Did Copernicus provide an account of observational evidence that was in any way better than that of Ptolemy?
Luke Lattanzi-Silveus is an MSc in Philosophy of the Social Sciences student. His main elds of interest are methodological issues in the social sciences, especially the extent to which social science (particularly Marxist social science) can be considered scientic or has the potential to become so.
In his book on the Copernican Revolution Thomas Kuhn argues that the Ptolemaic and Copernican theories accounted for the observational evidence "equally well." because both theories were able to account for the evidence at hand with approximately equal accuracy. However, it is not clear if they were able to do so equally well. Lakatos and Zahar in particular argue that the Copernican theory superseded the Ptolemaic theory because many phenomena that the Ptolemaic theory could only account for by "degenerating ad-hoc" explanations could be derived directly from the Copernican theory. In other words, the Ptolemaic theory offers a worse explanation because it has to explain away many elements that are not only easily accounted for, but necessary, in the Copernican theory. It must furthermore do so with assumptions that serve only to correct for the problems encountered and do not provide secondary predictions (as "progressive ad-hoc" explanations would). I agree with Lakatos and Zahar that this ability to "predict" more already known "novel facts" would be a decisive advantage of the Copernican theory over the Ptolemaic. However, I will argue that even using these criteria for evaluating theories the Copernican theory does not have a clear upper hand.
How to Cite:
Lattanzi-Silveus, L., 2016. Did Copernicus provide an account of observational evidence that was in any way better than that of Ptolemy?. Rerum Causae, 8(1), pp.85–93.