The recent discussion on scientific representation has focused on models and their relationship to the real world. It has been assumed that models give us knowledge because they represent their supposed real target systems. However, here agreement among philosophers of science has tended to end as they have presented widely different views on how representation should be understood. I will argue that the traditional representational approach is too limiting as regards the epistemic value of modelling given the focus on (...) the relationship between a single model and its supposed target system, and the neglect of the actual representational means with which scientists construct models. I therefore suggest an alternative account of models as epistemic tools. This amounts to regarding them as concrete artefacts that are built by specific representational means and are constrained by their design in such a way that they facilitate the study of certain scientific questions, and learning from them by means of construction and manipulation. (shrink)
According to the semantic view, a theory is characterized by a class of mod- els. In this paper, we examine critically some of the assumptions that underlie this approach. First, we recall that models are models of something. Thus we cannot leave completely aside the axiomatization of the theories under consider- ation, nor can we ignore the metamathematics used to elaborate these models, for changes in the metamathematics often impose restrictions on the resulting models. Second, based on a parallel between (...) van Fraassen’s modal interpre- tation of quantum mechanics and Skolem’s relativism regarding set-theoretic concepts, we introduce a distinction between relative and absolute concepts in the context of the models of a scientific theory. And we discuss the significance of that distinction. Finally, by focusing on contemporary particle physics, we raise the question: since there is no general accepted unification of the parts of the standard model (namely, QED and QCD), we have no theory, in the usual sense of the term. This poses a difficulty: if there is no theory, how can we speak of its models? What are the latter models of? We conclude by noting that it is unclear that the semantic view can be applied to contemporary physical theories. (shrink)
Just before the Scientific Revolution, there was a "Mathematical Revolution", heavily based on geometrical and machine diagrams. The "faculty of imagination" (now called scientific visualization) was developed to allow 3D understanding of planetary motion, human anatomy and the workings of machines. 1543 saw the publication of the heavily geometrical work of Copernicus and Vesalius, as well as the first Italian translation of Euclid.
The aim of this paper is to revisit the phlogiston theory to see what can be learned from it about the relationship between scientific realism, approximate truth and successful reference. It is argued that phlogiston theory did to some extent correctly describe the causal or nomological structure of the world, and that some of its central terms can be regarded as referring. However, it is concluded that the issue of whether or not theoretical terms successfully refer is not the (...) key to formulating the appropriate form of scientific realism in response to arguments from theory change, and that the case of phlogiston theory is shown to be readily accommodated by ontic structural realism. (shrink)
In this three-part paper, my concern is to expound and defend a conception of science, close to Einstein's, which I call aim-oriented empiricism. I argue that aim-oriented empiricsim has the following virtues. (i) It solve the problem of induction; (ii) it provides decisive reasons for rejecting van Fraassen's brilliantly defended but intuitively implausible constructive empiricism; (iii) it solves the problem of verisimilitude, the problem of explicating what it can mean to speak of scientific progress given that science advances from (...) one false theory to another; (iv) it enables us to hold that appropriate scientific theories, even though false, can nevertheless legitimately be interpreted realistically, as providing us with genuine , even if only approximate, knowledge of unobservable physical entities; (v) it provies science with a rational, even though fallible and non-mechanical, method for the discovery of fundamental new theories in physics. In the third part of the paper I show that Einstein made essential use of aim-oriented empiricism in scientific practice in developing special and general relativity. I conclude by considering to what extent Einstein came explicitly to advocate aim-oriented empiricism in his later years. (shrink)
According to the semantic view of scientific theories, theories are classes of models. I show that this view -- if taken seriously as a formal explication -- leads to absurdities. In particular, this view equates theories that are truly distinct, and it distinguishes theories that are truly equivalent. Furthermore, the semantic view lacks the resources to explicate interesting theoretical relations, such as embeddability of one theory into another. The untenability of the semantic view -- as currently formulated -- threatens (...) to undermine scientific structuralism. (shrink)
Stanford, in Exceeding Our Grasp , presents a powerful version of the pessimistic meta-induction. He claims that theories typically have empirically inequivalent but nonetheless well-confirmed, serious alternatives which are unconceived. This claim should be uncontroversial. But it alone is no threat to scientific realism. The threat comes from Stanford’s further crucial claim, supported by historical examples, that a theory’s unconceived alternatives are “radically distinct” from it; there is no “continuity”. A standard realist reply to the meta-induction is that past (...) failures do not imply present ones because present theories are more successful than past ones. I have preferred to emphasize that present methodology is better than past ones. Stanford’s response to the standard reply is surprisingly brief and inadequate. He defends the inference from the uncontroversial claim but not that from the crucial one. He does not show that past discontinuity implies present discontinuity. Realism survives. (shrink)
John Searle offers what he thinks to be a reasonable scientific approach to the understanding of consciousness. I argue that Searle is demanding nothing less than a Kuhnian-type revolution with respect to how scientists should study consciousness given his rejection of the subject-object distinction and affirmation of mental causation. As part of my analysis, I reveal that Searle embraces a version of emergentism that is in tension, not only with his own account, but also with some of the theoretical (...) tenets of science. I conclude that Searle has offered little to motivate scientists to adopt his proposal. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that aim-oriented empiricism provides decisive grounds for accepting scientific realism and rejecting instrumentalism. But it goes further than this. Aim-oriented empiricism implies that physicalism is a central part of current (conjectural) scientific knowledge. Furthermore, we can and need, I argue, to interpret fundamental physical theories as attributing necessitating physical properties to fundamental physical entities.
