Conceptual Change in the History of Science: Life, Mind, and Disease

Abstract
Biology is the study of life, psychology is the study of mind, and medicine is the investigation of the causes and treatments of disease. This chapter describes how the central concepts of life, mind, and disease have undergone fundamental changes in the past 150 years or so. There has been a progression from theological, to qualitative, to mechanistic explanations of the nature of life, mind and disease. This progression has involved both theoretical change, as new theories with greater explanatory power replaced older ones, and emotional change as the new theories brought reorientation of attitudes toward the nature of life, mind, and disease. After a brief comparison of theological, qualitative, and mechanistic explanations, I will describe how shifts from one kind of explanation to another have carried with them dramatic kinds of conceptual change in the key concepts in the life sciences. Three generalizations follow about the nature of conceptual change in the history of science: there has been a shift from conceptualizations in terms of simple properties to ones in terms of complex relations; conceptual change is theory change; and conceptual change is often emotional as well as cognitive. The contention that historical development proceeds in three stages originated with the nineteenth-century French philosophers, Auguste Comte, who claimed that November 9, 2006 human intellectual development progresses from a theological to a “metaphysical” stage to a “positive” (scientific) stage (Comte, 1988). The stages I have in mind are different from Comte’s, so let me say what they involve. By the theological stage I mean systems of thought in which the primary explanatory entities are supernatural ones beyond the reach of science, such as gods, devils, angels, spirits, and souls. For example, the concept of fire was initially theological, as in the Greek myth of Prometheus receiving fire from the gods..
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Translate to english
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 30,122
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Concept of Disease: Structure and Change.P. Thagard - 1996 - Philosophical Explorations 29:445-478.
Concepts and Conceptual Change.Paul R. Thagard - 1990 - Synthese 82 (2):255-74.
Conceptual Change.Paul Thagard - 2003 - In L. Nadel (ed.), Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science. Nature Publishing Group.
Notes Toward an Analysis of Conceptual Change.Mark Bevir - 2003 - Social Epistemology 17 (1):55 – 63.
Sellars, Concepts, and Conceptual Change.Harold I. Brown - 1986 - Synthese 68 (August):275-307.
Added to PP index
2010-12-22

Total downloads
50 ( #107,327 of 2,191,740 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
2 ( #144,668 of 2,191,740 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature