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Abstract
The philosophy of biology began to develop as a distinct field within the philosophy of science in the early 1970s, shortly before Philip Kitcher turned from mathematics and physics to biology in his thinking about general issues concerning the nature of science. Not only did the answers to traditional questions within the field seem problematic once one turned from the “hard sciences” to the softer biological sciences, but the questions themselves came to be viewed as less obviously the right ones to be asking. At the core of the philosopher’s view of science thirty years ago was a series of questions about science in general. What was distinctive about science that made it our paradigm of successful intellectual inquiry? How should we think about the nature of testing and confirmation in science? What was the character of scientific explanation? Was scientific change a rational process, and if so, how should we understand that process? (And if not--as was suggested to many by influential works such as Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method--what are the implications for our broader views of science?). The work of the logical positivists from the 1930s on, particularly that of Rudolph Carnap and Carl Gustav Hempel, had established such questions as constitutive of the field, and much of philosophy of science in the 1960s and 1970s was either a development of positivist ideas or a reaction to, and departure from, them. The feature of positivism and the work that followed in its stead most relevant here is the presupposition that the right questions to be asking about science were perfectly general questions, questions about science per se. The various areas of physics and chemistry were taken as paradigms of scientific inquiry, and were drawn on extensively, even if not always in depth, both to illustrate and to test the answers given to the general questions asked.
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