This paper investigates the nature of scientific realism. I begin by considering the anomalous fact that Bas van Fraassen’s account of scientific realism is strikingly similar to Arthur Fine’s account of scientific non-realism. To resolve this puzzle, I demonstrate how the two theorists understand the nature of truth and its connection to ontology, and how that informs their conception of the realism debate. I then argue that the debate is much better captured by the theory of truthmaking, (...) and not by any particular theory of truth. To be a scientific realist is to adopt a realism-relevant account of what makes true the scientific theories one accepts. The truthmaking approach restores realism’s metaphysical core—distancing itself from linguistic conceptions of the debate—and thereby offers a better characterization of what is at stake in the question of scientific realism. (shrink)
In the 1960s and 1970s, Hilary Putnam articulated a notion of relativized apriority that was motivated to address the problem of scientific change. This paper examines Putnam’s account in its historical context and in relation to contemporary views. I begin by locating Putnam’s analysis in the historical context of Quine’s rejection of apriority, presenting Putnam as a sympathetic commentator on Quine. Subsequently, I explicate Putnam’s positive account of apriority, focusing on his analysis of the history of physics and geometry. (...) In the remainder of the paper, I explore connections between Putnam’s account of relativized a priori principles and contemporary views. In particular, I situate Putnam’s account in relation to analyses advanced by Michael Friedman, David Stump, and William Wimsatt. From this comparison, I address issues concerning whether a priori scientific principles are appropriately characterized as “constitutive” or “entrenched”. I argue that these two features need to be clearly distinguished, and that only the constitutive function is essential to apriority. By way of conclusion, I explore the relationship between the constitutive function of a priori principles and entrenchment. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose that the debate in epistemology concerning the nature and value of understanding can shed light on the role of scientific idealizations in producing scientific understanding. In philosophy of science, the received view seems to be that understanding is a species of knowledge. On this view, understanding is factive just as knowledge is, i.e., if S knows that p, then p is true. Epistemologists, however, distinguish between different kinds of understanding. Among epistemologists, there are (...) those who think that a certain kind of understanding—objectual understanding—is not factive, and those who think that objectual understanding is quasi-factive. Those who think that understanding is not factive argue that scientific idealizations constitute cognitive success, which we then consider as instances of understanding, and yet they are not true. This paper is an attempt to draw lessons from this debate as they pertain to the role of idealizations in producing scientific understanding. I argue that scientific understanding is quasi-factive. (shrink)
It has often been argued that Humean accounts of natural law cannot account for the role played by laws in scientific explanations. Loewer (Philosophical Studies 2012) has offered a new reply to this argument on behalf of Humean accounts—a reply that distinguishes between grounding (which Loewer portrays as underwriting a kind of metaphysical explanation) and scientific explanation. I will argue that Loewer’s reply fails because it cannot accommodate the relation between metaphysical and scientific explanation. This relation also (...) resolves a puzzle about scientific explanation that Hempel and Oppenheim (Philosophy of Science 15:135–75, 1948) encountered. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that physics makes metaphysical presuppositions concerning the physical comprehensibility, the dynamic unity, of the universe. I argue that rigour requires that these metaphysical presuppositions be made explicit as an integral part of theoretical knowledge in physics. An account of what it means to assert of a theory that it is unified is developed, which provides the means for partially ordering dynamical physical theories with respect to their degrees of unity. This in turn makes it possible (...) to assess the empirical fruitfulness of (some) metaphysical theses, in terms of the extent to which they play a role in empirically progressive scientific research programmes. A new conception of physics is developed which makes metaphysical theses an integral part of physics and which, at the same time, makes it possible to assess such theses in terms of their empirical fruitfulness. Circularity objections are rebutted. (shrink)
