Discussing the future of the field: Do it on the record!

I came to the field of programming language research as an outsider. Though we had an active researcher in our faculty (he has since retired), for various reasons he was never my mentor, so I never got personal introductions nor did I receive much oral wisdom from an elder in the field. Instead, I immersed myself in the literature. Eventually, I got good enough to write a reasonably good licentiate thesis, which in turn led me to spend three months visiting one of the external examiners, Stefan Hanenberg. From him, I got some of the inside story, and the world looked much different. Of course, he is a minority voice in the field, but every participant has a unique point of view anyway. The thought I am writing about here crystallised for me immediately: too much of the field’s development happens off the record!

On Wednesday, I presented my essay “Concept analysis in programming language research: Done well it is all right” [ACM DL] [Author’s PDF] [presentation slides (PDF)] at SPLASH Onward here in Vancouver. I told some of my story there; the session chair Robert Biddle expanded on it and made a forceful point, which I am repeating and expanding on here now.

The discussions that lead to significant developments in the field must happen on the record! It is fine to talk with friends and colleagues in pubs and at lunch (or wherever), but if the discussion leads to a concrete proposal that would affect the field either substantially (in terms of, for example, conceptual developments), the issue should be written up and published in a publication of record, and sufficient time should be allowed (if possible) for contrary and refinement views to be similarly published on the record.

The reason for this is, on the one hand, the empowerment of the community fringe, who does not have the opportunity to participate in off the record discussions, and, on the other hand, the creation of a full record for the future generations of researchers so that they can read up and learn about why things are the way they are.

Concept analysis, as I proposed it in my essay, is one way of proceeding with this on-the-record development of the field in terms of conceptual issues. Too often it appears to an outsider that things just appear out of thin air. Instead, any conceptual developments should be argued for in the literature!

I think the field would benefit enormously if we stopped thinking of research publication as the accumulation of facts (or the completion of a grand theory), and instead took a page from the humanities and the social scientists: for them, scholarly publications form a grand – multicentennial – discussion where individual researchers listen for a while, then start participating for a couple of decades, and then go away, while others take their place. This viewpoint has a side-effect of creating a fuller historical record, but it also places more responsibility on the reader: you have to listen for a while to catch the import of what you are reading, instead of grabbing a paper here or a paper there and taking them to be the gospel.

It would also allow putting more of the development of the field on the record.

I am emphatically not anti-empiricist

Yesterday, I gave a talk at SPLASH Onward in Vancouver introducing my essay “Concept analysis in programming language research: Done well it is all right” [ACM DL] [Author’s PDF] [presentation slides (PDF)]. Both reader comments earlier and some of the questions after my presentation leads me to think that I was not quite clear enough in my essay and my presentation:

I am not advocating abandoning empirical research. Quite the contrary! I believe it should be used wherever it makes sense. I just happen to think that conceptual questions cannot be resolved based on empirical stuff (alone – though empirical research can function as reasons in a philosophical argument quite fine).

A related question is, is nonempirical research science? I believe it is. If we restricted science to empirical stuff only, we would have to reject mathematics from the halls of science. I believe the key characteristic that separates science from non-science is intellectual honesty combined with the use of best available methodology. Concept analysis, done well, fits that bill.

Concept Analysis in Programming Language Research: Done Well It Is All Right (To appear in Onward’17)

I just submitted my camera ready version of Concept Analysis in
Programming Language Research: Done Well It Is All Right
, a methodology essay which has been accepted at Onward’2017. I will probably write about it more extensively later.

Here is the accepted version, for personal use (not for redistribution): PDF (copyright 2017 Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho, exclusively licensed to ACM).

Citation:
Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho. 2017. Concept Analysis in Programming Language Research. In Proceedings of 2017 ACM SIGPLAN International Symposium on New Ideas, New Paradigms, and Reflections on Programming and Software (Onward!’17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 14 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3133850.3133868 (the DOI link will not work until October).

The positivism strawman

I have been burning my summer leave by giving finishing touches to an essay on research methodology (because of an impending deadline). I had now the occasion to read, for the first time, the qualitative research classic Naturalistic Inquiry by Yvonna S. Lincoln and Egon G. Guba (SAGE 1985). It brought to my mind a puzzle I have been trying to solve for years: authors who defend qualitative research (or constructivist research, or critical theory, or whatever in each case it is) typically frame their discussion by defining a “positivist” way of doing research, arguing against it, and then bringing their own (post-positivist, or anti-positivist) alternative. Lincoln and Guba do that in many of their writings, but they are not alone in this.

