The Pirates Of Positivism And The Rascals Of


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Presentation on the philosophy of science 2010 to PhD students in Business

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The Pirates Of Positivism And The Rascals Of

  1. 1. The Pirates of Positivism and the Rascals of Relativism<br />A guide to the Philosophy of Science for PhD students in Business.<br />Dr. Steven D’Alessandro Department of Business<br />
  2. 2. Why are you here?<br />All PhDs in business usually follow a “scientific approach”.<br />An understanding of the proof of knowledge is useful in your argument and writing of your thesis.<br />PhD examiners expect to see evidence of scholarship. This includes reason, logic, rationality and a scientific approach.<br />Your long term development as a scholar and an active participant in society depends partially on an understanding of the philosophy of science<br />
  3. 3. Why me?<br />I am an experienced PhD supervisor.<br />Three successful PhD completions.<br />I have published widely as an academic.<br />Three books, 50 papers with around 90 citations<br />I have an interest in the philosophy of science.<br />I believe that a course on the philosophy of science is vital for higher degree students as it teaches critical thinking.<br />
  4. 4. What is this thing called science?<br />Explanation (laws, theories) based on testable evidence independent of belief.<br />Science is not dogma nor authority.<br />Science is not practice, techniques, data or empiricism. <br />Science should be logical, rational and reasonable.<br />
  5. 5. What is logic?<br />Scientific arguments to be testable must be logical.<br />It is concerned with what follows what. e.g<br />1. Many university lectures are boring<br />2. This is a university lecture.<br />3. This lecture is boring.<br />Things can be logical but untrue.<br />All cats have five legs<br />Mr Darcy is my cat.<br />Mr Darcy has five legs.<br />Logic is important though as it tests the consistency of arguments.<br />
  6. 6. More observations do not a science make.<br />Consider this example:<br />Demand increases when prices fall on occasion t1<br />Demand increases when prices fall on occasion t2<br />Demand increases when prices fall on occasion t3<br />Conclusion demand increases when prices fall.<br />Possible that demand falls when prices fall.<br />
  7. 7. The Inductive Christmas Turkey<br />The turkey notes over a long time<br />“I am always fed at 9.00 a.m”.<br />The statement is true till Christmas day.<br />
  8. 8. Charting in finance is an example of this.<br />
  9. 9. We need both logic and evidence to construct a scientific argument<br />Induction<br />Deduction<br />
  10. 10. Weber’s Law in Psychology and Marketing<br />Induction<br />Deduction<br />
  11. 11. Problems with the classical scientific model<br />Induction and Deduction rely still on interpretation of the facts.<br />Observation is theory dependent (more on this later).<br />Must show how robust theories are. Are they first falsifiable?<br />That is, are we sceptical enough to allow for critical tests of theories that might prove them wrong (extreme examples or evidence).<br />
  12. 12. Karl Popper and Falsification<br />Some statements are capable of being tested (falsifiable).<br />It never rains on Mondays.<br />All substances expand when heated.<br />Heavy objects such as your thesis when released near the surface of the earth fall straight downwards if not impeded.<br />Some statements are that are NOT capable of being tested (not-falsifiable).<br />Either it is raining or not raining.<br />All points on a Euclidean circle are equidistant from the centre.<br />Luck is possible in financial speculation.<br />
  13. 13. Karl Popper’s model of science<br />Non falsifiable and therefore psudeo-sciences includes Marxism and Freudism<br />
  14. 14. Implications for your PhD thesis<br />Nothing is more practical than a good theory.<br />You must explain and predict results.<br />You should allow for the situation that your theory and data can be wrong.<br />Showing the robustness of results (examining situations where the theory is unlikely to hold) strengthens your scientific argument.<br />Test competing structural equation models across samples<br />You do not state beliefs you provide a possible explanation of the evidence.<br />
  15. 15. Does science progress by falsification?<br />Science would never had developed perhaps if theories are rejected early before development.<br />Theories can be rejected on minor or trivial grounds<br />According to falisificationists all scientific knowledge is unproven till its disproven.<br />How then does scientific knowledge develop?<br />Perhaps it does by agreement and agrument of scientists.<br />
  16. 16. Thomas Kuhn and the Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1970)<br />Kuhn was a physicist at first.<br />Examined historical evidence of the progress of science.<br />Science develops changes as a result of social process similar to a revolution.<br />Key stages are pre-science, normal-science, crisis, revolution, new normal science-new crisis.<br />Normal scientists work within a paradigm (world-view).<br />
  17. 17. Khun’s cogs of science<br />
