Through a study of a sophisticated contemporary scientific experiment, it is shown how and why use of the term 'observation' in reference to that experiment departs from ordinary and philosophical usages which associate observation epistemically with perception. The role of "background information" is examined, and general conclusions are arrived at regarding the use of descriptive language in and in talking about science. These conclusions bring out the reasoning by which science builds on what it has learned, and, further, how that (...) process of building consists not only in adding to our substantive knowledge, but also in increasing our ability to learn about nature, by extending our ability to observe it in new ways. The argument of this paper is thus a step toward understanding how it is that all our knowledge of nature rests on observation. (shrink)
This paper examines the "causal theory of reference", according to which science aims at the discovery of "essences" which are the objects of reference of natural kind terms (among others). This theory has been advanced as an alternative to traditional views of "meaning", on which a number of philosophical accounts of science have relied, and which have been criticized earlier by the present author. However, this newer theory of reference is shown to be equally subject to fatal internal difficulties, and (...) to be incompatible with actual science as well. Indeed, it rests on assumptions which it shares with the purportedly opposing theory of meaning. Behind those common assumptions is the supposition that the nature of science can be illuminated by an examination of alleged necessities of language which are independent of the results and methods of scientific inquiry. An alternative view of science is proposed, according to which the goals and language of science develop as integral parts of the process of demarcating science from non-science, a process in which the notion of a "reason" gradually assumes a decisive role. On this view, the comparability, competition, and development of scientific ideas are understood without reliance on either common "meanings" or common "references" as fundamental tools of analysis. (shrink)
The alleged problem of "incommensurability" is examined, and attempts to explain scientific change in terms of concepts of meaning and reference are analyzed and rejected. A way of understanding scientific change through a properly developed concept of "reasons" is presented, and the issues of reasons, meaning, and reference are placed in the context of this broader interpretation of scientific change.
Relying on an analysis of the case of gravitational lensing, Hacking argues for a "modest antirealism" in astronomy. It is shown here that neither his scientific arguments nor his philosophical doctrines imply an antirealist conclusion. An alternative, realistic interpretation of gravitational lensing, and of the nature and history of astronomy more generally, is suggested.
Jarrett Leplin has recently criticized a number of aspects of my views of the aims and goals of science, of the rationale of scientific change, and of the consequent relations between science and the philosophy of science, and in particular of the methodology of the latter (Leplin 1984, 1987, 1988a, 1988b). Here I will respond to those criticisms, and also reply to some related criticisms made by other writers.
The chief objections raised by Doppelt (this issue, "The Philosophical Requirements for an Adequate Conception of Scientific Rationality") against my views fall into three groups: ones having to do with my concept of "success" (that I have provided no analysis of it, and that therefore my concept of "reason" in science is likewise unexplained; that it requires appeal to some universal criterion); ones having to do with the role of standards or criteria in science (how they are related to substantive (...) beliefs; the possibility of rejecting them); and ones purporting to show that I have not escaped relativism (underdetermination of beliefs; problem of loss in scientific change). I reply to each of these groups of criticisms in turn, concluding with some remarks on the status and validity of the requirements he lays down for any account of scientific rationality. (shrink)
Though classical and twentieth-century versions of empiricism and rationalism fail in their aims, as does the Kantian attempt at a compromise between those views, there are residues of those views that play important roles in the scientific enterprise. Those residue, and their scientific roles, are examined in this paper.
"Objectivity" and "rationality" of science do not depend on freedom from all "presuppositions", but are inextricably bound with the employment of background beliefs, so long as those background beliefs satisfy certain constraints. These latter have developed through application of the same kind of reasoning that they themselves dictate, and change in response to changes in the reasoning-patterns which they themselves generate. This interaction of constraints and reasoning does not eventuate in a vicious circle; rather, what results is a mutual reinforcement, (...) itself rational in a sense that is coherent with well-founded everyday intuitions from which the ideas in question (objectivity and rationality) are descendants, and that makes intelligible the progressive nature of science. (shrink)
This paper examines some sources of the concepts of existence, explanation, and force in ancient thought, and shows how those ideas have been altered in fundamental ways in modem physics. Some lessons for the philosophy of science, in particular implications for its methodology, are considered.
Through an analysis of conditions under which the question of spatial anisotropy can be raised, the present paper brings out intimate conceptual relationships between the scientific concept of space and the concepts of entities, behavior, and explanation specified by scientific theories. Thus scientific departures from ordinary usage (or from usage in other scientific theories) of the term "space" entail corresponding shifts in the use of other terms not generally seen to be connected. As a case study of the relations between (...) these terms, and of the refusal to allow the possibility of spatial anisotropy, Newtonian mechanics is examined. (shrink)