essay topics

For those of you needing help formulating a thesis for your essay, here are some suggestions for topics:

1. Newton had famously insisted that "hypotheses non fingo [I do not feign hypotheses]”. Explain what he meant by this, by reference to Descartes’s and Bacon’s methodologies.

2. Evaluate Chalmer’s critique of Popper’s methodology of falsificationism.

3. Evaluate Popper’s critique of induction.

4. Hacking suggests that Kuhn was unwise to revise his account of the pre-paradigm stage of science. Was he? Evaluate Kuhn’s account of how normal science emerges.

5. As several critics have observed, Kuhn used the word ‘paradigm’ in various differing senses. Evaluate the significance of this for his account of science.

6. Does Kuhn’s account of science make theory choice irrational? Develop and defend your own view on this question.

7. Should Kuhn’s and Feyerabend’s idea of incommensurability be completely rejected, or are there defensible aspects to their claims? Develop and defend your own view on this question.

8. Can Kuhn account for scientific progress? Develop and defend your own view on this question.

9. Give your own evaluation of Feyerabend’s claim that “Science is not one thing, it is many.” 

10. What is the role of observation in theory testing?

11. Lakatos replaces Kuhn’s philosophy of shifts between paradigms with his methodology of scientific research programmes. Does he thereby successfully resolve difficulties with Kuhn’s account of science? Give reasons for your answer.


Highly recommended: the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) articles on 

Scientific Method

The Incommensurability of Scientific Theories

Science and Pseudo-Science

Scientific Progress

Paul Feyerabend

Theory and Observation in Science

Please do a literature search of your own on whatever topic you choose.

© Richard T. W. Arthur 2016