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Human Understanding: The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts. SToulmin (1972)

October 14, 2012

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“This is where our ‘ecological’ approach comes into the picture. For it allows us to attack the central problems about the rationality of collective concept-use in a way that involves no appeal (such as Popper makes) to an arbitrary, a priori demarcation criterion, as the definition of ‘science’. Again, instead of leaving us wandering (as Lakatos does) in an abstract world of methodological research programmes’ whose very names are inherited from the arguments of the formal logicians, it requires us to focus directly and in detail on the historically-developing problems and strategies with which our rational enterprises are concerned. At the same time, it gives us the means of distinguishing between the actual conceptual choices in fact made by professional scientists, technologists, or lawyers, and those which the genuine needs of their specific problem-situations would — if accurately judged — have demanded of them; so that we can acknowledge the proper roles of professional elites or ‘reference groups’, without running the risk (as Kuhn does) of bowing absolutely to the judgements of the currently authoritative groups.”

[op. cit., p. 480]

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