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Everything is as it has to be, which gave rise to the concept of a clockwork Universe. The rise of science during the Age of Reason produced the idea that there is a hidden order in Nature, which is mathematical in form and could be uncovered by investigation. This hidden order could be expressed in the form of mathematical principles, or laws of Nature.

By examination or observation or experimentation, connects between events become apparent A framework is required to interpret the information. Direct connections between events are usually apparent to the senses. But the underlying causes associated with the laws of Nature are much more subtle.

Understanding Philosophy of Science

Observations of events are not generally intelligible. Often phenomenon requires an abstract theoretical framework to form a context for measurements in order to link them into a framework of understanding. This framework is called a scientific theory. Laws of Nature are human inventions to describe the regularity of the Universe while laws are human inventions, the regularities are written in 'reality'.


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The laws of Nature are attempts to capture the regularities of the world systematically. The existence of regularities in Nature is an objective fact, thus we do not impose laws onto Nature. While the form of the laws are human inventions, they reflect, albeit imperfectly, real properties in Nature. It is this absolute invariance of the laws of Nature that underwrites the meaningfulness of the scientific enterprise and assured its success.

Truly basic laws of Nature establish deep connections between different physical processes. When a new law is developed, it is tested under different contexts which often leads to the discovery of new, unexpected phenomena. This demonstrates that we are determining real regularities in Nature, not imposing them with our scientific structures. The laws of Nature are eternal, absolute and have an independent existence outside the physical conditions of an experiment.

Induction and Inductivism | Understanding Philosophy of Science | Taylor & Francis Group

Success in the scientific method rests on the reproducibility of the results. An experiment is repeated and the same laws of Nature apply, but the initial conditions of the experiment can be varied. There is a clear functional separation between laws and initial conditions, similar to the Platonic Forms. If Shakespeare, Beethoven, or van Gogh had not been born it's unlikely that anyone else would have ever achieved what they did.

But is this true for scientists? Would someone else have discovered the classical laws of motion if there had been no Newton? Probably, because science is a collective enterprise.

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The solution to a scientific problem must satisfy exacting criteria and demands. These constraints do not eliminate creativity, they provoke it. Scientific theories are essentially models of the real world or parts of it and the vocabulary of science concerns the models rather than reality. A true discovery would refer to the observation of the phenomenon in Nature with respect to Hawking radiation, noone has yet directly observed a black hole. The relationship between a theory or model and the real system represents an important distinction.

For example, how do we know when a model is merely a computational device and when does it actually describe reality? Scientific theories are descriptions of reality, they do not constitute that reality. As long as a theory sticks close to direct experience, where common sense remains a reliable guide, then there is confidence that we can distinguish between the theory and reality. Advance theories in modern physics push this boundary, for example, the use of virtual particles in quantum physics.

Their existence is never directly observed, so some might say that there use is a simple way of describing an unimaginable process in familiar terms. Models or theories that are broad and encompass a significant fraction of a field of science are called paradigms. Reductionism was one of the founding paradigms of science, but was not a complete expression of the truth to Nature. However, the three hundred years of progress that accompanied reductionism was not rooted on a misconception, for this is not the role of paradigms. Rather a particular paradigm is neither right nor wrong, but merely reflects a perspective, an aspect of reality that may prove more or less fruitful depending on the circumstances.

The Scientific Image

Science may not deliver the whole truth, but it certainly deals with truth and not dogma. Science historian, Thomas Kuhn, argued that science moved in leaps. That paradigm's form, led to many new discoveries, then become the standard in which new ideas are tested. Entrenched positions are routinely undermined, and Ladyman's admirable book does plenty of undermining. He Science is such an important part of our lives, and yet we find it so difficult to explain what gives it it's power. He sets out the arguments in a fair, lucid and logical style, thereby making a difficult subject seem ever so slightly simpler.