  18. 18. The critical stage is the choice of one paradigm over another<br />This about argument and convincing people rather than evidence.<br />Each paradigm has different standards and meta-physical principles.<br />Observation is paradigm /theory dependent.<br />A scientist though may hold beliefs about different paradigms (hedging bets).<br />There seems to be no place for objective or better knowledge in his reasoning.<br />
  19. 19. Implications for your thesis and PhD<br />You, your supervisor, department, parts of the discipline all share paradigms of the world that may differ from examiners, journal reviewers, editors and ARC assessors.<br />Therefore how well you convince, write and state your argument can be as important as the facts.<br />Paradigms and world views change.<br />Economics. Keynes, Monetarism<br />Marketing. SEM, BWS, PLS. Qual/Quant.<br />Even good evidence can be rejected by those from other paradigms.<br />
  20. 20. Theories as research structures II: Research Programs.<br />ImreLakatos believes that science progresses by how well competing research programs confirm what was a novel prediction or explain new facts.<br />Newton’s laws and Halley’s comet.<br />Science is progressive.<br />More difficult to do in the social sciences where people react to theories ( finance, accounting, economics, psychology and marketing).<br />A link to a recorded lecture on the topic is available at<br />
  21. 21. Implications for your thesis<br />You must show the superiority of your own research program by comparing it with others.<br />Examine other schools of thought.<br />The superiority is how well it predicts novel and new facts over competing programs.<br />Examine competing theories/ programs where possible.<br />Your research program represents scientific progress at a point in time. <br />Stating how you see your research program advancing or not is important in your conclusion.<br />
  22. 22. Feyrabend’s anarchistic theory of science.<br />Science has been given the status of religion (dogma) when it comes to knowledge.<br />Scientists will use a number of arguments to get their theories accepted.<br />Including propaganda and trickery.<br />Legitimate and illegitimate means.<br />As long as knowledge works, anything (method) goes.<br />Voodoo and black magic are just as good as science.<br />This is an issue of freedom!<br />
  23. 23. Implications for your thesis<br />Non-scientific knowledge can be considered as good as scientific knowledge. As long as it works!<br />Show competing non-scientific explanations.<br />We should be open to new approaches, methods of learning.<br />Question the method you are using.<br />Science and theories can become dogmas, thus reducing freedom (Marxism and Economics).<br />Keep an open mind to change.<br />People can be made to fit the model.<br />Social implications of scientific knowledge are important<br />
  24. 24. The Bayesian Approach.<br />A theory has a probability of being correct from 0 to 1.<br />Baye’s theorem<br />P(h/e)=P(h).(Pe/h)/P(e).<br />Where<br />P(h/e) = Probability of the hypothesis (h) in the light of the evidence (e).<br />P(h) = prior probability ascribed to the hypothesis prior to the consideration of the evidence. <br />P(e/h) = posterior probability after the evidence, e is taken into account.<br />
  25. 25. Problems with Baye’s theorem.<br />A theorem not an explanation for the development of scientific knowledge.<br />Still relies on assumptions and theory dependent measures.<br />There are subjective and objectivist Bayesians.<br />However Quantum Mechanics would seem to follow a Bayesian approach. As does much statistical argument in business.<br />
  26. 26. Implications for your thesis and PhD<br />Statistical evidence is only ever true at one point of time, given the evidence and hypotheses considered. <br />One never really proves the theory 100%.<br />Instead there is a possibility of calculating the superiority of one theory over another.<br />No such thing as a bad theory, some are better (have higher probabilities than others).<br />Explanation (deduction and induction) are still crucial.<br />
  27. 27. To sum up this is a debate about realism and ant-realism (relativism)<br />We are trapped in a language<br />Observation is theory dependent.<br />How does one know the truth?<br />Are there multiple truths?<br />Need to consider the existence of an objective reality and prediction. <br />This more difficult to do in the social sciences (business) than in the physical sciences.<br />Consider the importance of falsification and competing research programs.<br />
  28. 28. Implications for your PhD thesis<br />If you are interviewing respondents there are multiple realities.<br />They are not passive data points.<br />Be aware that you can never confirm or deny a theory just present evidence for and against it from your perspective.<br />Have people outside your discipline read your thesis.<br />Some theories (explanations) are better than others. You task is to find evidence for or against a set propositions in the most objective fashion.<br />Even qualitative researchers should follow the scientific method.<br />
  29. 29. Questions?<br />That concludes my talk.<br />