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Philosophy of Science University of Oulu, March 4-6, 2009 Sami Pihlström (Professor of Practical Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä,

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Presentation on theme: "Philosophy of Science University of Oulu, March 4-6, 2009 Sami Pihlström (Professor of Practical Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Philosophy of Science University of Oulu, March 4-6, 2009 Sami Pihlström (Professor of Practical Philosophy, University of Jyväskylä,

2 Course program Wed, March 4: What is science? The scientific method. The aims and goals of science. Naturalism and relativism. Thu, March 5: The issue of scientific realism. Introducing pragmatist philosophy of science (in relation to the realism issue and generally). Fri, March 6: Pragmatism (and its history) in the philosophy of science. Science and values, science and religion, etc. –The participants can present their own brief papers, discussing their own research problems and methodology from a philosophical perspective.

3 What is science? ”Science” (”Wissenschaft”, ”tiede”, ”scientia”): –the scientific community –the research process –the results/contents of scientific research (the scientific worldview) ”Science is systematic, rational acquisition of new knowledge.” (Haaparanta & Niiniluoto) –What is (new, previously unknown) knowledge? (the classical conception of knowledge: justified true belief) –What is rationality (in science and elsewhere)? –What is systematicity (in science and elsewhere)? E.g., ontological, logical, explanatory, institutional, etc. – different dimensions of scientific systematicity.

4 Perspectives on science Science (and Technology) Studies (STS): interdisciplinary, empirically informed research on the nature of science, including history, sociology, and philosophy of science (and technology). –What exactly is the relation between science and technology? Philosophy of Science: normative vs. descriptive (factual, empirical). –The philosopher of science doesn’t merely describe facts about science but tries to determine what science ought to be like. (Cf. the normativity of epistemological theories of knowledge and justification, etc.: epistemology is not just concerned with the ways we actually form beliefs but with how we ought to form and justify our beliefs.)

5 Philosophy of science and other areas of philosophy Problems in the philosophy of science are deeply connected with other philosophical problems, e.g.: –Metaphysics: do the objects of scientific research exist independently of us (and of scientific theories, etc.)? (The problem of realism.) –Epistemology: what is scientific knowledge? (Philosophy of science can be seen as the application of general epistemology to the special case of scientific knowledge.) –Logic: what is (valid) scientific inference like? –Philosophy of language: do scientific theories (theoretical terms and concepts) refer to independently existing entities, and are theories true or false (in the correspondence sense)? –Ethics and political philosophy: is science value-free or value- laden; what kind of ethical and social problems do science involve? –Philosophy of religion: does science refute religion?

6 Philosophy of science: general and special General philosophy of science: problems common to all scientific disciplines (including the humanities): truth, inference, explanation (vs. understanding), etc. Special problems in relation to different scientific disciplines, e.g.: –Philosophy of mathematics: do mathematical entities exist, what is mathematical truth? –Philosophy of physics: time and space, the interpretation of quantum theory? –Philosophy of biology: the nature of life, the reality of species? –Philosophy of history: the reality of the past, the determinacy of the truthvalues of claims about the past, historical explanation? –Philosophy of education: the scientific worldview and education, the science vs. religion issue, etc.?

7 The aims and goals of science Cognitivism: Science aims at knowledge and/or truth about the world (classical definition of knowledge as justified true belief). –Truth (knowledge) is valuable as such, for its own sake (intrinsic value). –Cf. scientific realism: there is a world out there, independently of us, and science aims at finding out what it’s like. Behavioralism: Science aims at practical recommendations and problem-solving. –Knowledge and truth are not sought for their own sake. –Instrumentalism: knowledge has only instrumental value, not intrinsic value. (N.B. In a more specific sense, instrumentalism denies that scientific theories have truthvalues.)

8 Basic and applied research A moderate cognitivist admits that knowledge can be instrumentally valuable and applicable to practical problem-solving, even though the primary motivation for seeking knowledge is not instrumental but, e.g., pure intellectual curiosity. Basic research: knowledge/truth for its own sake. –Scientists aim at true (or truthlike) theories about the way the world is. Applied research: instrumentally valuable knowledge, applicable to practical problems. –Applying the results of basic research, scientists aim at workable solutions to various problems we face in our practices. –”Design science” (Niiniluoto): designing a solution to a practical problem, etc.

