a kind of synthesis of the views of Popper, Kuhn, and Lakatos, but is also an improvement over the views of all three.”(181) It is Maxwell’s conception of aim-oriented empiricism (hereafter referred to as AOE) that this paper is addressed to. There are two central reasons for Maxwell’s conception of AOE. First is his claim that physics has an implicit, persistent assumption about the universe, “that the universe is such that no seriously disunified, ad …show more content…
(182) Maxwell states, “The whole idea of AOE is that as we go up the hierarchy of assumptions we are increasingly unlikely to encounter error, and the need for revision. (186) The framework of AOE allows for addressing the previously implicit assumptions such that what the assumptions mean is made explicit, thus opening the assumptions to criticism and possible revision. (186) Maxwell’s framework for AOE also provides for rationally assessing rival versions of the assumptions. (186) I challenge Maxwell’s assertion that the bias in theoretical physics favoring unified theories over disunified ad hoc theories “is pure conjecture, bereft of any kind of justification and likely to be false.” (182) I propose that the bias favoring unified, universal theories is justified and wholly appropriate. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ad hoc thusly: “for the particular end or case at hand without consideration of wider application.” If an ad hoc theory successfully explains a particular event, but does not adequately explain a similar yet slightly different event, then, by Maxwell’s reasoning, there should be no bias in choosing between creating a new ad hoc theory to fit the new event, or choosing to modify the original theory so as to explain both events. The question is should a single universally applicable theory be preferred over an endless

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