Science as Paradigmatic Complexity



.Provost, Wallace H. Jr. "Science as Paradigmatic Complexity" in International Journal of General Systems, Vol 10 no 4, 1984



Imre Lakatos classes philosophers of science as Sceptics, Demarcationists, or Elitists. Each of these three classes presents a logical reason why science could not exist other than according to their description. Sceptics believe that demarcation prevents new ideas from entering science by insisting on criteria that were formed from past ideas. Demarcationists show that without a clear demarcation science could not he separated from pseudo science and one could not prove that one scientific theory was better than another. Elitists; insist that since science includes knowledge known only by those who practice it, only they can determine what is and what is not science.

It is my contention that science is a complex system. It exists simultaneously on several levels which we are able to interact with one at a time. Therefore, seen from this point of view, these three seemingly incompatible theories about science are really descriptions. of different levels of scientific activity. Working scientists solving scientific puzzles must approach their work with the attitude of a sceptic. Their results must be criticized and examined with clear guide lines, and if the results are important enough they will expand the breadth of the scientific paradigm.

While being a complex system does not make science any different than any other social system, the form of complexity that science takes on does. The successful results of scientific puzzle-solving and experimentation is codified into a set of methods, attitudes, and theories that scientists take for granted. Each of these has earned its own way into the scientific "paradigm" which then constrains the activities of scientists in such a way that it increases the freedom of science to grow and flourish. This particular kind of complexity I call "Paradigmatic Complexity."

  1. The Nature of Prevailing Theories of Science
  2. Scepticism
  3. Demarcationism
  4. Elitism
  5. Complexity
  6. Paradigmatic Complexity
  7. Revolutionary Change
  8. Conclusion
  9. Return to the Home Page