9 Science and human interests Jürgen Habermas: natural science is motivated by a technical interest (governing nature), the human sciences by a hermeneutical interest (understanding), and critical social theory by an emancipatory interest (liberating humans from domination structures, etc.). –Background: Frankfurt School cultural critique, the ”dialectics of the enlightenment” (Adorno, Horkheimer). Is ”pure” natural science independent of technical domination of nature possible at all? –A major issue in science and technology policy. Should scientific research simply be seen as a tool for business, and society in general? –The value-ladenness vs. value-independence of scientific research (we will return to this problem in due course).

10 Applied research Typically, the results of applied research are not theoretical statements about the way the world is (as in basic research) but ”technical norms”: if you want to achieve goal X, then you ought to do Y (cf. von Wright 1963). –If you want to cure a patient with an infection, you ought to use antibiotics. –If you want to achieve maximum destructive potential for your nuclear bomb, you ought to build it like this… N.B. The interests upon which the technical norms arrived at in applied research are based are not morally neutral! There is always room for valuational discussion of what kind of interests we ought to pursue, and why. –Technical norms have truthvalues: they are true or false statements about the relations between aims and the means necessary for achieving those aims.

11 Applied research (continued) We might consider the relation between basic and applied research in, e.g., the following scientific disciplines: –Medicine –Agricultural science –Education –Political science –History (of ideas) –Aesthetics (and art education) … Is it always possible to draw a clear distinction between basic and applied research? Sometimes, even the most ”basic” research problems might be motivated by the potential applicability of the results of research.

12 Science and technology Some etymology: episteme (knowledge) vs. tekhne (skill). –Technology: tekhne + logos, ”the study/doctrine of skills”. Is technology just applied science, or the construction of applications based upon applied research? Or is (contemporary) science crucially dependent on technology? –Science (today) necessarily requries a technological context. –Tecnology can be understood very broadly (cf. John Dewey, Larry Hickman): any tools intelligently used to promote human purposes are technological – including, e.g., language. Philosophy of technology studies the nature of our technological culture. Technopessimism (Heidegger) vs. moderate optimism, meliorism (Dewey, Hickman). Science and technology studies: taking seriously the technological context of modern science. Normativity?

13 The scientific method When is research scientific? What is the definition of, or the criteria for, ”the scientific method”? Is there such a thing as the ”scientific method”? The problem of demarcation (Karl Popper 1934): how to demarcate between science and pseudo-science (e.g., metaphysics – cf. logical empiricism, the Vienna Circle)? –N.B. Pseudo-science must not be confused with non-science. Clearly non-scientific human practices, e.g., art or sport, are not pseudo-scientific, whereas practices/”disciplines” like astrology, graphology, creationism, spiritual healing, anthroposophy, etc., are usually taken to be. –Not everything must be made scientific, but practices/disciplines that do not fulfill the criteria for scientificity should not pretend to be scientific.

14 The scientific method (cont’d) Is there a single correct scientific method (the scientific method), or are there several? –Methodological monism (or methodological optimism): there is only one correct scientific method, and it can be discovered (cf. logical empiricism, the unity of science movement). –Methodological pluralism: there are several different, equally correct scientific methods (e.g., reflecting the differences of various disciplines, such as the natural and the human sciences). –Radical pluralism: methodological anarchism (Paul Feyerabend: ”anything goes!”) – cf. relativism.

15 The scientific method (cont’d) Charles S. Peirce, ”The Fixation of Belief” (1877): four different ways of fixing beliefs about the world. (1) the method of tenacity (2) the method of authority (3) the method of what is agreeable to reason (the intuitive method, the a priori method) (4) the scientific method –A criterion for reality: independence of what any number of persons may think, hope, etc. –Our beliefs should be fixed by an ”external permanency”. –Yet, the world may not be independent of ”thought in general”. –We’ll return to the issue of realism within pragmatist philosophy of science (which Peirce founded).

16 The scientific method (cont’d) On the basis of Peirce’s (and others’) reflections on the scientific method, we may emphasize the following ”corner stones” of scientific rationality (among others): –Objectivity –Publicity –Critical thinking –Self-correctiveness –Autonomy –Progressiveness Problem: who is supposed to set these criteria, from which perspective, on what grounds? Is this the task of the philosophy of science, or of the scientific community and/or research process itself? –Traditional (autonomous) vs. naturalized philosophy of science!

17 Naturalism and relativism Naturalism: ”there is no first philosophy” – no autonomous philosophical perspective over and above science itself (W.V. Quine). Rather, science and philosophy (of science) must be seen as continuous with each other. –The problem of circularity: if science itself, instead of any prior, more fundamental philosophical theory of the nature of science, establishes its own normative criteria, does it have any foundation at all? –How does this situation differ from, e.g., the religious fundamentalists’ claim that the Bible establishes its own authority as a sacred text? Naturalism challenges the traditional normative nature of the philosophy of science: the norms of scientific research cannot be established from outside science.

18 From naturalism to relativism? We may sketch the following loose argument: (1) Naturalism: there is no first philosophy that could normatively determine what science is, or what it ought to be, from a perspective lying outside science itself. (Premise.) (2) Therefore, science itself determines its own criteria. In particular, the problem of demarcation (between science and pseudo-science of metaphysics) can be settled only science-internally; if understood as a general philosophical problem, it is a mere pseudo-problem. (Follows from (1). The structure of the argument could be made more explicit by adding the premise that the criteria of science can only be settled either science- internally or science-externally.)

19 From naturalism to relativism (cont’d) (3) There is no ahistorical criterion, independent of the historical phase of the development of science (or a particular scientific discipline), for determining what is (good, proper, correct) science. (Follows from (1) and (2), at least by adding the obvious premise that science is a historically developing phenomenon.) (4) There are, in the history of science, radically divergent stages with very different conceptions of the criteria of (good, proper, correct) science and of the science vs. pseudo-science demarcation. (Premise, a historical statement of fact. Cf. Thomas S. Kuhn: paradigms, scientific revolutions.) (5) Therefore, we must accept relativism: the criteria of science (and demarcation) are relative to the historical stage of science (or a particular scientific discipline), a (Kuhnian) paradigm, a perspective or point of view, a tradition, a local scientific community, a culture, a social context, or some other ”background” that makes it possible for scientists to pursue their disciplines. (Follows from (3) and (4).)

20 From naturalism to relativism (cont’d) The argument above is not strictly deductively valid but can easily be transformed into a more explicit, deductively valid argument by adding relatively obvious premises. It seems that relativism follows from the naturalist denial of there being any foundational ”first philosophy” which would determine the normative criteria of the scientific method. Challenge: is there a middle ground option available, a moderate form of naturalism with no radically relativist consequences? (We’ll examine this issue in relation to pragmatist philosophy of science.)

21 Forms of relativism Moral relativism Cognitive relativism –Conceptual (ontological) relativism –Perceptual relativism (cf. the theory- and concept-ladenness of observation) –Alethic relativism (relativism about truth) –Logical relativism (relativism about valid inference or the criteria of rationality) –… No exhaustive survey of different relativisms is possible here. Nor am I implying that moral and cognitive relativisms would always be easily distinguishable. ”Relative to…” – culture, paradigm, conceptual scheme…

22 Examples of relativist philosophy of science… … or of overhasty accusations of relativism? W.V. Quine: ontological relativity T.S. Kuhn: paradigms, incommensurability P. Feyerabend: anarchism, ”anything goes”, ”against method” R. Rorty: radical neopragmatism, ethnocentrism A. Fine: natural ontological attitude (NOA) All these (very different) approaches – in the philosophy of science and elsewhere – risk losing trans-cultural and trans- paradigmatic normativity, but none are clearly examples of radical relativism; on the contrary, these thinkers typically deny that they are relativists! –Even Feyerabend rejects relativism, because ”potentially every tradition is all traditions”. –Accusing someone of relativism is always problematic, contextual. –The reflexive charge (cf. Plato): is relativism merely relatively true?

23 Naturalism and relativism (summing up) The problem of relativism is a constant challenge in the philosophy of science, especially naturalized philosophy of science rejecting traditional ”first philosophy”. It cannot be avoided; nor should we simply succumb to relativism. Naturalists are right to reject any absolutely autonomous, science-external ”first philosophy”, but they risk sacrificing normativity and ending up with (radical) relativism. We must continuously seek the middle ground: a normatively adequate naturalism, a form of naturalism which doesn’t give up (but merely reinterprets or reconceptualizes) the traditional normative task of the philosophy of science.

24 Pragmatist philosophy of science Pragmatism is one tradition in the philosophy of science (and philosophy more generally) that hopes to offer such a middle ground. Classical pragmatist philosophers (of science): –C.S. Peirce – the scientific method –William James – perhaps more important in other fields (e.g., philosophy of religion) –John Dewey – naturalist, experimentalist theory of inquiry –G.H. Mead – pragmatism and the social sciences –Neopragmatists: Rorty, Hilary Putnam, et al.

