Philosophy of science, branch of philosophy that emerged as an autonomous discipline in the 19th cent., especially through the work of Auguste Comte, J. S. Mill, and William Whewell. Several of the issues in philosophy of science concern science in general. David Hume raised a problem of induction, namely that of the grounds people have for believing that past generalizations, i.e., scientific laws, will be valid in the future. Sir Karl Popper and Nelson Goodman have made influential contributions to issues concerning induction in science. Another issue centers around the relations of scientific theories to the interpretation of the world. An additional general issue concerns the way science develops. Contemporary philosophers such as Thomas Kuhn have denied the thesis of the logical positivists (see logical positivism) that scientists choose between competing theories in a purely rational fashion, i.e., by appealing to theory-neutral observations. The philosophy of science also focuses on issues raised by the relations between individual sciences and by individual sciences themselves. An example of the former is the issue of whether the laws of one science, e.g., biology, can be reduced to those of a supposedly more fundamental one, e.g., physics. An example of the latter sort of issue is that of the implications of quantum mechanics for our understanding of causality. The philosophy of science is the branch of philosophy that studies the philosophical assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, including the formal sciences, natural sciences, and social sciences. In this respect, the philosophy of science is closely related to epistemology, ontology, and the philosophy of language.
The philosophy of science seeks to explain such things as:
the nature of scientific statements, concepts, and conclusions, and how they are created
the types of reasoning used to arrive at conclusions and the formulation of the scientific method, including its limits
what means should be used for determining the validity of information (i.e. objectivity)
how science explains, predicts and, through technology, harnesses nature
the implications of scientific methods and models for the larger society, including for the sciences themselves
Science draws conclusions about the way the world is and the way in which scientific theory relates to the world. Science draws upon evidence from experimentation, logical deduction, and rational thought in order to examine the world and the individuals that exist within society. In making observations of the nature of individuals and their surroundings, science seeks to explain the concepts that are entwined with everyday lives.
A scientific method depends on observation, in defining the subject under investigation and in performing experiments.
Observation involves perception, and so is a cognitive process. That is, one does not make an observation passively, but is actively involved in distinguishing the thing being observed from surrounding sensory data. Therefore, observations depend on some underlying understanding of the way in which the world functions, and that understanding may influence what is perceived, noticed, or deemed worthy of consideration. (See the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis for an early version of this understanding of the impact of cultural artifacts on our perceptions of the world.)
OBLIGATORY READING MATERIALS: 15 (p – 345-456)
ADITIONAL READING MATERIALS: 12 (p – 56 - 100)
The implications of scientific methods.
The types of reasoning used to arrive at conclusions and the formulation of the scientific method, including its limits.