Throughout more than two millennia philosophers adhered massively to ideal standards of scientific rationality going back ultimately to Aristotle’s Analytica posteriora . These standards got progressively shaped by and adapted to new scientific needs and tendencies. Nevertheless, a core of conditions capturing the fundamentals of what a proper science should look like remained remarkably constant all along. Call this cluster of conditions the Classical Model of Science . In this paper we will do two things. First of all, we will (...) propose a general and systematized account of the Classical Model of Science. Secondly, we will offer an analysis of the philosophical significance of this model at different historical junctures by giving an overview of the connections it has had with a number of important topics. The latter include the analytic-synthetic distinction, the axiomatic method, the hierarchical order of sciences and the status of logic as a science. Our claim is that particularly fruitful insights are gained by seeing themes such as these against the background of the Classical Model of Science. In an appendix we deal with the historiographical background of this model by considering the systematizations of Aristotle’s theory of science offered by Heinrich Scholz, and in his footsteps by Evert W. Beth. (shrink)
I believe that the long-neglected ideas on science and scientific method of Charles Sanders Peirce and Josiah Royce can illuminate some of the current attacks on science that have surfaced: misconduct and fraud in science and anti-scientism or the "new cynicism." In addition, Royce and Peirce offer insights relevant to the ferment in contemporary philosophy of science around the various forms of pluralism advocated by a number of philosophers (see Kellert, Longino, and Waters). "Pluralism" is the view that "plurality in (...) science possibly represents an ineliminable character of scientific inquiry and knowledge (about at least some phenomena) . . . and that analysis of metascientific concepts (like theory .. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to discuss the nature of disagreement in scientific ontologies inthe light of case studies from biology and cognitive science. I argue that disagreements in scientificontologies are usually not about purely factual issues but involve both verbal and normativeaspects. Furthermore, I try to show that this partly non-factual character of disagreement inscientific ontologies does not lead to a radical deflationism but is compatible with a “normativeontological realism.” Finally, I argue that the case studies from the (...) empirical sciences challengecontemporary metaontological accounts that insist on exactly one true way of “carving nature atits joints.”. (shrink)
Most scientists would hold that science has not established that the cosmos is physically comprehensible – i.e. such that there is some as-yet undiscovered true physical theory of everything that is unified. This is an empirically untestable, or metaphysical thesis. It thus lies beyond the scope of science. Only when physics has formulated a testable unified theory of everything which has been amply corroborated empirically will science be in a position to declare that it has established that the cosmos is (...) physically comprehensible. But this argument presupposes a widely accepted but untenable conception of science which I shall call standard empiricism. According to standard empiricism, in science theories are accepted solely on the basis of evidence. Choice of theory may be influenced for a time by considerations of simplicity, unity, or explanatory capacity, but not in such a way that the universe itself is permanently assumed to be simple, unified or physically comprehensible. In science, no thesis about the universe can be accepted permanently as a part of scientific knowledge independently of evidence. Granted this view, it is clear that science cannot have established that the universe is physically comprehensible. Standard empiricism is, however, as I have indicated, untenable. Any fundamental physical theory, in order to be accepted as a part of theoretical scientific knowledge, must satisfy two criteria. It must be (1) sufficiently empirically successful, and (2) sufficiently unified. Given any accepted theory of physics, endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals can always be concocted – disunified because they assert that different dynamical laws govern the diverse phenomena to which the theory applies. These disunified rivals are not considered for a moment in physics, despite their greater empirical success. This persistent rejection of empirically more successful but disunified rival theories means, I argue, that a big, highly problematic, implicit assumption is made by science about the cosmos, to the effect, at least, that the cosmos is such that all seriously disunified theories are false. Once this point is recognized, it becomes clear, I argue, that we need a new conception of science which makes explicit, and so criticizable and improvable the big, influential, and problematic assumption that is at present implicit in physics in the persistent preference for unified theories. This conception of science, which I call aim-oriented empiricism, represents the assumption of physics in the form of a hierarchy of assumptions. As one goes up the hierarchy, the assumptions become less and less substantial, and more and more nearly such that their truth is required for science, or the pursuit of knowledge, to be possible at all. At each level, that assumption is accepted which (a) best accords with the next one up, and (b) has, associated with it the most empirically progressive research programme in physics, or holds out the greatest hope of leading to such an empirically progressive research programme. In this way a framework of relatively insubstantial, unproblematic, fixed assumptions and associated methods is created, high up in the hierarchy, within which much more substantial and problematic assumptions and associated methods, low down in the hierarchy, can be changed, and indeed improved, as scientific knowledge improves. One assumption in this hierarchy of assumptions, I argue, is that the cosmos is physically comprehensible – that is, such that some yet-to-be-discovered unified theory of everything is true. Hence the conclusion: improve our ideas about the nature of science and it becomes apparent that science has already established that the cosmos is physically comprehensible – in so far as science can ever establish anything theoretical. (shrink)