25 Pragmatism, truth, and the goals of science Can pragmatists accept (moderate) cognitivism – ”science aims at truth” – or must they abandon the idea that science is a truth- seeking activity? –Rorty: truth is not a goal of inquiry. (Truth vs. justification.) Again: normative vs. descriptive question: has science been, or should it be, a truth-seeking activity; have pragmatists believed it to be, and should they have? Rorty’s ethnocentrist neopragmatism (”we have to start from where we are”) is in the danger of collapsing into radical relativism, with no room for trans-cultural normativity, and thereby with no resources to distinguish, even contextually, science from pseudo-science. –Rorty seems to reduce epistemic (scientific) justification to mere local justification for a particular scientific community (we have to start from where we are…). –Even Rorty will have to use normative concepts!

26 Pragmatist philosophy of science (cont’d) Some advantages of pragmatism (to be discussed in more detail later): –Moderate naturalism: science is part of the natural world, along with everything else. No sharp nature vs. culture dichotomy. Normativity can be maintained (”second nature” for us, as the kind of natural beings we are – cf. John McDowell). Emergence? –Antireductionism, pluralism: no ”unity of science” but the plurality of perspectives, standpoints, and worldviews (cf. W. James’s pluralistic pragmatism: science, ethics, religion, … all relevant to human concerns).

27 Pragmatist philosophy of science (cont’d) Advantages of pragmatism (cont’d): –Transcending the realism vs. antirealism opposition: a pragmatic realism as a synthesis of scientific realism and its (constructivist, relativist) alternatives (cf. Putnam)? The realism issue will, in the following, be adopted as the main philosophical context for the defense of a pragmatist approach in the philosophy of science. –Taking seriously the socio-historical (including technological) contexts of science and inquiry (cf. Dewey, Hickman, et al.). Perhaps even Kuhn can be interpreted as a pragmatist?

28 Pragmatist philosophy of science (cont’d) Pragmatism, however, also has its problems: –Is the pragmatists’ way of going beyond the realism vs. antirealism controversy successful, or does it collapse back to idealism, constructivism, relativism, or something else? (Cf. Kant’s transcendental idealism.) –How can we adequately articulate the practice- internal normativity (of science) pragmatists insist on? –There is no short cut to avoiding the problems of relativism and naturalism. Even pragmatist philosophy of science must continuously re-examine its own starting points and conditions of possibility, in critical dialogue with other approaches in the philosophy of science.

29 Suggested reading Dewey, J. (1929), The Quest for Certainty, Finnish translation by P. Määttänen: Pyrkimys varmuuteen, Gaudeamus, Helsinki, Feyerabend, P. (1975), Against Method, Verso, London. Fine, A. (1996), The Shaky Game, rev. ed. (1st ed. 1986), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. James, W. (1907), Pragmatism, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA, (The Works of William James, 19 vols, Harvard UP, ) Kuhn, T.S. (1970), The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed. (1st ed. 1962), The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Niiniluoto, I. (1999), Critical Scientific Realism, Oxford UP, Oxford. Peirce, C.S. ( ), Collected Papers, 8 vols, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA. Peirce, C.S. ( ), The Essential Peirce, 2 vols, Indiana UP, Bloomington. Pihlström, S. (1996), Structuring the World, Acta Philosophica Fennica 59, Helsinki. Pihlström, S. (2003), Naturalizing the Trascendental, Humanity/Prometheus Books, Amherst, NY.

30 Suggested reading (cont’d) Popper, K.R. (1959), The Logic of Scientific Discovery (1934), Routledge, London. Popper, K.R. (1963), Conjectures and Refutations, Routledge, London. Putnam, H. (1990), Realism with a Human Face, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA. Putnam, H. (1995), Pragmatism: An Open Question, Blackwell, Oxford. Putnam, H. (2002), The Collapse of the Fact/Value Dichotomy, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA. Quine, W.V. (1969), Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, Columbia UP, New York. Quine, W.V. (1995), From Stimulus to Science, Harvard UP, Cambridge, MA. Rorty, R. (1979), Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton UP, Princeton, NJ. Rorty, R. (1982), Consequences of Pragmatism, Harvester Press, Brighton. Rorty, R. (1998), Truth and Progress, Cambridge UP, Cambridge.


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