Science continually contributes new models and rethinks old ones. The way inferences are made is constantly being re-evaluated. The practice and achievements of science are both shaped by this process, so it is important to understand how models and inferences are made. But, despite the relevance of models and inference in scientific practice, these concepts still remain contro-versial in many respects. The attempt to understand the ways models and infer-ences are made basically opens two roads. The first one is to (...) produce an analy-sis of the role that models and inferences play in science. The second one is to produce an analysis of the way models and inferences are constructed, especial-ly in the light of what science tells us about our cognitive abilities. The papers collected in this volume go both ways. (shrink)
Economic competitive advantage depends on innovation, which in turn requires pushing back the frontiers of various kinds of knowledge. Although understanding how knowledge grows ought to be a central topic of epistemology, epistemologists and philosophers of science have given it insufficient attention, even deliberately shunning the topic. Traditional confirmation theory and general epistemology offer little help at the frontier, because they are mostly retrospective rather than prospective. Nor have philosophers been highly visible in the science and technology policy realm, despite (...) philosophy’s being a normative discipline. This paper suggests a way to address both deficits. Creative scientists, technologists, business managers, and policy makers face similar problems of decision-making at their respective frontiers of knowledge. These areas should therefore be fertile ground for both epistemologists and philosophers concerned with policy. Here I call attention to the importance of heuristic appraisal for “frontier epistemology” and to policy formation. Evaluation of the comparative promise or expected fertility of available options comprises a cluster of activities that cut across traditional discovery/justification and descriptive/normative distinctions. The study of weak modes of reasoning and evaluation is especially relevant to socio-economic policy. (shrink)
Does the viability of the discovery program depend on showing either (1) that methods of generating new problem solutions, per se, have special probative weight (the per se thesis); or, (2) that the original conception of an idea is logically continuous with its justification (anti-divorce thesis)? Many writers have identified these as the key issues of the discovery debate. McLaughlin, Pera, and others recently have defended the discovery program by attacking the divorce thesis, while Laudan has attacked the discovery program (...) by rejecting the per se thesis. This disagreement over the central issue has led to communication breakdown. I contend that both friends and foes of discovery mistake the central issues. Recognizing a form of divorce helps rather than hurts the discovery program. However, the per se thesis is not essential to the program (nor is the related debate over novel prediction); hence, the status of the per se thesis is a side issue. With these clarifications in hand, we can proceed to the next stage of the discovery debate--the development (or revival) of a generative conception of justification which goes beyond consequentialism to forge a strong linkage of generation (or rather, generatability) with justification. (shrink)
I discuss changes of perspective of four kinds in science and about science. Section 2 defends a perspectival nonrealism—something akin to Giere’s perspectival realism but not a realism—against the idea of complete, “Copernican” objectivity. Section 3 contends that there is an inverse relationship between epistemological conservatism and scientific progress. Section 4 casts doubt on strong forms of scientific realism by taking a long-term historical perspective that includes future history. Section 5 defends a partial reversal in the status of so-called context (...) of discovery and context of justification. Section 6 addresses the question of how we can have scientific progress without scientific realism—how progress is possible without the accumulation of representational truth. The overall result is a pragmatic instrumentalist perspective on the sciences and how to study them philosophically, one that contains a kernel of realism—instrumental realism. (shrink)
In this paper the relation between scientific problems and the constraints on their solutions is explored. First the historical constraints on the solution to the blackbody radiation problem are set out. The blackbody history is used as a guide in sketching a working taxonomy of constraints, which distinguishes various kinds of reductive and nonreductive constraints. Finally, this discussion is related to some work in erotetic logic. The hypothesis that scientific problems can be identified with structured sets of constraints is interesting; (...) however, a full defense of the identification thesis requires the resolution of some unsolved problems. (shrink)
Reduction was once a central topic in philosophy of science. I claim that it remains important, especially when applied to problems and problem-solutions rather than only to large theory-complexes. Without attempting a comprehensive classification, I discuss various kinds of problem reductions and similar relations, illustrating them, inter alia, in terms of the blackbody problem and early quantization problems. Kuhn's early work is suggestive here both for structuralist theory of science and for the line I prefer to take. My central claims (...) in the paper are (1) that problem reduction is important in its own right and does not "reduce" to theory reduction and (2) that problem reduction is generally more important than theory reduction to methodology as the "control theory" of inquiry. (shrink)
Although seriously defective, 17th-century ideas about discovery, justification, and positive science are not as hopeless, useless, and out of date as many philosophers assume. They appear to underlie modern scientific practice. The generationist view of justification interestingly links justification with discovery issues while employing a concept of empirical support quite foreign to the modern, consequentialist concept, which identifies empirical evidence with favorable test results (predictive/explanatory success). In the generationist sense, justification amounts to potential discovery or "discoverability". A partial defense of (...) updated versions of these ideas is offered without disputing the importance of consequential testing. Much further work is needed! (shrink)
Davidson's defective defense of the consistency of (1) the causal interaction of mental and physical events, (2) the backing law thesis on causation, (3) the impossibility of lawfully explaining mental events is repaired by closer attention to the description-Relativity of explanation. Davidson wrongly allows that particular mental events are explainable when particular identities to physical events are known. The author argues that such identities are powerless to affect what features a given law can explain. Thus a great intelligence knowing all (...) the physical laws could not explain a single mental event, As such, Even if he knew all particular identities. (shrink)
Pure consequentialists hold that all theoretical justification derives from testing the consequences of hypotheses, while generativists maintain that reasoning (some feature of) the hypothesis from we already know is an important form of justification. The strongest form of justification (they claim) is an idealized discovery argument. In the guise of H-D methodology, consequentialism is widely supposed to have defeated generativism during the 19th century. I argue that novel prediction fails to overcome the logical weakness of consequentialism or to render generative (...) methodology superfluous. Specifically, Bayesian consequentialism is not an alternative to generativism but reduces to an instance of it. (shrink)
One component of a viable account of scientific inquiry is a defensible conception of scientific problems. This paper specifies some logical and conceptual requirements that an acceptable account of scientific problems must meet as well as indicating some features that a study of scientific inquiry indicates scientific problems have. On the basis of these requirements and features, three standard empiricist models of problems are examined and found wanting. Finally a constraint inclusion-model of scientific problems is proposed.