Our ability for scientific reasoning is a byproduct of cognitive faculties that evolved in response to problems related to survival and reproduction. Does this observation increase the epistemic standing of science, or should we treat scientific knowledge with suspicion? The conclusions one draws from applying evolutionary theory to scientific beliefs depend to an important extent on the validity of evolutionary arguments (EAs) or evolutionary debunking arguments (EDAs). In this paper we show through an analytical model that cultural (...) transmission of scientific knowledge can lead toward representations that are more truth-approximating or more efficient at solving science-related problems under a broad range of circumstances, even under conditions where human cognitive faculties would be further off the mark than they actually are. (shrink)
This paper concerns Jean Piaget's (1896–1980) philosophy of science and, in particular, the picture of scientific development suggested by his theory of genetic epistemology. The aims of the paper are threefold: (1) to examine genetic epistemology as a theory concerning the growth of knowledge both in the individual and in science; (2) to explicate Piaget's view of ‘scientific progress’, which is grounded in his theory of equilibration; and (3) to juxtapose Piaget's notion of progress with Thomas Kuhn's (1922–1996). (...) Issues of scientific continuity, scientific realism and scientific rationality are discussed. It is argued that Piaget's view highlights weaknesses in Kuhn's ‘discontinuous’ picture of scientific change. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to articulate, discuss in detail and criticise Reichenbach's sophisticated and complex argument for scientific realism. Reichenbach's argument has two parts. The first part aims to show how there can be reasonable belief in unobservable entities, though the truth of claims about them is not given directly in experience. The second part aims to extent the argument of the first part to the case of realism about the external world, conceived of as a world (...) of independently existing entities distinct from sensations. It is argued that the success of the first part depends on a change of perspective, where unobservable entities are viewed as projective complexes vis-à-vis their observable symptoms, or effects. It is also argued that there is an essential difference between the two parts of the argument, which Reichenbach comes (somewhat reluctantly) to accept. (shrink)
Alexander Bird argues for an epistemic account of scientific progress, whereas Darrell Rowbottom argues for a semantic account. Both appeal to intuitions about hypothetical cases in support of their accounts. Since the methodological significance of such appeals to intuition is unclear, I think that a new approach might be fruitful at this stage in the debate. So I propose to abandon appeals to intuition and look at scientific practice instead. I discuss two cases that illustrate the way in (...) which scientists make judgments about progress. As far as scientists are concerned, progress is made when scientific discoveries contribute to the increase of scientific knowledge of the following sorts: empirical, theoretical, practical, and methodological. I then propose to articulate an account of progress that does justice to this broad conception of progress employed by scientists. I discuss one way of doing so, namely, by expanding our notion of scientific knowledge to include both know-that and know-how. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the ultimate argument for Scientific Realism, also known as the No-Miracles Argument (NMA), ultimately fails as an abductive defence of Epistemic Scientific Realism (ESR), where (ESR) is the thesis that successful theories of mature sciences are approximately true. The NMA is supposed to be an Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE) that purports to explain the success of science. However, the explanation offered as the best explanation for success, namely (ESR), fails to (...) yield independently testable predictions that alternative explanations for success do not yield. If this is correct, then there seems to be no good reason to prefer (ESR) over alternative explanations for success. (shrink)
Putnam in Realism in mathematics and Elsewhere, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (1975) infers from the success of a scientific theory to its approximate truth and the reference of its key term. Laudan in Philos Sci 49:19–49 (1981) objects that some past theories were successful, and yet their key terms did not refer, so they were not even approximately true. Kitcher in The advancement of science, Oxford University Press, New York (1993) replies that the past theories are approximately true because (...) their working posits are true, although their idle posits are false. In contrast, I argue that successful theories which cohere with each other are approximately true, and that their key terms refer. My position is immune to Laudan’s counterexamples to Putnam’s inference and yields a solution to a problem with Kitcher’s position. (shrink)
I defend my view that scientific progress is constituted by the accumulation of knowledge against a challenge from Rowbottom in favour of the semantic view that it is only truth that is relevant to progress.
