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What is philosophy of science?


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A brief introduction

Published in: Science
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What is philosophy of science?

  1. 1. What is the philosophy of science all about?* John Wilkins * All opinions given here are independent of anything my university might choose to think. Not valid in the state of California
  2. 2. What does PoS concern itself with? • Evidence • Theory • Method • Specific problems
  3. 3. Evidence • Francis Bacon said that by gathering enough evidence we could come up with laws of nature [induction] • Evidence depends to some degree on what you expect to be evidence [theory-dependence of observation] • How evidence tells for or against a hypothesis [model choice, confirmation of hypotheses, falsificationism]
  4. 4. Theory • A theory is an explanation of some phenomenon or other [scientific explanation] • A theory is a representation of the way the world is [models, the ontology of science] • A theory is a commitment to a worldview [paradigms] • A theory is a well-confirmed hypothesis [confirmation]
  5. 5. Method • Science has a method [methodological monism] • Science has no single method [methodological pluralism] • Science has no (or any) method you like [methodological anarchism] • Special issues [statistical theories, experimental design]
  6. 6. Special issues • Metascience [pessimistic induction, social construction, logic] • Sociology of science [SSSK, influence of politics, social sciences] • Disciplinary subspecialities [philosophies of: history, biology, physics, sociology, cognitive science, chemistry, geology, astronomy, medicine, etc.] • Subsidiary issues [influence of parascientific fields like astrology, homeopathy, alchemy, etc.]
  7. 7. Special issues • Realism/Antirealism: do we believe that things theories say exist actually do? • Demarcation: Is there a way to tell between science and pseudoscience or nonscience? • Pluralism/monism: Is there only one world or many? • Reductionism/holism: Can we reduce one domain (e.g., psychological) to another (e.g., genetic) and should we? [coherentism/foundationalism]
  8. 8. How PoS proceeds • Conceptual analysis • Reconstructing historical sequences and events • Analysing the social interactions of science • Considering the consequences of science in the broader community