Except! The positivism that they talk about does not exist, and never has.

Historically, there were two positivisms. The first was the political philosophy of Auguste Comte, which was not primarily a theory of research or of science. The second was the logical positivism of the early 20th Century, inspired by the young Wittgenstein and developed by the Vienna Circle. Logical positivists advocated a radical reassessment of philosophy and science: only propositions that can be proven mathematically or verified empirically are meaningful; everything else is literal nonsense (not just false but meaningless). It is widely held that logical positivism died in its own impossibility; certainly I know of no current philosopher of science who advocates verification as a criterion of meaning.

In their writings about positivism, Lincoln and Guba typically assert that positivism believes in objective reality, that there is a reality which is common to all accessible by the senses. But while Comte may have believed this, the logical positivists never did: for them, any claim about the nature of reality, including the claim of objective reality Lincoln and Guba ascribe to positivists, was unprovable and unverifiable and thus nonsense.

Further, I know of no practicing scientist who self-identifies as positivist. (Feel free to comment if you are one.)

I was also struck by how Lincoln and Guba never cite the primary sources. In their discussion of positivism, they do not engage with e.g. Comte, Ayer, or Carnap. To their credit, they do cite a lot of secondary sources (generally critical ones), but one wonders how much of a broken telephone effect there is in it.

What Lincoln and Guba are arguing against is not positivism but naïvete. The attitudes they ascribe to positivism are typical of scientists who have had methodological training and acquired research experience but have never studied philosophy in earnest.

For an interesting take on the misuse of the “positivist” label as a bogeyman, see Jim Mackenzie’s “Positivism and Constructivism, Truth and ‘Truth’”, Educational Philosophy and Theory 43(5), 534-546, 2011 (paywalled).

Star Trek Beyond

I was pleasantly surprised. I have been going into these reboot Trek showings with mixed feelings; there are many story elements in them that are extremely implausible (even by Trek standards), and the previous installments have been more generic action movies than either Star Trek or science fiction. But Star Trek Beyond (and I like how the titles have no colons!) is the most Trek of them all, and a fairly decent one at that.

I should note that I saw the 2D version; I’ve learned I get sick in 3D movies and so cannot comment on the third dimension.

What is Trek in this movie is an extensive acknowledgement of the Enterprise’s five-year mission of exploration, and the rescue nature of the mission that starts the main plotline of this movie. There is also an explicit and plot-relevant acknowledgment of Starfleet’s nonmilitary primary mission.

What is not Trek in this movie is just about everything else. The main conflict is (with a nontrivial science fiction twist) standard fare for action thrillers. Despite Starfleet being nonmilitary, there is an awful amount of military action by and against Starfleet in this movie. The solutions to plot problems are (to the extent they are not just technobabbled away) physical action in nature; there is no deep thinking or diplomacy involved. There are no big ideas involving the human condition.

I liked how the movie made a plot point of the Enterprise’s military weaknesses in a way that all other Trek tends to ignore (though I fear they will forget the lesson in future movies). I liked the nature of the key antagonist. I liked how there was a tasteful acknowledgement of the death of Leonard Nimoy (and, doubtless added in the last minute during post-production, of the death of Anton Yelchin). I especially liked how they did not do any overt homages to the previous Trek incarnations (though I did notice several tiny nods). And I liked quite a bit how they portrayed the universal translator.

Yet, there was a lot of things wrong in the movie. The science was appalling (even by Star Trek standards). The career of James Kirk in this timeline remains ridiculously meteoric, and treating a vice-admiralship as a realistic notion at this stage of his career just compounds the error. I could go on, but that would be too depressing.

I am too immersed in Trek to be able to see whether this movie would work for the uninitiated, but I suspect it works better for a newcomer than for a Trek fan (as long as one does not expect anything more than a typical action movie). Speaking as a fan, I find this to be the strongest offering in a rather weak Trek series. I hereby rate Star Trek Beyond at 3/5.

On BrExit and the European Union

Friday was one of the biggest holidays of the year for us Finns, juhannusaatto or the midsummer feast’s eve. It is traditional (don’t ask me why) to celebrate most feasts, including juhannus, on the eve and rest on the actual feast day. So, here I was, on the juhannusaatto morning, ready to begin celebrating (decidedly nontraditionally), and opened the news feeds for a routine check.

I did not celebrate that day. I spent it in the blackest of moods, mostly in my bed, listening to an audiobook and compulsively reading the feeds and sharing occasional items on Facebook and Twitter.

Now, the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is not, by itself, a huge thing, certainly not worth any emotional reaction from me. Any member state has the right to leave, and it is healthy for all organizations to have the occasional member go their own way.

It is also probably a good thing for the rest of the EU to be rid of a cantankerous member that constantly demanded special treatment.

It is also arguably a good thing that Brexit seems to be leading to the unraveling of the United Kingdom, with Scotland seeking independence (and membership in its own right in the EU) and politicians in the Northern Ireland raising the issue of reunifying Ireland: the history of that union is much bloodier and coercive than the EU’s ever has been.

In fact, while the United Kingdom is the last remnant of a decaying bloody empire dominated by the English, the European Union was founded to secure a peace, by fostering multinational economic cooperation, after the worst two wars of all history.

And here’s the big but.

With all its flaws (and I will admit that it has many), the European Union has, in the over 60 years it or its predecessors have existed, succeeded in its single most important goal: preventing another war between France and Germany. (If you did not know that, you should go read up on the International Authority for the Ruhr and on the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community.)

That single fact is the reason why I strongly support the European Union. It emphatically is in the interest of everyone in Europe, including the English, the Scottish, the Welsh, and the Irish, as wells us Finns, to keep those two nations cooperating instead of competing. If we dismantle the European Union, then we need something else.

Brexit, as well as the anti-EU sentiment in Finland, is predicated on the idea that European unification is per se a bad idea. As far as I understand it, the the Leave campaign emphasized the costs to the British of being an EU member, both monetary and otherwise, including the purported social costs of free immigration and emigration within the EU. These arguments are not markedly unique to the United Kingdom, and they have about equal force in many other EU members, including Finland.

Here is the reason for my funk on Friday: If Brexit, then why not Fixit, Sexit, Frexit? The EU can withstand Brexit, but if we get a mass exodus, then the EU will not be able to stand. And if EU falls by this process, I cannot see how we can build anything in its place in the near term.

The abyss I am looking at here is every European nation standing alone, minding its own business, and maybe some of them starting to look around their borders, thinking about getting some more breathing room.

We live in interesting times.

Sharon Lee & Steve Miller: Alliance of Equals (e-ARC)

Padi yos’Galan is young, and eager to learn her craft as a trader. She accompanies her father the Master Trader as his apprentice on a trade voyage. Along the way, she must confront her terrible secret that she has not told anyone of, and either grow or die.

Admiral Bunter is a full person, born out of necessity to defend a space station from pirates and hastily (and sloppily) given life as the AI that controls seven near-derelict ships. His first action after being born had been to kill a ship. He must learn to be something else than a mere ship-killer, and either grow or die.

Korval’s Master Trader Shan yos’Galan, who is also Father to Padi, guides the tradeship Dutiful Passage, captained by his lifemate, on a voyage to seek new ports and new markets for Korval’s trade. Unfortunately, the recent unpleasantness had branded the Clan, as well as its tradeships, as a criminal enterprise on many planets. Somehow he must convince people of the injustice of that accusation, and find people willing to trade with Korval honorably. This is by no means a safe trip.

Alliance of Equals is the 19th novel in the Liaden Universe series, and the second novel in the latest five-book cycle in the series (begun by Dragon in Exile). Despite this, it likely will work fairly well for a new reader of the series.

It seems to me, based on an enthusiastic first read that lost me one night’s worth of sleep, that Alliance of Equals is the strongest novel in the series in quite a while. Despite being a part of an ongoing larger story arc, the book itself has a very strong individual focus and a clear one-book arc, satisfying the reader quite well. Absent from this book appears to be Lee and Miller’s trademark last-minute cliffhanger, even though there clearly is more to come in the future books, which I eagerly await.

In addition to a strong story arc, Alliance of Equals expands on our understanding of the universe these books inhabit. By accident, I happened to be re-listening to the Crystal Dragon audiobook when the e-ARC was announced yesterday, and I am happy (and also terrified) to see lots of parallels to the Crystal duology in the times and events portrayed here. I am afraid that a certain thing will happen in one of the forthcoming books, that would up the stakes once more tremendously. I hope I am wrong, but then again, excitement is why one reads this sort of story in the first place.

