Positivism, popper and paradigms, some misconceptions in sports and exercise sciences

Por: Mike Mcnamee.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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In this paper I offer a schematic historical and philosophical picture of positivism and the Popper’s [1] and Kuhnian [2] challenges to it.

Discussion / Conclusions

I locate some typical confusions in selected literatures in sport and exercise sciences in both the characterisation of positivism and in Popper’s falsificationist reactions against it. In sketching out the Popperian position I also show what is typically ignored in relation to the positivistic commitments he retains viz: (i) the fact - value dichotomy and (ii) the unity of scientific method. In contrast, and despite the value of a range of Kuhnian insights, I furthermore demonstrate some problems with the use of the concept of "paradigm" which stem from Kuhn’s self-confessed laxity of use [2; 3] and similar attributions in sports and exercise science research. I question the very use of "paradigm-talk" in particular in the social sciences of sport and argue that the term ought either to be refined or rejected by social scientists. I end with a plea for the place of philosophy in the education of researchers in the exercise and sports science fields.


[1]. Popper, K. (1934) The Logic of Scientific Discovery.
[2]. Kuhn, T. S. (1970) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
[3]. Kuhn, T. S. (1977) The Essential Tension: Studies in Scientific Tradition and Change.
[4]. Kuhn, T. S. (1995) ‘Afterwords’ in World Changes.








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