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PHILOSOPHY 107 (STOLZE) Notes on Geoffrey Gorham, Philosophy of Science, Chapter 1.

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Presentation on theme: "PHILOSOPHY 107 (STOLZE) Notes on Geoffrey Gorham, Philosophy of Science, Chapter 1."— Presentation transcript:

1 PHILOSOPHY 107 (STOLZE) Notes on Geoffrey Gorham, Philosophy of Science, Chapter 1

2 What is Philosophy of Science? “[P]hilosophy of science is the attempt to answer fundamental questions about science. Is scientific knowledge different from other sorts of knowledge? Is science getting closer to the absolute truth? Is science influenced by politics and gender? How are the various sciences related to one another? In addition, there are philosophical questions that arise within particular sciences, like psychology (could a machine think?), physics (is the world deterministic?) and biology (does evolution have a built-in tendency to complexity?). And in this book we will frequently have occasion to touch on these field-specific questions. But our main concern will be the ‘big questions’ about the nature of science itself” (p. viii.).

3 The Structure of Gorham’s Book: Six Basic Questions Chapter 1: What is the origin of science? Chapter 2: What is the essence of science? Chapter 3: What is the method of science? Chapter 4: What are the aims of science? Chapter 5: To what extent is science, or should it be, permeated by social and political forces? Chapter 6: What does the likely future of science bode for humanity?

4 Defining “Science” (1) “The most basic question one can ask about science is simply, what is it? One obvious way of identifying the nature of a thing is by attempting to define it. A good definition will tell us what is both adequate and essential for something to be the thing in question. For example, the definition of ‘collier’ will tell us that all and only coal miners qualify. So we might explain what science is by identifying what is sufficient and necessary for something to count as genuinely scientific, i.e. to mark out exactly what does and does not fall within the boundaries of science. Analogously, if someone wanted to understand what Canada is, I could simply explain to them where its borders lie: Canada is the sum of territory lying inside these boundaries and no territories beyond” (p. 1)

5 Defining “Science” (2) “[J]ust as national boundaries are often disputed and unclear, it is surprisingly difficult to arrive at a precise definition of science. Fortunately, there is another useful way to learn about the nature of something besides its definition, and that is by studying its history. We can learn about Canada by asking questions like: how did there come to be a territory that we now designate by the name of ‘Canada’ and how have its contours and boundaries been shaped by older and neighboring countries, by economic and social forces, civil and foreign wars, and so on? In this opening chapter we adopt the historical approach, learning as much as we can about the nature of science by exploring its origins and early development” (p. 1)

6 Key Events in the History of Science Ancient Greece The Middle Ages and Renaissance The Copernican Revolution (Copernicus and Galileo) The Scientific Revolution (Descartes and Newton)

7 Ancient Cosmologies Sumer Egypt Babylon Israel Greece

8 Some Ancient Greek Cosmologies Thales => Water (because of its ability to change form?) Anaxagoras =>All substances are precise mixtures of the basic elements of earth, air, fire, and water. He also posited an underlying force, nous, which was not exactly a god but rather a ruling principle or aim for things. Democritus/=>The world is composed only of tiny indivisible atoms swerving and Epicuruscrashing in a limitless void. “Despite the differences among their models, all the early Greek cosmologists shared the aim of accounting for the observable world in terms of only a few, purely natural principles. And this has remained an aim of cosmology, and of science generally, ever since” (p. 4).

9 Three Other Ancient Greek Philosophers Socrates=>less concerned with the basic structure of the universe than with the nature of virtue and justice. Plato =>developed a theory of “Forms.” Aristotle =>developed a theory of “Four Causes.”

10 Plato’s Theory of Forms “Plato considered the familiar trees and rivers that we perceive by the senses at best poor imitations of the ideal “forms” of TREE and RIVER” (p. 5).

11 Aristotle’s Theory of Four Causes 1. x is what y is [made] out of. (Material Cause) 2. x is what produces y. (Efficient Cause) 3. x is what it is to be y. (Formal Cause) 4. x is what y is for.(Final Cause)

12 An Example of Aristotle’s Causal Analysis 1.The table is made of wood. 2.A carpenter makes a table. 3.Having four legs and a flat top makes this (count as) a table. 4.Having a surface suitable for eating or writing makes this (work as) a table. OR 1a.Wood is what the table is made out of. 2a. A carpenter is what produces a table. 3a. Having four legs and a flat top is what it is to be a table. 4a.Eating on and writing on is what a table is for.

13 Another Example of Causal Analysis Animal reproduction and generation (which Aristotle studied closely and carefully)

14 Material Cause “The material cause is the ‘stuff’ involved in the process; in most cases of generation this is the egg from the female” (p. 6)

15 Efficient Cause “The efficient cause is the immediate source or ‘trigger’ of motion or change; the sperm from the male according to Aristotle” (p. 7).

16 Formal Cause “The formal cause is what makes something the kind of thing it is. In the case of animals, the defining features of its species constitute the formal cause. For example,rationality and two-leggedness are parts of the formal cause of human beings. Although formal causes serve a function analogous to Plato’s forms in accounting for the natures of things, Aristotle denies that formal causes exist on their own, ‘separated’ from material things” (p. 7).

17 Final Cause “Finally, the final cause of a natural process is its end or purpose; in animal generation this is the adult organism. Aristotle did not believe in an ‘intelligent designer’ of the universe but he did posit ends or purposes throughout nature. The various parts of animals have their own final causes (the heart’s purpose is to pump blood, the eyes to see, etc.) as does reproduction as a whole (immortality of a sort). Purely physical processes have ends too: the planets aim to achieve perfection in their perpetual circular motions, falling bodies aim to reach their place of ‘natural rest’ at the center of the earth, and fire strives upwards. The motion of the world as a whole depends on a divine ‘unmoved mover,’ which acts as a final cause – the object of desire to which the world is drawn. The notion that un-designed, unconscious processes have aims and goals may seem bizarre to the modern mind, but Aristotle thought purpose was essential to explain natural processes. As we shall see, the abandonment of final causality is a major turning point in the emergence of modern science” (p. 7).

18 Two Problems with Aristotle’s Approach to Science No understanding of experimentation No appreciation of mathematical law


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