Modal Platonism utilizes "weak" logical possibility, such that it is logically possible there are abstract entities, and logically possible there are none. Modal Platonism also utilizes a non-indexical actuality operator. Modal Platonism is the EASY WAY, neither reductionist nor eliminativist, but embracing the Platonistic language of abstract entities while eliminating ontological commitment to them. Statement of Modal Platonism. Any consistent statement B ontologically committed to abstract entities may be replaced by an empirically equivalent modalization, MOD(B), not so ontologically committed. This (...) equivalence is provable using Modal/Actuality Logic S5@. Let MAX be a strong set theory with individuals. Then the following Schematic Bombshell Result (SBR) can be shown: MAX logically yields [T is true if and only if MOD(T) is true], for scientific theories T. The proof utilizes Stephen Neale's clever model-theoretic interpretation of Quantified Lewis S5, which I extend to S5@. (shrink)
According to the “no-miracles argument” (NMA), truth is the best explanation of the predictive-instrumental success of scientific theories. A standard objection against NMA is that it is viciously circular. In Scientific Realism: How Science Tracks Truth Stathis Psillos has claimed that the circularity objection can be met when NMA is supplemented with a reliabilist approach to justification. I will try to show, however, that scientific realists cannot take much comfort from this policy: if reliabilism makes no qualifications (...) about the domain where inference to the best explanation is reliable, scientific realists flagrantly beg the question. A qualified version of reliabilism, on the other side, does not entitle us to infer the realist conclusion. I conclude, then, that Psillos’s proposal does not make any significant progress for scientific realism. (shrink)
Alexander Bird and Darrell Rowbottom have argued for two competing accounts of the concept of scientific progress. For Bird, progress consists in the accumulation of scientific knowledge. For Rowbottom, progress consists in the accumulation of true scientific beliefs. Both appeal to intuitions elicited by thought experiments in support of their views, and it seems fair to say that the debate has reached an impasse. In an attempt to avoid this stalemate, we conduct a systematic study of the (...) factors that underlie judgments about scientific progress. Our results suggest that (internal) justification plays an important role in intuitive judgments about progress, questioning the intuitive support for the claim that the concept of scientific progress is best explained in terms of the accumulation of true scientific belief. (shrink)
We propose that scientific representation is a special case of a more general notion of representation, and that the relatively well worked-out and plausible theories of the latter are directly applicable to thc scientific special case. Construing scientific representation in this way makes the so-called “problem of scientific representation” look much less interesting than it has seerned to many, and suggests that some of the (hotly contested) debates in the literature are concerned with non-issues.
The question whether Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions could be applied to mathematics caused many interesting problems to arise. The aim of this paper is to discuss whether there are different kinds of scientific revolution, and if so, how many. The basic idea of the paper is to discriminate between the formal and the social aspects of the development of science and to compare them. The paper has four parts. In the first introductory part we discuss some of (...) the questions which arose during the debate of the historians of mathematics. In the second part, we introduce the concept of the epistemic framework of a theory. We propose to discriminate three parts of this framework, from which the one called formal frame will be of considerable importance for our approach, as its development is conservative and gradual. In the third part of the paper we define the concept of epistemic rupture as a discontinuity in the formal frame. The conservative and gradual nature of the changes of the formal frame open the possibility to compare different epistemic ruptures. We try to show that there are four different kinds of epistemic rupture, which we call idealisation, re-presentation, objectivisation and re-formulation. In the last part of the paper we derive from the classification of the epistemic ruptures a classification of scientific revolutions. As only the first three kinds of rupture are revolutionary (the re-formulations are rather cumulative), we obtain three kinds of scientific revolution: idealisation, re-presentation, and objectivisation. We discuss the relation of our classification of scientific revolutions to the views of Kuhn, Lakatos, Crowe, and Dauben. (shrink)
The basic task of the essay is to exhibit science as a rational enterprise. I argue that in order to do this we need to change quite fundamentally our whole conception of science. Today it is rather generally taken for granted that a precondition for science to be rational is that in science we do not make substantial assumptions about the world, or about the phenomena we are investigating, which are held permanently immune from empirical appraisal. According to this standard (...) view, science is rational precisely because science does not make a priori metaphysical presuppositions about the world forever preserved from possible empirical refutation. It is of course accepted that an individual scientist, developing a new theory, may well be influenced by his own metaphysical presuppositions. In addition, it is acknowledged that a successful scientific theory, within the context of a particular research program, may be protected for a while from refutation, thus acquiring a kind of temporary metaphysical status, as long as the program continues to be empirically progressive. All such views unite, however, in maintaining that science cannot make permanent metaphysical presuppositions, held permanently immune from objective empirical evaluation. According to this standard view, the rationality of science arises, not from the way in which new theories are discovered, but rather from the way in which already formulated theories are appraised in the light of empirical considerations. And the fundamental problem of the rationality of science—the Humean problem of induction— concerns precisely the crucial issue of the rationality of accepting theories in the light of evidence. In this essay I argue that this widely accepted standard conception of science must be completely rejected if we are to see science as a rational enterprise. In order to assess the rationality of accepting a theory in the light of evidence it is essential to consider the ultimate aims of science. This is because adopting different aims for science will lead us, quite rationally, to accept different theories in the light of evidence. I argue that a basic aim of science is to explain. At the outset science simply presupposes, in a completely a priori fashion, that explanations can be found, that the world is ultimately intelligible or