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Philosophy of Science The last fifty years. Divergence Questioning methods, validity, facts Realism/Antirealism Incommensurability The emergence of relativism.

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Presentation on theme: "Philosophy of Science The last fifty years. Divergence Questioning methods, validity, facts Realism/Antirealism Incommensurability The emergence of relativism."— Presentation transcript:

1 Philosophy of Science The last fifty years

2 Divergence Questioning methods, validity, facts Realism/Antirealism Incommensurability The emergence of relativism in epistemology and antirealism in ontology.

3 Paul Feyerabend Two false assumptions: - the first is that there is a theory-independent observation language with respect to which theories may be evaluated the second false assumption is that it is possible for a theory to agree with all the known facts in its domain ”Return to the sources” (history of science) ”Anything goes” (?)

4 The Strong Programme Edinburgh University Challenging the internal/external division in the the writing of history of science The main principle: the interpreter of science should uncover the scientists’ beliefs by invoking the same types of cause to explain both rational (true, successful) belief and irrational (false, unsuccessful) beliefs Causal analysis: the causes are produced by social structures; the roles of the sociologists and philosophers of science

5 The social construction of a scientific fact Bruno Latour (S. Woolgar): anthropological approach social constructivism the task of the sociologist of science is to give a debunking account of scientific practice, showing how scientists delude themselves into believing that they discover a reality rather than constructing it

6 Realism Ontologically, realism is committed to the mind-independent existence of the world investigated by the sciences. Semantically, realism is committed to a literal interpretation of scientific claims about the world: realists take theoretical statements at “face value”. Epistemologically, realism is committed to the idea that theoretical claims (interpreted literally as describing a mind-independent reality) constitute knowledge of the world.

7 Arguments for realism The ”no-miracles argument”: realism ”is the only philosophy that doesn't make the success of science a miracle” (H. Putnam). The basic explanation: our best theories are true (or approximately true, or correctly describe a mind-independent world of entities, properties, laws, structures).

8 Arguments for realism (contd.) Corroboration: the same entity or property is conceivably capable of being detected by not just one, but rather two or more different means of detection this may serve as the basis of a significantly enhanced argument for realism.

9 Arguments for Realism (contd.) Selectivity entailing an epistemically positive attitude towards those aspects of theories that are most worthy of epistemic commitment.

10 Antirealism Antirealism doubts the existence of unobservable entities posited by theories (electrons, quarks), claiming that these entities are used in an instrumental way in order to develop particular explanations or accounts of phenomena

11 Varieties of antirealism The “pessimistic induction on the history of science”): large numbers of past successful theories have proved false to the conclusion that successful contemporary theories are also incorrect (L. Laudan)

12 Varieties of Antirealism (contd.) “Constructive empiricism”: scientists build models that are designed to “save the phenomena” by yielding correct predictions about observables, but there is no need to grant a real existence to these entities (B. Van Fraasen)

13 Science Wars - standpoint epistemology - values, judgments, politics - postmodernism and science - who has the rights to speak about science? Alan Sokal, “Transgressing the boundaries. Toward a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity,” Social Text, 46-47 (1996).

14 Descriptive philosophies of science The modest version: aiming at a historical reconstruction of actual evaluative practice; uncovering the evaluative standards whose application lead scientists to prefer one theory to antoher (e.g. Newton’s rejection of the Cartesian Vortex Theory)

15 The robust version derives from the conclusions of modest descriptivism, a theory about evaluative practice; this theory is put forward as a contribution to our understanding of science

16 Conceptual Evolution - an application of the Darwinian Theory of Evolution to the historical development of science - recommendation that philosophers of science shift attention from logical relations between propositions to the progressive modification of concepts (Toulmin).

17 Selection The “General Theory of Selection Processes” The surviving concepts are called “replicators” and individual scientists or groups are called “interactors.” Interactors compete within an environment, while replicators are entities of which copies are made and transferred.

18 Epigenetic rules Evolutionary-Origins View (opposing the Evolutionary Analogy View): scientific inquiry is directed by the application of epigenetic rules that have been encoded in homo sapiens during evolutionary adaptation, namely: - possessing certain capacities and dispositions because it was advantageous for our ancestors to have them.

19 Concluding Remarks Questioning the search for ”laws of nature” Alternatives: searching for symmetries in physics using approximate generalizations in biology deploying models in other areas of the sciences

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