What is Science as an Activity and What Does It Mean?

What is Science as an Activity and What Does It Mean?

June 28, 2021 Off By Felso

The science-as-activity approach sees science as an activity of the community of scientists. According to the philosophers who defend this approach, science; It is not a product independent of the values ​​and beliefs of that period. The community of scientists also lives in that society and the beliefs, values ​​and cultural changes in the society affect them as well. Therefore, science can exist as an activity.

The most well-known representatives of those who advocate the science-as-activity approach; Thomas Kuhn (Tomas Kun, 1922-1997) and Stephen Toulmin (Sitefan Tulmin, 1922-…).

Thomas Khun’s Understanding of Science as an Activity

According to the American philosopher Thomas Kuhn, one of the most important representatives of the understanding of science as an activity, science is a process of activity. What drives this process are the facts, the community of scientists and their work. This process repeats itself constantly renewing itself. From this perspective, science is not a static result, but a dynamic activity that progresses with continuous scientific revolutions. According to Kuhn, this dynamism, that is, the main structure that affects the formation and development of science, is possible through the transition from one paradigm to another (See: What is a Paradigm?).

Science is an activity carried out by the community of scientists. The scientist is under the influence of the socio-cultural values ​​of his age, along with his personal characteristics, hopes and goals. Understanding science depends on understanding the community of scientists. Each community of scientists poses problems and seeks solutions within the framework of a certain “paradigm”. A paradigm is an intellectual and conceptual framework that enables a certain reality to be understood and explained in common terms. When problems become increasingly unresolved, there is a “paradigm” change, a “paradigm” leap. This leap is called the “scientific revolution”. For example, the replacement of the Newtonian paradigm with the Einsteinian paradigm in physics is a complete scientific revolution.

Your science is surely advancing; but it cannot be said to progress cumulatively and linearly. This progress is one that shows only breaks.

Stephen Toulmin’s Understanding of Science as Activity

Stephen Toulmin advocated an evolutionist understanding of science. According to him, just as living things that can overcome problems survive in nature, theories that can offer solutions to problems continue to be valid in science. According to Toulmin, science is an activity with historical and social dimensions. He thinks that these dimensions should be taken into account when explaining science.

Besides, he takes science from an evolutionist perspective. Just as species that can adapt to new conditions survive in nature, and those that cannot, perish, so in science, theories that can provide better solutions to the problems caused by new conditions than other theories continue to exist, preserving their currency.

Science as an Activity Topics
Thomas Kuhn and Science as Activity
Stephen Toulmin and Science as Activity

Compiled by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Atatürk University Department of Sociology Lecture Notes for Grade 1 “Introduction to Philosophy” and Grade 3 “History of Contemporary Philosophy” (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook