Philosophy of Science

Sunday, July 15, 2007
First Aired: 
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

What Is It

Is philosophy the queen of the sciences, with the job of synthesizing, interpreting and evaluating the results of the particular sciences? Or should we adopt John Locke's conception of philosophy as a handmaiden to science: clarifying concepts, definitions and assumptions? During the twentieth century the discipline of the philosophy of science emerged as a central part of philosophy. Ken and John discuss some of the leading ideas and projects involved in this branch of philosophy.

Listening Notes

Ken and John begin the show by discussing the interplay between philosophy and science.

Peter Godfrey-Smith, professor of philosophy at Harvard, joins the show. Godfrey-Smith tries to distinguish science and non-science. Almost all definitions of science capture either too much or too little. For instance, if science is anything that involves observation and empirical data, then it is too broad and almost everything counts as science. If it is the particular product of a specific culture, then it is too narrow. On Godfrey-Smith's view, science is a strategy for organizing our investigation of the world. An important component of science is data collection.

Physics had a breakthrough when it emphasized quantitative data in the 20th century. This isn't the only way science can work though. Darwin, for instance, had a very qualitative approach and his contribution wasn't mathematical at all.

Can the contents of a statement determine whether it is scientific or not? Godfrey-Smith argues that it isn't so much a statement per se but the content, or handling, of ideas determines what counts as science.

Karl Popper thought that falsifiability, the idea whether a statement can be falsified by empirical observation, is the criterion of science. Godfrey-Smith thinks that Popper gave a simplistic picture, although Popper was along the right lines. Ideas can be given a scientific treatment or a non-scientific treatment. An individual statement can't tell us much about whether an idea is scientific or not.

A listener calls in and comments that the intersection of philosophy and science occurs mainly in the sphere of ethics. Science is a double-edged sword in the sense that while its discoveries make life easier, they also have sometimes cataclysmic ethical consequences. John thinks that science itself is a neutral endeavor and moral burden should lie on those who abuse science. The entanglement of morality and science is unpredictable. Decades ago, no one would think the chemistry of certain substances that lead to global warming would have an ethical component.

Science and philosophy share similarities in their methodology but the scopes of their questions differ. Whereas philosophy tackles huge, unwieldy questions, science tackles narrower, more empirically-amenable questions.

Does science explain nature or is it merely a descriptive device? Is quantum physics just a complex, calculation tool that doesn't have any ontological commitment about the way world really "is" ? Godfrey-Smith replies that he can accept this view of science for quantum mechanics but not for virus.

What are the effects of science on our lives and social structures? What other knowledge science entails besides scientific knowledge? Many people think that Darwin's ideas decisively refute religion. However, people still hold onto religion. Whereas religion is a source of hope and meaning, there is very little as meaning that evolution offers. People who choose to adhere religion accept a "package" of religious ideas. They can not reject some components of this "package" yet accept others. Godfrey-Smith explains that John Dewey's big project was to come up with a naturalistic package that people would pursue in the same way that they pursue religion.

  • Roving Philosophical Report (Seek to 4:34): Polly Striker interviews Jim Grays, technical fellow at Microsoft Bay Area Research Center, a Buddhist monk and Robert Proctor, Stanford Historian of Science.
  • 60-Second- Philosopher (Seek to 49:19): Ian Shoales explores the scientific spirit of 17th Century.


Comments (1)

Molina's picture


Thursday, March 26, 2020 -- 9:24 AM

Philosophy is the study of

Philosophy is the study of human reason that have significance among the concepts of reality. In other words, it's our basic understanding all these of knowing as clear of the matter of what is the issues of the mind. How we are thinking a prior to the question of the 'unknown' which is beyond of the most important of the study. First, why we ask because it's a science is that the practices were precisely what is possible definition of our principles of these thoughts. Many of our claim is the search of the ultimate reality under of some rules. [A] Epistemology - will likely of our philosophers 'knowledge' is our description of the inferential thinking. Most of the causes is to create the evident truth differences that may arise.We learn of the probability even if the premise is unreal this will consider the effects. The "being" as acquianted throughout the prediction which is depending sometimes of our natural selection. For example, all human question because they believe what is "unfalsifiable" is the person who thinks of itself. If we knew more than we can be false either true we do not have a choice. [B] If we accept this statement "X exist" it affects between X and Y they have to be perfect it was not is that certainly. There are metaphorical falsifiability we may think even though all is known.Consequently, is an object of science "per se" everything is verifying it quite to think our criterion of philosophical theory. Most of our experiences is to describe the impossibilities as subject is human our non-scientific reason that can criticize. Through the use of natural light of our reason which does acknowledge the evidence the other are not scientific.How do we assure the equality of the standard in our reasons. This knowledge have explanatory acquisition what is certain they may require us of our personal relationship. Likewise; science, ethics, metaphysics, logic, physics is our rational concern of our integrity.If it established that 'ethics' is what constitutes the essential to "man's life" it can pursue to our individual goal's. Philosophy will always to begin of thinking is our consciousness and free will to ask 'I know' of beyond is the subtle that control the perceptions of the epistemological question. Because it includes his authority Aquinas of the identical reality to our subjective to the higher truth. Something that defined when we associate this in time contest our intellectual knowledge of existence.[C] above of the position is the thread of wisdom broad conflicts Plato “whether the intellectual principle is united to the body as its form”. If we are "Being" what is revealed true of our human reasonings.If we say we completely understand God of our natural capacities as we being of before study in physics are not just true for us. It's entirely our motivation as reasonable creatures through our reason not of the object itself. There can be no argument in the brain that each part of our lives is probably impossible. Who is our being? in our own can prove these consistent with the essences what's the "superior reality" which we notice in our mind. Metaphysics - It's among of the incomprehensible reality instantiating our logical consistencies example thereafter is uniquely. We can argue of the philosophical cause that we refer to as aspectual. If this were then perhaps it doesn't follow that they cannot be understood. The knower is exactly what it was before I maintain therefore is the God's existence there for you to ask further. For Aquinas, who is it that speaks what is important to the human issue at your conclusion what kind of philosophy you're trying to prove. Everyone of good reasoning is intelligent and knows about you but not to others.