With Humean empiricism and its agnostic stance regarding the future as a foil, I take a bird’s eye view of the links between past and future prescribed by ordinary concepts of everyday things and processes, and by scientific models of phenomenal situations. I argue that they entitle us to claim knowledge of the future—including, where appropriate, its necessary course—in a humanly affordable sense of ‘knowledge’.
RESUMEN: La biología evolucionista no ha logrado definir un concepto de especie que satisfaga a todos sus colaboradores. El presente panorama crítico de las principales propuestas y sus respectivas dificultades apunta, por un lado, a ilustrar los procesos de formación de conceptos en las ciencias empíricas y, por otro, a socavar la visión parateológica del conocimiento y la verdad que inspiró inicialmente a la ciencia moderna y prevalece aún entre muchas personas educadas. El artículo se divide en dos partes. La (...) primera atiende al concepto biológico (o genético) de especie adoptado por Theodosius Dobzhansky y Ernst Mayr alrededor de 1940, así como a las alternativas introducidas para superar sus limitaciones. La segunda parte estudia la tradición “cladista” fundada por Willi Hennig (1950) y sus ramificaciones. Varios conceptos de especie que no era fácil integrar en estos dos grupos se omitieron en aras de la coherencia y la brevedad de la exposición.ABSTRACT: Evolutionary biology has not suceeded in defining a concept of species that will satisfy all researchers. This critical survey of the main proposals and their respective difficulties tends, on the one hand, to throw light on the processes of concept formation in the empirical sciences, and, on the other, to undermine the paratheological vision of knowledge and truth that initially inspired modern science and still prevails among many educated persons. The article is divided into two parts. The first part concerns the biological (or genetical) concept of species which was adopted by Theodosius Dobzhansky and Ernst Mayr ca. 1940 and some alternatives which were subsequently introduced to overcome its limitations. The second part deals with several branches of the cladist tradition founded by Willi Hennig (1950). Various concepts of species that could not be easily integrated in either group were omitted for the sake of coherence and brevity. (shrink)
Assuming, with Hasok Chang, that the history and philosophy of science can contribute to scientific knowledge, particularly when it is a matter of disposing of groundless or useless notions, I examine the case of the luminiferous ether, and seek to ascertain what factors may have kept it alive until 1905, when Einstein declared it superfluous.
Prompted by Hasok Chang’s conception of the history and philosophy of science (HPS) as the continuation of science by other means, I examine the possibility of obtaining scientific knowledge through philosophical criticism and reflection, in the light of four historical cases, concerning (i) the role of absolute space in Newtonian dynamics, (ii) the purported contraction of rods and retardation of clocks in Special Relativity, (iii) the reality of the electromagnetic ether, and (iv) the so-called problem of time’s arrow. In all (...) four cases it is clear that a better understanding of such matters can be achieved —and has been achieved— through conceptual analysis. On the other hand, however, it would seem that this kind of advance has more to do with philosophical questions in science than with narrowly scientific questions. Hence, if HPS in effect continues the work of science by other means, it could well be doing it for other ends than those that working scientists ordinarily have in mind. (shrink)
A magisterial study of the philosophy of physics that both introduces the subject to the non-specialist and contains many original and important contributions for professionals in the area. Modern physics was born as a part of philosophy and has retained to this day a properly philosophical concern for the clarity and coherence of ideas. Any introduction to the philosophy of physics must therefore focus on the conceptual development of physics itself. This book pursues that development from Galileo and Newton through (...) Maxwell and Boltzmann to Einstein and the founders of quantum mechanics. There is also discussion of important philosophers of physics in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and of twentieth-century debates. In the interest of appealing to the broadest possible readership the author avoids technicalities and explains both the physics and philosophical terms. (shrink)
"A pleasure to read. Gracefully written by a scholar well grounded in the relevant philosophical, historical, and technical background. . . . a helpfully clarifying review and analysis of some issues of importance to recent philosophy of science and a source of some illuminating insights."--Burke Townsend, Philosophy of Science.
High-level study discusses Newtonian principles and 19th-century views on electrodynamics and the aether, covers Einstein’s electrodynamics of moving bodies, Minkowski geometry and other topics. A rich exposition of the elements of the Special and General Theory of Relativity.