simple. In other words, science simply presupposes in an a priori way the metaphysical thesis that the world is intelligible, and then seeks to convert this presupposed metaphysical theory into a testable scientific theory. Scientific theories are only accepted insofar as they promise to help us realize this fundamental aim. At once a crucial problem arises. If scientific theories are only accepted insofar as they promise to lead us towards articulating a presupposed metaphysical theory, it is clearly essential that we can choose rationally, in an a priori way, between all the very different possible metaphysical theories that can be thought up, all the very different ways in which the universe might ultimately be intelligible. For holding different aims, accepting different metaphysical theories conceived of as blueprints for future scientific theories will, quite rationally, lead us to accept different scientific theories. Thus it is only if we can choose rationally between conflicting metaphysical blueprints for future scientific theories that we will be in a position to appraise rationally the acceptability of our present day scientific theories. We thus face the crucial problem: How can we choose rationally between conflicting possible aims for science, conflicting metaphysical blueprints for future scientific theories ? It is only if we can solve this fundamental problem concerning the aims of science that we can be in a position to appraise rationally the acceptability of existing scientific theories. There is a further point here. If we could choose rationally between rival aims, rival metaphysical blueprints for future scientific theories, then we would in effect have a rational method for the discovery of new scientific theories! Thus we reach the result: there is only a rational method for the appraisal of existing scientific theories if there is a rational method of discovery. I shall argue that the aim-oriented theory of scientific inquiry to be advocated here succeeds in exhibiting science as a rational enterprise in that it succeeds in providing a rational procedure for choosing between rival metaphysical blueprints: it thus provides a rational, if fallible, method of discovery, and a rational method for the appraisal of existing scientific theories—thus resolving the Humean problem. In Part I of the essay I argue that the orthodox conception of science fails to exhibit science as a rational enterprise because it fails to solve the Humean problem of induction. The presuppositional view advocated here does however succeed in resolving the Humean problem. In Part II of the essay I spell out the new aim-oriented theory of scientific method that becomes inevitable once we accept the basic presuppositional viewpoint. I argue that this new aim oriented conception of scientific method is essentially a rational method of scientific discovery, and that the theory has important implications for scientific practice. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom does not indicate a shift from instrumentalism to scientific realism. I examine the implications of Poincaré’s acceptance of the existence of the atom for our current understanding of his philosophy of science. Specifically, how can we understand Poincaré’s acceptance of the atom in structural realist terms? I examine his 1912 paper carefully and suggest that it does not entail scientific realism in the sense of acceptance of the (...) fundamental existence of atoms but rather, argues against fundamental entities. I argue that Poincaré’s paper motivates a non-fundamentalist view about the world, and that this is compatible with his structuralism. (shrink)
The process of abstraction and concretisation is a label used for an explicative theory of scientific model-construction. In scientific theorising this process enters at various levels. We could identify two principal levels of abstraction that are useful to our understanding of theory-application. The first level is that of selecting a small number of variables and parameters abstracted from the universe of discourse and used to characterise the general laws of a theory. In classical mechanics, for example, we select (...) position and momentum and establish a relation amongst the two variables, which we call Newton’s 2nd law. The specification of the unspecified elements of scientific laws, e.g. the force function in Newton’s 2nd law, is what would establish the link between the assertions of the theory and physical systems. In order to unravel how and with what conceptual resources scientific models are constructed, how they function and how they relate to theory, we need a view of theory-application that can accommodate our constructions of representation models. For this we need to expand our understanding of the process of abstraction to also explicate the process of specifying force functions etc. This is the second principal level at which abstraction enters in our theorising and in which I focus. In this paper, I attempt to elaborate a general analysis of the process of abstraction and concretisation involved in scientific- model construction, and argue why it provides an explication of the construction of models of the nuclear structure. (shrink)
I argue that the title question needs to be taken seriously because there are important questions about how the scientific agenda should be set. Natural answers to the question – declarations of the proper autonomy of science or expressions of faith in market forces – are found inadequate. Instead, I propose a form of democracy with respect to scientific research that will avoid the obvious dangers of a tyranny of ignorance. I conclude with some modest proposals about how (...) the ideal of a democratic science might be implemented and with a response to common objections. (shrink)
At stake in the classical realism-debate is the clash between realist and anti-realist positions. In recent years, the classical form of this debate has undergone a double transformation. On the one hand, the champions of realism began to pay more attention to the interpretative dimensions of scientific research. On the other hand, anti-realists of various sorts realized that the rejection of the hypostatization of a “reality out there” does not imply the denial of working out a philosophically adequate concept (...) of reality. Against the background of this double transformation, new arguments in the realism-debate emerged. The present Introduction is an attempt at systematizing these arguments within the spectrum of doctrines between the poles of scientific realism (exposed and defended by Howard Sankey) and hermeneutic realism (advocated by Dimitri Ginev). The authors try also to demonstrate that after the classical debates the issue of scientism has to be addressed in new ways. (shrink)
Progress in the last few decades in what is widely known as “Chaos Theory” has plainly advanced understanding in the several sciences it has been applied to. But the manner in which such progress has been achieved raises important questions about scientific method and, indeed, about the very objectives and character of science. In this presentation, I hope to engage my audience in a discussion of several of these important new topics.