Alliance of Equals will be regularly released in July 2016. For those who wish to pay premium rates for early access (such as myself), Baen Books now offers an electronic Advance Reader Copy for sale. An e-ARC is based on an unproofed manuscript and may differ from the final released book.

Doctoral defense approaching, dissertation publicly available

I will be defending my doctoral dissertation “Evidence-based programming language design: a philosophical and methodological exploration” on December 4, 2015 at noon, in the Seminarium building, auditorium S212, of the University of Jyväskylä. My opponent will be Professor Lutz Prechelt (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), and the custos is Professor Tommi Kärkkäinen (University of Jyväskylä).

The defense is public; anyone may come. Dress code for the audience is whatever one would wear to any lecture or regular academic activity at the university (no formal dress required). There is a Facebook event page.

The dissertation manuscript was reviewed (for a permission to publish and defend) by Professor Matthias Felleisen (Northeastern University, USA) and Professor Andreas Stefik (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA). The dissertation incorporates most of my licentiate thesis, which was examined last year by Doctor Stefan Hanenberg (University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany) and Professor Stein Krogdahl (University of Oslo, Norway).

The dissertation is now publicly available as a PDF.

The dissertation mentions Haskell in several places, although that is not its main focus.

ABSTRACT

Kaijanaho, Antti-Juhani
Evidence-Based Programming Language Design. A Philosophical and Methodological Exploration.
Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä, 2015, 256 p.
(Jyväskylä Studies in Computing
ISSN 1456-5390; 222)
ISBN 978-951-39-6387-3 (nid.)
ISBN 978-951-39-6388-0 (PDF)
Finnish summary
Diss.

Background: Programming language design is not usually informed by empirical studies. In other fields similar problems have inspired an evidence-based paradigm of practice. Such a paradigm is practically inevitable in language design, as well. Aims: The content of evidence-based programming design (EB-PLD) is explored, as is the concept of evidence in general. Additionally, the extent of evidence potentially useful for EB-PLD is mapped, and the appropriateness of Cohen’s kappa for evaluating coder agreement in a secondary study is evaluated. Method: Philosophical analysis and explication are used to clarify the unclear. A systematic mapping study was conducted to map out the existing body of evidence. Results: Evidence is a report of observations that affects the strength of an argument. There is some but not much evidence. EB-PLD is a five-step process for resolving uncertainty about design problems. Cohen’s kappa is inappropriate for coder agreement evaluation in systematic secondary studies. Conclusions: Coder agreement evaluation should use Scott’s pi, Fleiss’ kappa, or Krippendorff’s alpha. EB-PLD is worthy of further research, although its usefulness was out of scope here.

Keywords: programming languages, programming language design, evidence-based paradigm, philosophical analysis, evidence, systematic mapping study, coder agreement analysis

Ramblings inspired by Feyerabend’s Against Method, Part II: My preliminary take

Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method is a scandal. Most people who have heard of it know its tagline: “Anything goes”. As I mentioned in my previous post, my impression of the book from secondary sources was that Feyerabend was a madman and the book is sacrilege. Now, having read the book myself, I find myself impressed by the depth and clarity of his arguments and by his insight.

His key claim is that a successful (general) method of science is impossible and that trying to impose a (general) method is harmful.

In Feyerabend’s terminology, a method must “contain[] firm, unchanging, and absolutely binding principles for conducting the business of science” (p. 7 of the Fourth Edition, Verso 2010). To be counted as a success, such a method must “remain[] valid under all circumstances and [… be an] agency to which appeal can always be made” (p. 161).

I agree that all such general methods in the literature that I have been exposed to are failures, by Feyerabend’s standard. Neither of the theories I adopt in my doctoral dissertation (pending a public defense), the Bayesian approach to epistemology and Imre Lakatos’s theory of research programs, satisfy this test, and I freely admit this; both are very permissive and neither give objective and precise decision rules for considering the merit of a scientific hypothesis or theory, and thus do not count as methods under Feyerabend. And Feyerabend is quite correct (assuming his historical research is sound, which I am not qualified to judge) in his conclusion that no existing method (as the term is here defined) could have allowed certain key historic developments, and therefore none of them succeed.

