Crítica, Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Volume 10, number 29, August 1978
Cuantificadores existenciales y principios-guía en las teorías físicas
[Existential Quantifiers and Guiding-Principles in Physical Theories]
C. Ulises Moulines
Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Abstract: In a 1969 “Postscript” to his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), Thomas Kuhn tried to arrive at a clearer definition of his famous, but vague and ambiguous, notion of “paradigm” as a structure underlying an entire discipline during a “normal science” period. He identified the four essential components of a paradigm (or “disciplinary matrix”, as the notion was rebaptized): symbolic generalizations, ontologic or heuristic models, methodological values and “model theoretic” application patterns.
Later on, Stegmüller used the formal apparatus of Sneed’s meta-theory in order to clarify formally the notions entailed in the first and last of such components; in particular, he analyzed Kuhn’s “symbolic generalizations” as identical with the “fundamental laws” of the so-called “structural nucleus” of a theory.
This paper deals with that first component of a paradigm, and proposes a new name for the entities that make it up: Moulines uses the term “guiding-principles”, which seems to reflect their contents and function better than “symbolic generalizations” or “fundamental laws”, and purports to analyze them in a more complete, detailed and “compromised” way. He pretends to validate his notion of guiding-principles for at least two important cases of scientific paradigms: classic mechanics and phenomenological thermodynamics, leaving open the question whether the same type of analysis applies to other cases as well.
If guiding-principles have the form here proposed, this would explain some of the peculiar characteristics of paradigms, which Kuhn has called attention to, and which have baffled many of his critics. Basically, such characteristics would be:
a) The contents of a paradigm is a promise of future scientific success rather than a palpable realization.
b) Paradigms give rise to the strange kind of activity which Kuhn calls “puzzle-solving”.
c) Paradigms are essentially irrefutable by experience
Even though Stegmüller has partly explained these points, his analysis is still too raw and fails to show clearly what part do guiding-principles play in paradigm, and why do they play it. Moulines tries to complement Stegmüller’s analysis attending to the peculiar logical form which guiding-principles possess, at least in his two chosen cases. He proceeds by concentrating on the guiding-principle of classical mechanics in order to arrive, through the study of this particular example, to the general characteristics of such principles. Then he points out how the same considerations may be applied to thermodynamics.


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