How can what is of value associated with our human world exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe? Or, as we may put it, how can the God-of-Cosmic-Value exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the God-of-Cosmic-Power? This, I argue, is our fundamental problem – fundamental in both intellectual and practical terms. Here, I tackle the practical aspect of the problem. I consider briefly five global problems – climate change, war, population growth, world (...) poverty, habitat destruction and extinction of species – and argue that, in order to solve them it is essential to bring about a revolution in universities round the world so that the basic aim becomes wisdom and not just knowledge. I conclude by indicating recent developments which suggest the revolution may already be underway. (shrink)
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: first, learning about the nature of the universe and about ourselves as a part of the universe, and second, learning how to live wisely – learning how to make progress towards as good a world as possible. The first problem was solved, in essence, in the 17th century, with the creation of modern science. A method was discovered for progressively improving knowledge and understanding of the natural world, the famous empirical method of science. (...) But the second great problem of learning has not yet been solved. And this puts us in a situation of unprecedented danger. Indeed, all our current global problems can be traced back, in one way or another, to this source. Solving the first great problem of learning enormously increases our power to act, via the increase of scientific knowledge and technological know-how. But without wisdom – without a solution to the second problem of learning – our immensely increased power to act may have good consequences, but will as often as not have all sorts of harmful consequences as well, whether intended or not. In order to cope with the situation of unprecedented danger we find ourselves in, we need to learn from our solution to the first problem how to solve the second. That is, we need to learn from scientific progress how to make better social progress towards a wiser world. (shrink)
At present the basic intellectual aim of academic inquiry is to improve knowledge. Much of the structure, the whole character, of academic inquiry, in universities all over the world, is shaped by the adoption of this as the basic intellectual aim. But, judged from the standpoint of making a contribution to human welfare, academic inquiry of this type is damagingly irrational. Three of four of the most elementary rules of rational problem-solving are violated. A revolution in the aims and methods (...) of academic inquiry is needed so that the basic aim becomes to promote wisdom, conceived of as the capacity to realize what is of value, for oneself and others, thus including knowledge and technological know-how, but much else besides. This urgently needed revolution would affect every branch and aspect of the academic enterprise. (shrink)
What ought to be the aims of science? How can science best serve humanity? What would an ideal science be like, a science that is sensitively and humanely responsive to the needs, problems and aspirations of people? How ought the institutional enterprise of science to be related to the rest of society? What ought to be the relationship between science and art, thought and feeling, reason and desire, mind and heart? Should the social sciences model themselves on the natural sciences: (...) or ought they to take a different form if they are to serve the interests of humanity objectively, sensitively and rigorously? Might it be possible to get into human life, into art, education, politics, industry, international affairs, and other domains of human activity, the same kind of progressive success that is found so strikingly, on the intellectual level, within science? These are some of the questions tackled by What’s Wrong With Science? But the book is no abstruse treatise on the philosophy of science. Most of it takes the form of a passionate debate between a Scientist and a Philosopher, a debate that is by turns humorous, ironical, bitter, dramatically explosive. Even as the argument explores the relationship between thought and feeling, reason and desire, the two main protagonists find it necessary to examine their own feelings and motivations. The book is a delight to read and can be understood by anyone. The book should have a wide appeal. It will be of interest to any scientist concerned about the intellectual and moral integrity of modern science – whether working in a physical, biological or social science. It will be of interest to educationalists, science teachers, students, 6th form pupils, historians, sociologists and philosophers of science, and indeed to anyone concerned about the place and role of science and technology in the modern world. First published in 1976, the book is even more relevant today than it was 33 years ago. This second edition has a new introduction in which the author explains how the book both exploits and develops Karl Popper’s philosophy. (shrink)
Even though evidence underdetermines theory, often in science one theory only is regarded as acceptable in the light of the evidence. This suggests there are additional unacknowledged assumptions which constrain what theories are to be accepted. In the case of physics, these additional assumptions are metaphysical theses concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. Rigour demands that these implicit assumptions be made explicit within science, so that they can be critically assessed and, we may hope improved. This leads to (...) a new conception of science, one which we need to adopt in order to solve the problem of induction. (shrink)
For three decades I have expounded and defended aim-oriented empiricism, a view of science which, l claim, solves a number of problems in the philosophy of science and has important implications for science itself and, when generalized, for the whole of academic inquiry, and for our capacity to solve our current global problems. Despite these claims, the view has received scant attention from philosophers of science. Recently, however, David Miller has criticized the view. Miller’s criticisms are, however, not valid.
