Clarifying three philosophic myths surrounding objections to demarcation criteria

Abstract

At least one collected book has been recently published on the deficiencies of Popper?s demarcation criteria (Boudry and Pigliucci 2013); a number of articles in this book propose new demarcation criteria. It is good that philosophers are interested in this problem, but it is not the problem that Popper attempted to answer. Popper is not interested in setting out the limits of what is science from non-science. This may be surprising to some philosophers. Furthermore, none of Popper?s criteria are limited to isolated theories. In fact, Popper proposes two separate necessary and sufficient conditions for demarcation. It may be surprising to discover that there is not merely one criterion of demarcation. I recall learning as an undergraduate in a class on philosophy of science that Karl Popper proposed that scientific theories were scientific in virtue of being falsifiable. These myths are no better than claiming that Carnap and Ayer?s criteria of demarcation are self-refuting for they are neither verifiable nor analytic (another myth I was told in that introductory class). In sum, these un- faithful reconstructions of past philosophers of science should be set aside. That is not to say that there are no good objections to demarcation criteria. There are some, and they require understanding what purpose these demarcation criteria serve and what they actually are. My purpose is only to shed light on these popular misconceptions, and in doing so, facilitate better understanding of the history of the discipline of philosophy of science.

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