For example, Popper’s falsificationism fails for two alternative reasons. If we suppose that it is a method (under Feyerabend’s definition of a method), then it must be followed literally in all cases, but in that case it fails the test case of Galileo, as discussed extensively in the book. But Popper can also be read metaphorically, or as general guidelines not to be taken as a literal method, in which case it can be understood to be consistent with the Galileo case; but then, it is (by assumption) not a method. In either case, it is not a successful method.

I also agree that it is probably impossible to come up with a successful method, by that standard. The history of philosophy is full of expounded theories, all of which seem to fail for some reason or other. It is very easy to move from this to a general scepticism: there can be no such successful method. It seems to me that it is also the correct (though defeasible) conclusion.

Further, if (as I have conceded) it is impossible to devise a successful method, then trying to impose a method is certainly harmful. I accept this.

The catch is here: this conclusion must be read with Feyerabend’s definitions firmly in mind. It is a misunderstanding of Feyerabend to further conclude that he denies the value of scientific methods. The singular in the title is a conscious choice, and very significant: Feyerabend does not oppose methods; he opposes a unified, one-size-fits-all method, singular.

Where Kuhn talks about paradigms and Lakatos about research programs, Feyerabend talks about traditions. Within a tradition, Feyerabend acknowledges there to be quite a bit of value in binding rules, and within a tradition there can be a successful method. Feyerabend’s “anything goes” is not a license to forget consistency requirements in a single piece of work or when working within a tradition:

Admitting velocities larger than the velocity of light into relativity and leaving everything else unchanged gives us some rather puzzling results such as imaginary masses and velocities. […] Admitting contradictions into a system of ideas allegedly connected by the laws of standard logic and leaving everything else unchanged makes us assert every statement. Obviously we shall have to make some further changes [… which] remove[] the problems and research can proceed as planned. (p. 246)

One of Feyerabend’s key conclusions is that traditions can only be evaluated from within a tradition, whether itself or some other one; an objective, meta-traditional evaluation is impossible. I will concede that his argument looks plausible (I will not review it here). Once this is accepted, it easily follows that no tradition is objectively better than all others. (I note that it is theoretically possible that some tradition appears superior to all other traditions viewed from any tradition; but certainly, no existing tradition has that rather remarkable property. Usually all other traditions appear weaker than the one being used as the vantage point.)

Feyerabend goes even further. He claims that traditions are incommensurable: a tradition involves a whole world-view, and there is no lossless conversion of ideas, thoughts and claims from a tradition to another. The only way to truly understand a tradition is to first become its adherent.

This conclusion seems rather absurd to anyone who has been educated in one tradition and has never made a leap from one tradition to another. However, the truth of this claim seems quite plausible from my own experience trying to read both quantitative and qualitative methodological literature: the former typically dismisses the latter as unscientific, and the latter typically dismisses the former as “positivistic” (that this label is a misnomer makes no difference). It is even more plausible to me having discussed methodology with both quantitative and qualitative researchers, and having observed discussions of methodology between quantitative and qualitative researchers. Usually, they talk past each other, each hearing nonsense from the other. It’s like they’re using different languages even though all are using ordinary scientific English.

Yet, I cannot accept incommensurability as a binding constraint. I hope to be able to transcend several traditions, to be able to work in them and hopefully function as a bridge of sorts. Maybe I am a lunatic in that hope; I do not know.

Finally, Feyerabend claims that because traditions are incommensurable and an objective comparison of them is impossible, there is no good reason why science should have priority in politics over any other set of traditions. Feyerabend died in 1994, before the evidence-based movement became the force it is today, but I suspect he would have loudly protested ideas like evidence-based policy (or more commonly nowadays, evidence-informed policy). He makes a forceful claim that basing policy on science is a form of slavery.

I can see his point but I am also in violent opposition. A lot of scientific activity is truly traditional, where things are done in a particular way just because they’ve always been done that way (though the “always” often can be as short a period as a couple of years), and when one goes to examine the history of that particular way, it turns out it was an accident, with no good rational reason for its adoption, and sometimes even was adopted despite good reason to abandon it. In these cases, adopting a scientific consensus position just because it is one is folly. And in general, where a decision one makes only affects oneself, it is better left to individual freedom and not impose any sort of an outside rule, whether scientific or otherwise. But there are quite many problems where a decision has to be made collectively, and I will vote for the decision to be evidence-informed; if I prevail, the only form of slavery involved is that of the tyranny of the majority.