Beginnings - Aristotle's Empiricism vs Plato's Forms

Always the mark of a good book. Mar 11, P rated it liked it. From the introduction: "To be a [scientific] realist about Copernicus' theory is to think that it should be taken literally and to believe that the Earth really does orbit the Sun. Apr 04, Marc rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: JP. Shelves: science-society , philosophy A classic textbook on the discipline. It does a good job of covering all the various philosophical positions and challenges to what science can know. It exposes the warts to the ad hoc-ery too.

I am nearly finished May 26, James Kelly rated it it was amazing. A very good and easy to read introduction to the core issues of the philosophy of science.

I picked it up for an online course I am doing and it has helped incredibly. The book covers the methodology of science and issues around it such as the demarcation problem; as well competing theories of the philosophy of science such as induction and falsification. If you are studying it for work or more likely just interested it's a relatively obscure subject it is well worth the read. An accessible introduction to the subject. Ladyman's book essentially revolves around introducing the reader to the question 'what is the nature of science, and how should we interpret the theories science gives us?

To emphasise how much this is so, he does not even introduce the debate around whether the social sciences can be counted as 'science' in the same way as the natural sciences. That said, there are definite benefits to th An accessible introduction to the subject. That said, there are definite benefits to this approach, as it allows for a greater foray into the history of science, as well interesting and comprehensive sections on the views of Kuhn and van Frassen, with slightly more new ideas, such as Cartwright's 'idealisation', at the end of the book.

Some knowledge of philosophy, science and the history of science would probably be useful for understanding this book, though are not essential. I'd recommend this as a starting place for anyone interested in the area, though I'd also recommend combining it with Stanford articles and such, as the wider reading sections given aren't terribly helpful.

Jun 01, Stinger rated it it was ok Shelves: biola , philosophy. Thorough and well organized, Ladyman goes through the challenges to scientific realism methodically. I enjoyed the back and forth of the fictional characters who are pro and anti scientific realism; this was a useful and witty literary device. The author ends the book abruptly, seeming to have run out of steam upon the topic whi Thorough and well organized, Ladyman goes through the challenges to scientific realism methodically.

The author ends the book abruptly, seeming to have run out of steam upon the topic which I as the reader shared. Dec 19, Brendon rated it it was amazing Recommends it for: All. Good introduction. May 03, John added it. Is it just me or is the comma usage in this book extremely eccentric? May 01, Francois Cloutier rated it it was amazing. An excellent introduction to philosophy of science. The author explains clealy the different positions, problems and debates. Jan 10, Amanda Packer rated it did not like it. I only read this book for my class that I am taking in school and would never have chosen to read this on my own.

View 1 comment. May 29, Karina Jade rated it liked it. Very useful in explaining common problems relating to philosophy of science such as induction, underetermination and realism. Steven rated it really liked it Jun 06, Sense Hofstede rated it liked it May 04, Carina rated it really liked it Feb 02, Melissa rated it really liked it Mar 26, Iman rated it really liked it Sep 04, James rated it really liked it Oct 26, Giftof Theguide rated it it was amazing Apr 14, There are no discussion topics on this book yet.

Readers also enjoyed. About James Ladyman. James Ladyman. Books by James Ladyman. Trivia About Understanding Phi No trivia or quizzes yet. Peter Lipton — was an exceptionally talented philosopher of science. His book Inference to the Best Explanation is a model of lucidity, rigorous argumentation, and philosophical depth. It came out in and had a second edition in , with the second having substantially new material. But if A were true, C would be a matter of course.

IBE is taken by scientific realists to be the way in which scientists form beliefs and accept hypotheses about unobservable entities. For instance, the best explanation of the macroscopic behaviour of gases is that they are composed of atoms. In fact, the most basic argument for realism itself is an inference to the best explanation: that scientific theories are approximately true is the best explanation of their predictive successes. But IBE has been notoriously hard to formalise and to defend or justify. Many philosophers ask: what does explanation have to do with truth?

