What about this Post Normal Stuff?

[Once upon a time, I owed to some anonymous pussycat my impressions on Post-Normal Science. Only now do I see that I had already written it. Here it is.]

Ok, I had to defend Foucault, now I have to defend Ravetz. Ok, here we go. Here is Jeremy Ravetz explaining his basic motivation:

The basic motivation for our design of post-normal science was to help maintain the health and integrity of science under the new conditions in which it now operates.

Here is Jeremy Ravetz pinpointing the main cause of misunderstanding:

I understood ‘normal science’ as a picture of what happens in science education, where almost all students learn by precept that for every problem there is just one and only one solution, expressed to several significant digits. I now realise that I have made a very big mistake in assuming that my readers on the blogs understand this about Kuhn; mainly they assume that ‘normal’ science is something that reflective, self-critical scientists like themselves do. This is an important reminder: post-normal does not designate an historical concept. The “post” is here conceptual: it comes “after” Kuhn’s concept of normal science. There might never have been a normal science, except perhaps during a brief time when Kuhn designed his model, on his blackboard. Post-normal science is not abnormal science: it is what science always has been, in a way. Admittingly, “post-normal” was not very a well chosen term. But we can come to understand what Ravetz means, if we take the time to read his stuff. The whole article by Ravetz is worth the read. Rarely do we find a philosopher telling his story with so much intimacy:


It really is a pity that the term “post-normal” has became some kind of an insult. Judith Curry has developed the refrain. Even von Storch barely understands it. People who would like to criticize Kuhn should beware that his work stands on logical grounds. His professor was Gustav Hempel; his direct competitors were Carnap, Quine, Popper, Lakatos, and many, many others. This appears easy, but really is somewhat formal. The Structure of Scientific Revolution might be one of the most cited book of all times. But there are so many great works of epistemology around that there is no need to criticize what does not coincide with our taste. Those who prefer to buy local may like to know that Ian Hacking teached for a while at Toronto… His way to make use of Foucault’s archeological method is very interesting.

(Source: metaclimate.org)