Looking at Thomas Kuhn's work from a cognitive science perspective helps to articulate and to legitimize, to some degree, his rejection of traditional views of concepts, categorization, theory structure, and rule-based problem solving. Whereas my colleagues focus on the later Kuhn of the MIT years, I study the early Kuhn as an anticipation of case-based reasoning and schema theory. These recent developments in cognitive psychology and artificial intelligence may point toward a more computational version of Kuhn's ideas, but they also (...) expose ambiguities in his work, notably in his understanding of exemplars. (shrink)
A serious problem for covering law explanation is raised and its consequences for the Hempelian theory of explanation are discussed. The problem concerns an intensional feature of explanations, involving the manner in which theoretical law statements are related to the events explained. The basic problem arises because explanations are not of events but of events under descriptions; moreover, in a sense, our linguistic descriptions outrun laws. One form of the problem, termed the problem of weak intensionality, is apparently solved by (...) a simple logical move, but in fact the problem arises in a new, strong form. It is found that Hempel's model for deductive explanation (to which this discussion is confined) requires modification to handle the weak intensionality problem but then is faced with the problem of strong intensionality. In consequence, it is suggested that Hempel's important concept of explanation sketch is not as widely applicable as usually claimed, especially for explanations in the behavioral and social sciences and history. Reason is found to reject the covering law thesis that every scientific explanation must contain at least one law statement. An important feature of the discussion is that some of the main reasons given for altering the deductive model and for considering other forms of explanation are internal to the covering law theory. (shrink)
Karl Popper's Philosophy of Science: Rationality without FoundationsThomas Kuhn's “Linguistic Turn” and the Legacy of Logical Empiricism: Incommensurability, Rationality, and the Search for Truth by Stefano Gattei; Stefano Gattei.
This book is intended as a reference source of “universal scientific laws, physical principles, viable theories, and testable hypotheses” from ancient times to the present. Robert Krebs states that he includes only the physical and biological sciences, including geology, but in fact there are also several mathematical and logical entries ranging from the Greeks to Gödel. The book contains over four hundred entries, in alphabetical order, averaging less than a page each, plus a glossary of nearly four hundred technical terms. (...) Evidently, it is intended as a library reference for a general audience. It does not seem to be directed toward professional historians of science. The author is a retired university science administrator in the health sciences field.Opening the book at random, I find four entries on the facing pages: “Carnot's Theories of Thermodynamics,” “Caspersson's Theory of Protein Synthesis,” “Cassini's Hypothesis for Size of the Solar System,” and “Cavendish's Theories and Hypothesis.” It is hard to know what the principle of selection is, other than comprehensive coverage. But although it is impressive, the coverage is spotty. The famous story of Adams, Leverrier, and Neptune is not included, for example—perhaps because no new law is involved.To a historical scholar, such a project has obvious pitfalls; I will list some of them. First, it is whiggish in selecting and evaluating the entries from our standpoint and in often omitting now‐discredited content. For example, the entry on Carnot does not mention caloric, although it does mention the model of water flowing over a waterwheel. The book encourages the idea that discoveries and other major results are more or less punctiform, the achievements of particular individuals at particular times. To be fair, in his introduction Krebs does describe science as an ongoing, self‐correcting process in which “laws” sometimes turn out to be false or to need correction. The book is historically uncritical, since it accepts at face value that eponymous results were actually achieved by the person celebrated in the name. The entries are necessarily too brief to indicate much of the wider historical context, or even the technical context, in which the law or theory under discussion was developed. Krebs's statement of his intent, in the introduction to the volume, is theory centered and seems to take physics as a model, although in fact there are many entries from the biomedical sciences that do not neatly fit this model. The author's attempt to characterize his subject matter—scientific laws—is philosophically naïve. Finally, even if we leave aside the difficulty of making complex technical results accessible to a general audience in a very limited space, no single author can be expert enough to maintain a high standard throughout a volume of such scope. Krebs identifies no panel of expert consultants enlisted to check his entries.The entries that I sampled sometimes contained less‐than‐sharp formulations, inaccuracies, and even contradictions. For example, Krebs describes Aristotle, in cliché fashion, as a “philosopher” rather than as a “scientist concerned with observations and evidence” , but two paragraphs later it turns out that Aristotle based his account of spontaneous generation on observations! Krebs says that motion was self‐explanatory for Aristotle because things strive to reach their natural places. The entry on Euler mislabels his work on bodies moving with multiple degrees of freedom as the three‐body problem. Fermat's last theorem is said to remain unsolved, yet Krebs obviously prides himself on being up to date. The entry on Planck is historically inaccurate and physically misleading. And so on.For all that, I found the book rather interesting and useful. No reader leafing through it will fail to find this entry or that intriguing. Since the entries are short and discrete, the book makes good bedtime reading. And, given that the laws, principles, and effects are commonly called by these names, the book can serve as a source of general knowledge—but only as a starting point. Given the uneven quality, caveat lector! (shrink)