Lipton attempted to answer this question by distinguishing between loveliness and likeliness. Loveliness is a function of the explanatory qualities of a hypothesis; that is, how simple, comprehensive, unified and natural it is. Likeliness has to do with how likely a hypothesis is. Hence, Lipton unravels two facets of IBE: inference to the Loveliest Explanation and Inference to the Likeliest Explanation , where the loveliest explanation is one which would, if true, be the most explanatory or provide the most understanding.

One selects a relatively small number of potential explanations of the evidence as plausible, while the other selects the best among them as the actual explanation. Both filters operate on the basis of explanatory considerations. That is, both filters should act as explanatory-quality tests. Then, he argued that the loveliness of an explanation is a symptom of its likeliness.

Hence, explanations that are lovely will also be likely. But what guides the inference is the loveliness explanatory power of an explanation. He was aware, though, that this was not the end of the story. What is the project of this book? For me, this book has a personal significance.

I was given a copy of it in August by my then thesis supervisor David Papineau , while I was writing up my doctoral dissertation. I followed his advice and read it in the beginning of It was a revelation for me. Many critics of science in the twentieth century, from Thomas Kuhn to the social constructivists, have taken the failures of the legend to show that science cannot reveal truths about the world, or to question its objectivity, rationality and hegemony.

But Kitcher does not want to do this. In his book, he aims to show how scientific progress and objectivity can still be defended, even though the legend is just a legend. This is done within a thoroughly naturalistic framework in which scientists are seen, not as sole knowers, but as biological and social beings with various cognitive constraints and limitations. Individual cognitive practices are integrated into a network of collective consensus-forming practices. One such practice aims to offer cogent unifying explanations of the worldly phenomena, where the unification consists in using the same explanatory schemata to account for diverse phenomena, like Darwin did with his explanatory pattern of natural selection.

Scientific enterprise is progressive in that more and more significant truths about the world are discovered and by making more and more refined classifications of natural kinds. On what basis has the idea of scientific objectivity been challenged in the twentieth century? The two major challenges to scientific objectivity have come from the Kuhnian notion of incommensurability and the social constructivist programme in the sociology of scientific knowledge.

The notion of incommensurability was introduced by Kuhn to capture the relation between scientific paradigms before and after a scientific revolution. The pre-revolutionary and the post-revolutionary paradigms were said to be incommensurable in that there was no strict translation of the terms and predicates of the old paradigm into those of the new. Though Kuhn developed this notion in several distinct ways, its core is captured by the thought that two theories are incommensurable if there is no language into which both theories can be translated without residue or loss.

Kuhn supplemented this notion of untranslatability with the notion of lexical structure : two theories are incommensurable if their lexical structures that is, their taxonomies of natural kinds cannot be mapped into each other.

Philosophy of Science 1 - Induction and Naive Inductivism

To many philosophers, this notion threatened scientific objectivity since competing paradigms cannot be properly compared. Hence, there is no objective sense in which the new paradigm can be said to be more progressive than the old. Kuhn went to extremes by claiming that:.


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  • The proponents of competing paradigms practice their trades in different worlds. Practicing in different worlds, the two groups of scientists see different things when they look from the same point of view in the same direction. This made the world well lost. But different paradigms carve up the world of appearances into different networks of natural kinds.

    This programme aimed at a causal-naturalistic explanation of scientific belief and the claim was that, as David Bloor put it, the same types of cause would explain true and false, or rational and irrational, beliefs. Accordingly, the world drops out as a factor for the explanation of scientific belief. Still, there are typically good evidential reasons to prefer one theory to another. In the extreme case of social constructivist views, the claim is that scientific entities are constructed by means of negotiations and other socially influenced consensus-making processes among scientists.

    As socially immersed beings, how much room does Kitcher have for social influences on scientists to impact their research and, with it, their scientific objectivity? Kitcher clearly accepts that scientists are social beings and that there are a number of social influences on their views and work. However, he defends the view that the various social influences and biases are not so powerful that they prevent scientists from abandoning false beliefs and accepting truer ones.