A Mug's Game? Solving the Problem of Induction with Metaphysical Presuppositions Nicholas Maxwell Emeritus Reader in Philosophy of Science at University College London Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.nick-maxwell.demon.co.uk Abstract This paper argues that a view of science, expounded and defended elsewhere, solves the problem of induction. The view holds that we need to see science as accepting a hierarchy of metaphysical theses concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe, these theses asserting less and less as we go up the hierarchy. (...) It may seem that this view must suffer from vicious circularity, in so far as accepting physical theories is justified by an appeal to metaphysical theses in turn justified by the success of science. But this is rebutted. A thesis high up in the hierarchy asserts that the universe is such that the element of circularity, just indicated, is legitimate and justified, and not vicious. Acceptance of the thesis is in turn justified without appeal to the success of science. It may seem that the practical problem of induction can only be solved along these lines if there is a justification of the truth of the metaphysical theses in question. It is argued that this demand must be rejected as it stems from an irrational conception of science. (shrink)
Steven Yates has criticized my claim that we need to bring about a revolution in the aims and methods of academic inquiry, so that the aim becomes to promote wisdom rather than just acquire knowledge. Yates's main criticism is that the proposed revolution does not have a clear strategy for its implementation, and is, in any case, Utopian, unrealizable and undesirable. It is argued, here, that Yates has misconstrued what the proposed revolution amounts to; in fact it is realizable, urgently (...) needed, and involves exploiting the kind of strategies utilized so effectively by the philosophes of the 18th century French Enlightenment. (shrink)
What kind of science – or, more generally, what kind of academic inquiry – can best contribute to the public good? Two answers are considered: knowledge-inquiry and wisdom-inquiry. The former is what we have at present. It is, however, damagingly irrational. The latter is more rigorous and, potentially, of greater value in human and intellectual terms. It arises as a result of putting the Enlightenment Programme properly into practice. We urgently need to bring about a revolution in academia, so that (...) wisdom-inquiry is put into practice. (shrink)
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: learning about the universe, and learning how to live wisely. The first problem was solved with the creation of modern science, but the second problem has not been solved. This combination puts humanity into a situation of unprecedented danger. In order to solve the second problem we need to learn from our solution to the first problem. This requires that we bring about a revolution in the overall aims and methods of academic inquiry, (...) so that it takes up its proper task of promoting wisdom. (shrink)
Neurosis can be interpreted as a methodological condition which any aim-pursuing entity can suffer from. If such an entity pursues a problematic aim B, represents to itself that it is pursuing a different aim C, and as a result fails to solve the problems associated with B which, if solved, would lead to the pursuit of aim A, then the entity may be said to be "rationalistically neurotic". Natural science is neurotic in this sense in so far as a basic (...) aim of science is represented to be to improve knowledge of factual truth as such (aim C), when actually the aim of science is to improve knowledge of explanatory truth (aim B). Science does not suffer too much from this neurosis, but philosophy of science does. Much more serious is the rationalistic neurosis of the social sciences, and of academic inquiry more generally. Freeing social science and academic inquiry from neurosis would have far reaching, beneficial, intellectual, institutional and cultural consequences. (shrink)
When scientists choose one theory over another, they reject out of hand all those that are not simple, unified or explanatory. Yet the orthodox view of science is that evidence alone should determine what can be accepted. Nicholas Maxwell thinks he has a way out of the dilemma.