Wilfrid Sellars famously argued that we find ourselves simultaneously presented with the scientific and manifest images and that the primary aim of philosophy is to reconcile the competing conceptions of ourselves and our place in the world they offer. I first argue that Sellars’ own attempts at such a reconciliation must be judged a failure. I then go on to point out that Sellars has invited us to join him in idealizing and constructing the manifest and scientific images (...) by conflating a number of importantly distinct contrasts between heterogeneous forms of representation we employ and to argue that we are better off declining this invitation. Recognizing the important differences between these contrasts does not simply obviate the problems of integrating, connecting, and reconciling the various sorts of representations we have of various parts of the world and our own place within it, but it reveals as misguided the notion that there is just a single, fundamental problem of such reconciliation to be solved. It also suggests a potentially far more promising starting point for trying to satisfy the fundamental ambition Sellars attributes to philosophical inquiry itself. (shrink)
The present paper argues that ‘mature mathematical formalisms’ play a central role in achieving representation via scientific models. A close discussion of two contemporary accounts of how mathematical models apply—the DDI account (according to which representation depends on the successful interplay of denotation, demonstration and interpretation) and the ‘matching model’ account—reveals shortcomings of each, which, it is argued, suggests that scientific representation may be ineliminably heterogeneous in character. In order to achieve a degree of unification that is compatible (...) with successful representation, scientists often rely on the existence of a ‘mature mathematical formalism’, where the latter refers to a—mathematically formulated and physically interpreted—notational system of locally applicable rules that derive from (but need not be reducible to) fundamental theory. As mathematical formalisms undergo a process of elaboration, enrichment, and entrenchment, they come to embody theoretical, ontological, and methodological commitments and assumptions. Since these are enshrined in the formalism itself, they are no longer readily obvious to either the novice or the proficient user. At the same time as formalisms constrain what may be represented, they also function as inferential and interpretative resources. (shrink)
We provide examples of the extent and nature of environmental and human health problems and show why in the United States prevailing scientific and legal burden of proof requirements usually cannot be met because of the pervasiveness of scientific uncertainty. We also provide examples of how may assumptions, judgments, evaluations, and inferences in scientific methods are value-laden and that when this is not recognized results of studies will appear to be more factual and value-neutral than warranted. Further, (...) we show that there is a "tension" between the use of the 95 percent confidence rule as a normative basis to reduce speculation in scientific knowledge and other public policy and moral concerns embodied by the adoption of a precautionary principle. Finally, although there is no precise agreement regarding what a precautionary principle might entail, we make several recommendations regarding the placement of the burden of proof and the standard of proof that ought to be required in environmental and human health matters. (shrink)
A persistent puzzle for philosophers of science is the well-documented appeal made by scientists to their aesthetic emotions in the course of scientific research. Emotions are usually viewed as irremediably subjective, and thus of no epistemological interest. Yet, by denying an epistemic role for scientists’ emotional dispositions, philosophers find themselves in the awkward position of ignoring phenomena which scientists themselves often insist are of importance. This paper suggests a possible solution to this puzzle by challenging the wholesale identification of (...) emotion with subjectivity. The proposed method is a naturalistic and externalist one, calling for empirical investigation into the intersubjective processes by which scientists’ emotional dispositions become refined and attuned to specific objects of attention. The proposal is developed through a critical discussion of Michael Polanyi’s theory of scientific passions, as well as plant geneticist Barbara McClintock’s celebrated “feeling for the organism.”. (shrink)