    For Kitcher, there is conceptual, explanatory and cognitive progress as science grows. He argues that there is no significant incommensurability between competing theories, since for him, scientific expression-types are no longer associated with single putative referents. Instead, each expression-type is endowed with a reference potential: a potential such that its tokens may refer to more than one putative entity, depending on the event that has initiated the production of each particular token. This allows him to speak of reference-preserving translation between competing theories.

    For Kitcher, conceptual progress is refinement of the reference-potential of concepts. Besides, unlike Kuhn, Kitcher thinks that there is considerable progress towards a truer account of the world. Even if our perception of nature may be theory-dependent, it does not follow that nature itself is theory-dependent. Having discussed Kuhn, that leads us nicely to your final choice.

    This is Dynamics of Reason by Michael Friedman, a work also concerned with the nature of scientific revolutions but through a Kantian lens. Tell me about this book. This is, in many ways, a tour de force. Friedman repeats the call of Hermann von Helmholtz, who is one of his philosophical heroes: Back to Kant! And while Helmholtz had in mind the excesses of German idealism, Friedman is moved by a deeper reading of logical positivism, which was the scapegoat of Kuhnians and Popperians.

    This deeper reading is not in essence a reinterpretation, but a rehabilitation. Kant found in Newtonian theory a model of how the fundamental laws of nature are founded in universal principles of human knowledge, and especially in the principles of mathematics and Euclidean geometry. These universal and necessary principles of human knowledge the forms of pure intuition provided the framework within which scientific knowledge and objectivity, as exemplified by Newtonian mechanics, are defined and defended.

    According to the Kantian conception of knowledge, the possibility of human knowledge presupposes synthetic a priori constraints when building models of the world based on experience. The synthetic a priori principles are universal, necessary, and certain. Being independent from experience, they are unrevisable. At the same time, they constitute the object of knowledge. In the light of the theory of relativity, which challenged both Newtonian mechanics and the underlying Euclidean geometry, Reichenbach proposed a distinction between two elements of the Kantian conception of synthetic a priori principles: a a priori principles are considered unrevisable, thus necessarily true; and b a priori principles are considered to be constitutive of the object of knowledge.

    Reichenbach accepted the second dimension, but denied the first. That is, he denied that a priori principles are necessarily true and unrevisable. Instead, being dependent on a framework, they must be abandoned when the framework they constitute is abandoned. The framework is abandoned for broadly empirical reasons; in particular, when the theories that are embedded in it are in persistent conflict with experience. This new conception of the a priori, qua a set of principles constitutive of a theoretical framework, retains the spirit of the Kantian idea that there can be no systematic attempt to know the world unless the acceptable empirical theories are limited in such a way as to satisfy a set of a priori principles, which describe the basic structure that the world must have in order for it to be knowable.

    But these a priori principles become at the same time relativised; that is, revisable. This way of viewing things leads Friedman to show that the distinct and autonomous role of philosophy is established not by the fact that it is cut off from science. Rather, the role of philosophy is to provide the meta-scientific domain upon which reason is called to unveil and highlight the rationality that permeates, and the continuity which characterizes, the otherwise radical scientific revolutions.

    In other words, philosophy offers the domain in which the various constitutive a priori principles of the various theoretical frameworks are detected and explained as well as the space in which the reasons for their change become visible. The Kuhnian approach to science, from which Friedman takes some cues, oscillates between two fundamentally different and conflicting assumptions: the rationality of normal science and the irrationality of revolutionary change. The synthesis sought by Friedman restores rationality in scientific change within a meta-scientific and hence philosophical domain, highlighting the role of constitutive and at the same time revisable principles.

    But if the constitutive principles are framework dependent and revisable, how is descriptive naturalism or scepticism avoided? Philosophy and the sciences are in a perpetual relationship of dynamic interaction and mutual determination. Like Kitcher, Friedman is optimistic about scientific objectivity as an attainable goal.