Philosophy and the Front Line of Science

The Quarterly Review of Biology 83 (1):29-36 (2008)
According to one traditional view, empirical science is necessarily preceded by philosophical analysis. Yet the relevance of philosophy is often doubted by those engaged in empirical sciences. I argue that these doubts can be substantiated by two theoretical problems that the traditional conception of philosophy is bound to face. First, there is a strong normative etiology to philosophical problems, theories, and notions that is difficult to reconcile with descriptive empirical study. Second, conceptual analysis (a role that is typically assigned to philosophy) seems to lose its object of study if it is granted that terms do not have purely conceptual meanings detached from their actual use in empirical sciences. These problems are particularly acute to the current naturalistic philosophy of science. I suggest a more concrete integration of philosophy and the sciences as a possible way of making philosophy of science have more impact.
Keywords conceptual analysis  fallibilism  metaphilosophy  naturalism  normativity  semantics  theories of reference
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