philosophy of science


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philosophy of science,

branch of philosophy that emerged as an autonomous discipline in the 19th cent., especially through the work of Auguste ComteComte, Auguste
, 1798–1857, French philosopher, founder of the school of philosophy known as positivism, educated in Paris. From 1818 to 1824 he contributed to the publications of Saint-Simon, and the direction of much of Comte's future work may be attributed to this
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, J. S. MillMill, John Stuart,
1806–73, British philosopher and economist. A precocious child, he was educated privately by his father, James Mill. In 1823, abandoning the study of law, he became a clerk in the British East India Company, where he rose to become head of the examiner's
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, and William Whewell. Several of the issues in philosophy of science concern science in general. David HumeHume, David
, 1711–76, Scottish philosopher and historian. Educated at Edinburgh, he lived (1734–37) in France, where he finished his first philosophical work, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739–40).
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 raised a problem of inductioninduction,
in logic, a form of argument in which the premises give grounds for the conclusion but do not necessitate it. Induction is contrasted with deduction, in which true premises do necessitate the conclusion.
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, namely that of the grounds people have for believing that past generalizations, i.e., scientific laws, will be valid in the future. Sir Karl PopperPopper, Sir Karl Raimund,
1902–94, Anglo-Austrian philosopher, b. Vienna. He became familiar with the Vienna circle of logical positivists (see logical positivism) while a student at the Univ. of Vienna (Ph.D., 1928). He taught at Canterbury Univ.
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 and Nelson GoodmanGoodman, Nelson
(Henry Nelson Goodman), 1906–98, American philosopher, b. Somerville, Mass., grad. Harvard (Ph.D. 1941). He taught at Tufts (1945–46), the Univ. of Pennsylvania (1946–64), and Brandeis Univ.
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 have made influential contributions to issues concerning induction in science. Another issue centers around the relations of scientific theories to the interpretation of the world. An additional general issue concerns the way science develops. Contemporary philosophers such as Thomas KuhnKuhn, Thomas Samuel,
1922–96, American philosopher and historian of science, b. Cincinnati, Ohio. He trained as a physicist at Harvard (Ph.D. 1949), where he taught the history of science from 1948 to 1956. He subsequently taught at the Univ.
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 have denied the thesis of the logical positivists (see logical positivismlogical positivism,
also known as logical or scientific empiricism, modern school of philosophy that attempted to introduce the methodology and precision of mathematics and the natural sciences into the field of philosophy. The movement, which began in the early 20th cent.
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) that scientists choose between competing theories in a purely rational fashion, i.e., by appealing to theory-neutral observations. The philosophy of science also focuses on issues raised by the relations between individual sciences and by individual sciences themselves. An example of the former is the issue of whether the laws of one science, e.g., biology, can be reduced to those of a supposedly more fundamental one, e.g., physics. An example of the latter sort of issue is that of the implications of quantum mechanics for our understanding of causalitycausality,
in philosophy, the relationship between cause and effect. A distinction is often made between a cause that produces something new (e.g., a moth from a caterpillar) and one that produces a change in an existing substance (e.g., a statue from a piece of marble).
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.

Bibliography

See R. Boyd et al., ed., The Philosophy of Science (1991).

philosophy of science

the branch of PHILOSOPHY concerned with the nature and foundations of scientific knowledge. As such it is, in part, coexistent with ONTOLOGY and EPISTEMOLOGY, but in addition it also involves a more specific concern with the details of SCIENCE. Historically much of the concern of the philosophy of science has been prescriptive (see POSITIVISM, FALSIFICATIONISM), but as these approaches have run into problems (see KUHN, FEYERABEND) there has been a partial retreat from this emphasis, bringing the philosophy of science much closer to historical and SOCIAL STUDIES OF SCIENCE, and to the SOCIOLOGY OF SCIENCE and the SOCIOLOGY OF KNOWLEDGE.
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