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Lakatos, Imre (1922–74)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD035-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 16, 2024, from

Article Summary

Imre Lakatos made important contributions to the philosophy of mathematics and of science. His ‘Proofs and Refutations’ (1963–4) develops a novel account of mathematical discovery. It shows that counterexamples (‘refutations’) play an important role in mathematics as well as in science and argues that both proofs and theorems are gradually improved by searching for counterexamples and by systematic ‘proof analysis’. His ‘methodology of scientific research programmes’ (which he presented as a ‘synthesis’ of the accounts of science given by Popper and by Kuhn) is based on the idea that science is best analysed, not in terms of single theories, but in terms of broader units called research programmes. Such programmes issue in particular theories, but in a way again governed by clear-cut heuristic principles. Lakatos claimed that his account supplies the sharp criteria of ‘progress’ and ‘degeneration’ missing from Kuhn’s account, and hence captures the ‘rationality’ of scientific development. Lakatos also articulated a ‘meta-methodology’ for appraising rival methodologies of science in terms of the ‘rational reconstructions’ of history they provide.

Citing this article:
Worrall, John. Lakatos, Imre (1922–74), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD035-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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