This paper aims to cast light on the reasons that explain the shift of opinion—from scepticism to realism—concerning the reality of atoms and molecules in the beginning of the twentieth century, in light of Jean Perrin’s theoretical and experimental work on the Brownian movement. The story told has some rather interesting repercussions for the rationality of accepting the reality of explanatory posits. Section 2 presents the key philosophical debate concerning the role and status of explanatory hypotheses c. 1900, focusing on (...) the work of Duhem, Stallo, Ostwald, Poincaré and Boltzmann. Section 3 examines in detail Perrin’s theoretical account of the molecular origins of Brownian motion, reconstructs the structure and explains the strength of Perrin’s argument for the reality of molecules. Section 4 draws three important lessons for the current debate over scientific realism. (shrink)
Scientific realism is the position that the aim of science is to advance on truth and increase knowledge about observable and unobservable aspects of the mind-independent world which we inhabit. This book articulates and defends that position. In presenting a clear formulation and addressing the major arguments for scientific realism Sankey appeals to philosophers beyond the community of, typically Anglo-American, analytic philosophers of science to appreciate and understand the doctrine. The book emphasizes the epistemological aspects of scientific (...) realism and contains an original solution to the problem of induction that rests on an appeal to the principle of uniformity of nature. (shrink)
Thus far, the philosophical study of patenting has primarily focused on sociopolitical, legal, and ethical issues, such as the moral justifiability of patenting living organisms or the nature of (intellectual) property. In addition, however, the theory and practice of patenting entails many important problems that can be fruitfully studied from the perspective of the philosophy of science and technology. The principal aim of this article is to substantiate the latter claim. For this purpose, I first provide a concise review of (...) the main features of the theory and practice of the patenting of scientific and technological inventions. Second, I discuss several philosophical issues implied by these features and explore the possible contributions of the philosophy of science and technology to the clarification, or resolution, of these issues. The seven features discussed are: patents as commercial monopolies on scientific and technological inventions, the contrast between natural and non-natural subject matter, the distinction between inventions and discoveries, the reproducibility of inventions, the question of the sameness of two inventions, the distinction between the invented and the protected object, and the contrast between material objects versus concepts and theories. The article concludes with some observations on the problems and prospects of the philosophical study of the theory and practice of patenting scientific and technological inventions. (shrink)
The volume is a collection of essays devoted to the analysis of scientific change and stability. It explores the balance and tension that exist between commensurability and continuity on the one hand, and incommensurability and discontinuity on the other. Moreover, it discusses some central epistemological consequences regarding the nature of scientific progress, rationality and realism. In relation to these topics, it investigates a number of new avenues, and revisits some familiar issues, with a focus on the history and (...) philosophy of physics, and an emphasis on developments in cognitive sciences as well as on the claims of “new experimentalists”.The book constitutes fully revised versions of papers which were originally presented at the international colloquium held at the University of Nancy, France, in June 2004. Each paper is followed by a critical commentary. The conference was a striking example of the sort of genuine dialogue that can take place between philosophers of science, historians of science and scientists who come from different traditions and endorse opposing commitments. This is one of the attractions of the volume. (shrink)
Primarily between 1833 and 1840, Whewell attempted to accomplish what natural philosophers and scientists since at least Galileo had failed to do: to provide a systematic and broad-ranged study of the tides and to attempt to establish a general scientific theory of tidal phenomena. In the essay at hand, I document the close interaction between Whewell’s philosophy of science (especially his methodological views) and his scientific practice as a tidologist. I claim that the intertwinement between Whewell’s methodology and (...) his tidology is more fundamental than has hitherto been documented. (shrink)
The process of constructing mathematical models is examined and a case made that the construction process is an integral part of the justification for the model. The role of heuristics in testing and modifying models is described and some consequences for scientific methodology are drawn out. Three different ways of constructing the same model are detailed to demonstrate the claims made here.
