Conceptual Relativist:
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Does Science give us the truth? (Velasquez 466-467)
  • Many people in the world believe that science "clearly gives us the truth about the world"(Velasquez 466).
    • US Senator SI Hawakaya
      US Senator SI Hawakaya
      This is because people believe that due to all the success of scientific theories, such as medicine and rocket science, and industry, that science "is clear proof that science gives us the truth" (Velasquez 466).
  • However, as S.I. Hayakawa states, "science seeks only the most generally useful systems of classification; these it regards for the time being until more useful classifications are invented, as 'true'" (Velasquez 466).
  • This view is best described in Popper's theory of falsification, which states that "a statement is scientific when some observable events or discoveries exist that could show the statement to be false...If a theory stands up to many attempts to falsify it, we are justified in believing it" (Velasquez 409).
    • This means that science exists to be built upon, and is a process. Science can never be 100% accurate because there can always be an event that cold possibly occur that could completely falsify the theory.
    • Therefore we are justified in believing it, but we can never take it for actuality and truth.

The Conceptual Relativist View (Velasquez 470-473):
  • Defined as "the view that a true scientific theory is nothing more than a theory that coheres with the conceptual framework accepted by a community of scientists" (Velasquez 470).
    • The conceptual framework is defined as "a community of scientists [which] has its own unique way of seeing the world. The scientists who are members of this community have their own way of conducting research, their own research programs, their own way of interpreting what happens in their experiments, their own theories about nature, and their own values and beliefs about nature, and their own values about what counts in scientific theory" (Velasquez 470).
      • This can be explained as different communities seeing the world in different ways based on the theories and proofs they have seen themselves. Therefore, a physicist may take the theories he knows about, and use them to create his own worldview.
      • This is indeed how these scientists "decide what is true". If it fits with their particular beliefs, then it is considered true, but if it doesn't fit in with their conceptual framework, being the evidence that they themselves have perceived, then they can dismiss it as false according to them.
        • Therefore there are no universal theories of truth, but indeed truths within a community.
  • Much in Conceptual relativism can be linked to Thomas Khun (1922-1996).
    • His argument of knowledge was "that scientific theories are those accepted by a community of scientists. They are basic paradigms that guide research but then abandoned in a scientific revolution, when too many anomalies appear that cannot be accounted for by the paradigm" (Velasquez 417).
      • An example of this is how astronomers prior to Copernicus believed "in an old theory that they found in old books by Aristotle and Ptolemy. This theory said that the sun and planets revolve around the Earth... And they looked at the sky with the naked eye to confirm these theories. These theories, methods, values, and beliefs made up 'conceptual framework' of astronomers before Copernicus" (Velasquez 470)
      • Then, Copernicus revolutionized astronomy with his discovery that the earth and the other planets revolve around the sun, then "they began to look at the sky by using the newly discovered telescope. They came to believe in Copernicus' theory... These new beliefs, methods, theories, and values made up a new 'conceptual framework'" (Velasquez 470).
  • Kuhn's theory, along with conceptual relativism state that "science does not always grow gradually, as the inductionists and falsificationists say it does. Instead, science leaps forward in major revolutions" (Velasquez 411).
    • Science revolutionizes from one conceptual framework to another as more and more theories stack up against current beliefs.
      • Therefore science is not a matter of absolute truth, but a growing truth. However, if a theory of science fits into a conceptual framework, then by definition it is considered true to that group.
  • Conceptual relativists believe that instrumentalists and realist views are fundamentally flawed, as they both believe that they can perceive the world apart from their theories to check if a theory is accurate, but due to human bias, you "cannot observe an event without the coloration of your beliefs and theories about what you should be seeing. Observations are always theory-laden" (Velasquez 471).

Works Cited:
Velasquez, M.. (2005). Philosophy: A Text with Readings: Ninth Edition. Toronto,Ontario: Nelson.