Many scientists, if pushed, may be inclined to hazard the guess that the universe is comprehensible, even physically comprehensible. Almost all, however, would vehemently deny that science has already established that the universe is comprehensible. It is, nevertheless, just this that I claim to be the case. Once one gets the nature of science properly into perspective, it becomes clear that the comprehensibility of the universe is as secure an item of current scientific knowledge as anything theoretical in science can (...) be, more secure, indeed, than the most firmly established fundamental theories of physics, such as quantum theory or Einstein's general theory of relativity. (shrink)
Humanity is confronted by immense global problems. In order to learn how to tackle them we need a new kind of academic inquiry, rationally organized and devoted to helping us resolve our problems of living in increasingly cooperatively rational ways.
Our world is beset with appalling problems. To solve these urgent, intractable global problems it is not new scientific knowledge and technology that we need so much as new actions: new policies, new international relations, new institutions and social arrangements, new ways of living. The mere provision of scientific know-ledge and technological know-how cannot help much: indeed, all too often it actually makes matters worse. The dreadful truth is that science has played a crucial role, often unwittingly, in the creation (...) of our problems. To solve our problems we certainly need to learn, but what we need to learn is not so much new knowledge as new actions—new, more cooperative, wiser ways of living. Above all, we need to learn how to resolve our conflicts in more just, humane and rationally cooperative ways. This in turn requires that we create new institutions and traditions of learning, rationally devoted to helping us to learn how to become more cooperative and wise. We need a new kind of academic enterprise, all over the world, which takes as its basic task to promote not just knowledge, but rather wisdom—wisdom being defined as the capacity to solve problems of living so as to achieve what is of value, for oneself and others (wisdom thus including but going beyond knowledge). (shrink)
This is an unpublished talk written for a meeting of French philosophers. The paper describes the evolution versus creationism/intelligent design controversy in the U.S. A number of philosophers and scientists try to resolve this issue by sharply distinguishing the realm of science versus any talk of the supernatural. These pro-evolutionists often appeal to science's essential commitment to "methodological naturalism," the view that scientific methodology is essentially committed to naturalism and cannot meaningfully entertain hypotheses concerning the supernatural. I criticize methodological naturalism, (...) suggesting that such an appeal is misguided and counterproductive. I suggest an alternative view of the supernatural consistent with scientific knowledge. (shrink)
This paper addresses the relationship between the history and philosophy of science by way of the issue of epistemic normativity. After brief discussion of the relationship between history and philosophy of science in Kuhn’s own thinking, the paper focuses on the implications of the history of science for epistemic normativity. There may be historical evidence for change of scientific methodology, which may seem to support a position of epistemic relativism. However, the fact that the methods of science undergo variation does (...) not entail that epistemic justification varies with the methods employed by scientists. In order to arrive at the relativist conclusion, an epistemological argument is required that justification depends upon operative methods. This raises the question of epistemic normativity. Kuhn himself attempted to deal with this question on a number of occasions, but without success. Following brief discussion of Kuhn on this topic, the paper then turns to the treatment of epistemic normativity in the work of Lakatos, Laudan and Worrall. Lakatos and Laudan proposed that particular episodes from the history of science might be employed to adjudicate between alternative theories of method. Such episodes are selected on the basis of value judgements or pre-analytic intuitions, but such value judgements and intuitions are themselves problematic. Laudan later proposed the normative naturalist view that a rule of method is to be evaluated empirically on the basis of its reliability in conducing to a desired cognitive aim. Against this attempt to naturalize meta-methodology, Worrall argued that the normative force of the appeal to past reliability requires an a priori inductive principle. In my view, the problem of epistemic normativity is solved by combining the particularist focus on specific episodes in the history of science with the naturalistic account of the reliability of method. (shrink)