In conclusion, it seems to me Feyerabend is more right than not, and that he has been mostly misunderstood (like he claims himself). I would recommend this book as a guide for anyone interested in multitradition (or mixed methods, as it is often called) work in the sciences. I would not recommend it as a methodology itself – and neither would Feyerabend:

‘anything goes’ is not a ‘principle’ I hold – I do not think that ‘principles’ can be used and fruitfully discussed outside the concrete research situation they are supposed to affect – but the terrified exclamation of a rationalist who takes a closer look at history. (p. xvii)

Let me repeat this: There is no Feyerabend method, and conducting research following Feyerabend is to misunderstand him. (At least to the extent one only considers Against Method; I have not read Feyerabend’s other work.) He preaches tolerance, but one should look for methodological guidance elsewhere.

Ramblings inspired by Feyerabend’s Against Method, Part I: My road to Feyerabend

About 15 years ago, I studied for an exam on the philosophy of science, a required (and very much anticipated) part of my minor in philosophy. I must have learned about Karl Popper and his falsificationism, which did not really appeal to me. There was one thing that hit me hard, one that remained stuck in my mind for more than a decade: the idea of paradigms, which consisted of a hard core (usually immutable) and a protective belt (easily changed to account for discovered anomalies), and of scientific revolutions which occasionally happen (usually by generational shift), replacing one hard core with another.

About a decade later, I started debating the methodology and foundations of science with my colleague Ville Isomöttönen. At some point I suggested we both read an introductory textbook on the topic to inform our discussions. I believe we read Peter Godfrey-Smith’s excellent Theory and Reality.

In this book, learned again about paradigms, and noticed that there were several philosophers I had conflated together. Thomas Kuhn talked about paradigms, but the idea of hard cores and protective belts comes from Imre Lakatos, who did not talk about paradigms but used his own term, that of a research programme. Then there was Paul Feyerabend, who was basically crazy. Or that’s how I remember my reaction of reading about him in Godfrey-Smith’s textbook.

This was around the time I started working on the research that became my licentiate thesis. Very early on, one of my advisors, Dr. Vesa Lappalainen, asked me to explain what evidence is. That turned out to be a very difficult question to answer; I continued reading and pondering about it until I submitted the thesis, and even beyond that point. I figured that the philosophy of science probably has an answer, but I cannot really base my discussion of it in a thesis solely on introductory courses and textbooks. I needed to go read the originals.

The first original book on the philosophy of science I read during this period was Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. I also borrowed from the library a copy of Karl Popper’s The Logic of Scientific Discovery, of which I was able to finish only the first chapter at this time. Kuhn was very interesting, and I finally realized how thoroughly I had misunderstood him from the secondary sources; his arguments made quite a bit of sense, but his insistence of at most one paradigm in each discipline was obviously false. Popper’s falsificationism is obviously true, but also severely inadequate.

Very early on during the licentiate thesis study, as I was doing preliminary literature research on evidence-based medicine (EBM), I came across the blog Science-Based Medicine, and particularly their post series critiquing EBM (start from Homeopathy and Evidence-Based Medicine: Back to the Future Part V). From this and other sources, I learned of Bayesian epistemology, which I started reading about over the next couple of years. As I have written previously on this blog, it is my current preferred theory of epistemology.

This Spring, some months after the licentiate thesis was approved, I traveled to Essen, Germany, for a three-month research visit at the University of Duisburg-Essen. Two very significant things happened there: I wrote a substantial part of my doctoral dissertation (currently pending public defense) and I spent quite a bit of time discussing the philosophy and methodology of science with Dr. Stefan Hanenberg, who had been one of the examiners of the licentiate thesis. The topics of those discussions probably had something to do with that the chapters I was writing there dealt with philosophy and epistemology.

During that time, I finally read Imre Lakatos’s work on the philosophy of science (The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes) and on the philosophy of mathematics (Proofs and Refutations), both of which were eye-opening. Lakatos spends a lot of time in the former construing and critiquing Popper, and that discussion allowed me to understand Popper the first time ever (though I recognize it’s from Lakatos’s version of Popper); I finally read Popper’s Logic of Scientific Discovery properly also at that point.

The discussions with Dr. Hanenberg frequently came back to Paul Feyerabend and his Against Method. I knew it well enough from secondary sources to know that I was not going to cite it in the dissertation, and so I did not read it at that point. The time to do that was once the dissertation was submitted.

My next post will discuss my actual reactions to the book, as I just finished it yesterday.