Debates about scientific (though rarely about otherforms of) knowledge, research policies or academic trainingoften involve a controversy about whether scientificknowledge possesses just “instrumental” value or also “intrinsic” value. Questioning this common simpleopposition, I scrutinize the issues involved in terms of agreater variety of structural types of values attributableto (scientific) knowledge. (Intermittently, I address thepuzzling habit of attributing “intrinsic” value to quitedifferent things, e.g. also to nature, in environmentalethics.) After some remarks on relevant broader philosophicaldebates about scientific knowledge, (...) I pave a path throughthe (terminological) thicket of structural types of values. Our initial simple opposition is shown to conflate thedistinctions intrinsic/extrinsic and instrumental (or justuseful)/final. Next, I consider the value(s) of knowledgeand knowing in general and their possible value components(like the values of truth and justifiedness). After havingdiscussed the types of value of everyday knowledge,especially its functional and constitutive value (notionsintroduced earlier), I argue that these can or should alsobe attributed to scientific knowledge, thus departing fromboth objectivist and sociological views of science. One could say that I offer a certain defense of theintrinsic value of scientific knowing (and the inherentvalue of scientific knowledge) and some importantdifferentiations of its “instrumental values”. I alsocaution (in relation with my puzzle) against drawing hastymoral conclusions. (shrink)
We present a logically detailed case-study of explanation and prediction in Newtonian mechanics. The case in question is that of a planet's elliptical orbit in the Sun's gravitational field. Care is taken to distinguish the respective contributions of the mathematics that is being applied, and of the empirical hypotheses that receive a mathematical formulation. This enables one to appreciate how in this case the overall logical structure of scientific explanation and prediction is exactly in accordance with the hypotheticodeductive model.
This article argues that various deviations from the basic principles of the scientific ethos – primarily the appearance of pseudoscience in scientific communities – can be formulated and explained using specific models of game theory, such as the prisoner’s dilemma and the iterated prisoner’s dilemma. The article indirectly tackles the deontology of scientific work as well, in which it is assumed that there is no room for moral skepticism, let alone moral anti-realism, in the ethics of (...) class='Hi'>scientific communities. Namely, on the basis of the generally accepted dictum of scientific endeavor as the pursuit of knowledge exclusively for knowledge’s sake, scientifically »right« behavior is seen to be clearly defined and distinguishable from scientifically »wrong« behavior. After elucidating the basic principles of game theory, the article illustrates – by using imaginary and real cases, as well as some views from the philosophyof biology (the units of selection debate) – how this sort of reasoning could be applied in an analysis of the functioning of science. (shrink)
The collaborative ‹Big Science’ approach prevalent in physics during the mid- and late-20th century is becoming more common in the life sciences. Often computationally mediated, these collaborations challenge researchers’ trust practices. Focusing on the visualisations that are often at the heart of this form of scientific practice, the paper proposes that the aesthetic aspects of these visualisations are themselves a way of securing trust. Kant’s account of aesthetic judgements in the Third Critique is drawn upon in order to show (...) that the image-building capability of imagination, and the sensus communis, both of which are integral parts of aesthetic experience, play an important role in building and sustaining community in these forms of science. Kant’s theory shows that the aesthetic appeal of scientific visualisations is not isolated from two other dimensions of the visualisations: the cognitive-epistemic, aesthetic-stylistic and interpersonal dimensions, and that in virtue of these inter-relationships, visualisations contribute to building up the intersubjectively shared framework of agreement which is basic for trust. (shrink)
I investigate two questions about scientific properties, their relationship to the laws of nature, and their quantitative nature, with an eye to a more general issue: how metaphysical inquiry is sensitive to one’s chosen “metaphysical tools”.
Pragmatic Scientific Realism (PSR) urges us to take up the realist aim or the goal of truth although we have good reason to think that the goal can neither be attained nor approximated. While Newton-Smith thinks that pursuing what we know we cannot achieve is clearly irrational, Rescher disagrees and contends that pursuing an unreachable goal can be rational on pragmatic grounds—if in pursuing the unreachable goal one can get indirect benefits. I have blocked this attempt at providing a (...) pragmatic justification for the realist aim of PSR on precisely the same pragmatic grounds—since there is a competing alternative to PSR, and the alternative can provide whatever indirect benefits PSR can offer while being less risky than it is, prudential reasoning favours the alternative to PSR. This undermines the pragmatic case for the realist aim of science since the instrumentalist alternative does not aim at the truth. (shrink)
Scientific models occupy centre stage in scientific practice. Correspondingly, in recent literature in the philosophy of science, scientific models have been a focus of research. However, little attention has been paid so far to the ontology of scientific models. In this essay, I attempt to clarify the issues involved in formulating an informatively rich ontology of scientific models. Although no full-blown theory—containing all ontological issues involved—is provided, I make several distinctions and point to several characteristic (...) properties exhibited by scientific models that are relevant for individuating scientific models. (shrink)