Scientists are divided on the status of hypothesis H that low doses of ionizing radiation (under 20 rads) cause hormetic (or non-harmful) effects. Military and industrial scientist s tend to accept H, while medical and environmental scientists tend to reject it. Proponents of the strong programme claim this debate shows that uncertain science can be clari ed only by greater attention to the social values in uencing it. While they are in part correct, this paper argues that methodological analyses (not (...) merely attention to social values) also can help clarify uncertain science. The paper analyzes ve measurement uncertainties , as well as seven methodological value judgments, relevant to H. Using criteria of internal and external consistency, as well as predictive power, it argues that metascience also helps resolve this debate. And if so, then value-laden, policy-relevan t science may need, not only more attention to social values in order to resolve and to clarify disputes, but also more conceptual and methodological analyses of science. (This paper suggests what such methodological analyses might be like and uses the case of low-dose risks from radiation to illustrate its points, while a companion paper (“Chemical Hormesis, Conceptual Clari cation, and the Warrant for Policy-Driven Science”) in this same issue of POS suggests what such conceptual analyses might be like and uses the case of low-dose risks from chemicals to illustrate its points.) If this paper’s thesis holds in the very politicize d “hard case” of radiation hormesis, then it suggests that the metascientist s may be right about what is also often necessary to clarify scienti c disputes. (shrink)
Amalgamating evidence of different kinds for the same hypothesis into an overall confirmation is analogous, I argue, to amalgamating individuals’ preferences into a group preference. The latter faces well-known impossibility theorems, most famously “Arrow’s Theorem”. Once the analogy between amalgamating evidence and amalgamating preferences is tight, it is obvious that amalgamating evidence might face a theorem similar to Arrow’s. I prove that this is so, and end by discussing the plausibility of the axioms required for the theorem.
Theory choice can be approached in at least four ways. One of these calls for the application of decision theory, and this article endorses this approach. But applying standard forms of decision theory imposes an overly demanding standard of numeric information, supposedly satisfied by point-valued utility and probability functions. To ameliorate this difficulty, a version of decision theory that requires merely comparative utilities and plausibilities is proposed. After a brief summary of this alternative, the article illustrates how comparative decision theory (...) affords a rational reconstruction of decisions made by exemplary scientists in two cases of theory choice: Buffon’s law and the luminiferous ether. It also offers a rational reconstruction of two cases of theory diagnosis: Mendeleev’s anomalies and the Pioneer anomaly. (shrink)
Evo-Devo exhibits a plurality of scientific “cultures” of practice and theory. When are the cultures acting—individually or collectively—in ways that actually move research forward, empirically, theoretically, and ethically? When do they become imperialistic, in the sense of excluding and subordinating other cultures? This chapter identifies six cultures – three /styles/ (mathematical modeling, mechanism, and history) and three /paradigms/ (adaptationism, structuralism, and cladism). The key assumptions standing behind, under, or within each of these cultures are explored. Characterizing the internal structure of (...) the cultures is necessary for understanding how they collaborate or compete, and how they are fragmented or integrated, in the rich interdisciplinary /trading zone/ (Galison 1997) of Evo-Devo. Evo-Devo is an important example of how science can progress through a radical plurality of perspectives and cultures. (shrink)
Analytical categories of scientific cultures have typically been used both exclusively and universally. For instance, when /styles of scientific research/ are employed in attempts to understand and narrate science, styles alone are usually employed. This article is a thought experiment in interweaving categories. What would happen if rather than employ a single category, we instead investigated several categories simultaneously? What would we learn about the practices and theories, the agents and materials, and the political-technological impact of science if we analyzed (...) and applied styles (à la Hacking and Crombie), paradigms (à la Kuhn), and models (à la van Fraassen and Cartwright) simultaneously? I address these questions in general and for a specific case study: /a brief history of systematics/. (shrink)
A scientific explanatory project, part-whole explanation, and a kind of science, part-whole science are premised on identifying, investigating, and using parts and wholes. In the biological sciences, mechanistic, structuralist, and historical explanations are part-whole explanations. Each expresses different norms, explananda, and aims. Each is associated with a distinct partitioning frame for abstracting kinds of parts. These three explanatory projects can be complemented in order to provide an integrative vision of the whole system, as is shown for a detailed case study: (...) the tetrapod limb. My diagnosis of part-whole explanation in the biological sciences as well as in other domains exploring evolved, complex, and integrated systems (e.g., psychology and cognitive science) cross-cuts standard philosophical categories of explanation: causal explanation and explanation as unification. Part-whole explanation is itself one essential aspect of part-whole science. (shrink)