Portal:Philosophy of science/Selected biography

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Selected biographies list[edit]

Portal:Philosophy of science/Selected biography/1 Karl Popper (1902-1994) was an Austrian and British philosopher, counted among the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century. His book The Logic of Scientific Discovery criticises psychologism, naturalism, inductionism, and logical positivism, and puts forth his theory of potential falsifiability being the criterion for what should be considered science.

He coined the term critical rationalism to describe his theory, rejecting classical empiricism, and holding that scientific theories are universal in nature, and can only be tested indirectly, with reference to their implications. He also held that scientific theory, and human knowledge generally, is irreducibly conjectural or hypothetical, and is generated by the creative imagination in order to solve problems that have arisen in specific historico-cultural settings.

Portal:Philosophy of science/Selected biography/2 Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) was an American intellectual, most famous for his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (SSR). In SSR, he presented the idea that science does not progress via a linear accumulation of new knowledge, but instead undergoes periodic revolutions which he calls "paradigm shifts", in which the nature of scientific inquiry within a particular field is abruptly transformed. The enormous impact of Kuhn's work can be measured in the changes it brought about in the vocabulary of the philosophy of science: besides "paradigm shift", Kuhn raised the word "paradigm" itself from a term used in certain forms of linguistics to its current broader meaning, coined the term "normal science" to refer to the relatively routine, day-to-day work of scientists working within a paradigm, and was largely responsible for the use of the term "scientific revolutions".

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Thales of Miletus

Thales of Miletus (ca. 624 BC. – ca. 546 BC.) is often regarded as the first philosopher in the Greek tradition, as well as the father of science. Before Thales, the Greeks explained the origin and nature of the world through myths of anthropomorphic gods and heroes. In contrast to these mythological explanations Thales attempted to find naturalistic explanations of the world, without reference to the supernatural. He explained earthquakes by imagining that the Earth floats on water, and that earthquakes occur when the Earth is rocked by waves. Thales' most famous belief was his cosmological doctrine, which held that the world originated from water. Aristotle considered this belief roughly equivalent to the later ideas of Anaximenes, who held that everything in the world was composed of air.

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Sir Francis Bacon

Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Alban, KC (22 January 1561 – 9 April 1626) was an English philosopher, statesman and essayist but is best known for leading the scientific revolution with his new 'observation and experimentation' theory which is the way science has been conducted ever since.

He began his professional life as a lawyer, but he has become best known as a philosophical advocate and defender of the scientific revolution. His works establish and popularize an inductive methodology for scientific inquiry, often called the Baconian method. Induction implies drawing knowledge from the natural world through experimentation, observation, and testing of hypotheses. In the context of his time, such methods were connected with the occult trends of hermeticism and alchemy.

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Immanuel Kant in middle age

Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804), was a Prussian[1] philosopher. He is regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of modern Europe and the last major philosopher of the Enlightenment.

The two interconnected foundations of what Kant called his "critical philosophy" of the "Copernican revolution" which he claimed to have wrought in philosophy were his epistemology of Transcendental Idealism and his moral philosophy of the autonomy of practical reason. These placed the active, rational human subject at the center of the cognitive and moral worlds. With regard to knowledge, Kant argued against David Hume and other philosophers in his Critique of Pure Reason [2] that the rational order of the world as known by science could never be accounted for merely by the fortuitous accumulation of sense perceptions. It was instead the product of the rule-based activity of "synthesis" , to which he asserted the concept of synthetic a priori knowledge[3].

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René Descartes

René Descartes (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650), also known as Cartesius, was a noted French philosopher, mathematician, and scientist. Dubbed the "Founder of Modern Philosophy" and the "Father of Modern Mathematics," Descartes was one of the key thinkers of the Scientific Revolution in the Western World.

Descartes is often regarded as the first modern thinker to provide a philosophical framework for the natural sciences as these began to develop. In his Meditations on First Philosophy he attempts to arrive at a fundamental set of principles that one can know as true without any doubt. To achieve this, he employs a method called methodological skepticism: he doubts any idea that can be doubted in order to acquire a firm foundation for genuine knowledge. Initially, Descartes arrives at only a single principle: thought exists. Thought cannot be separated from me, therefore, I exist. Most famously, this is known as cogito ergo sum, ("I think, therefore I am").

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Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte (full name Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte) (January 17 (recorded January 19), 1798 - September 5, 1857) was a French thinker who coined the term sociology. He is remembered for being the first to apply the scientific method to the social world.

One universal law that Comte saw at work in all sciences he called the 'law of three phases'. It is by his statement of this law that he is best known in the English-speaking world; namely, that society has gone through three phases: Theological, Metaphysical, and Scientific. He also gave the name "Positive" to the last of these because of the polysemous connotations of the word.

Portal:Philosophy of science/Selected biography/8 Sir Isaac Newton was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, alchemist, and natural philosopher, regarded by many as the greatest scientist in the history of science. By deriving Kepler's laws of planetary motion from this system, he was the first to show that the motion of objects on Earth and of celestial bodies are governed by the same set of natural laws. The unifying and deterministic power of his laws was integral to the scientific revolution.

It was Newton’s conception of the universe based upon Natural and rationally understandable laws that became the ideological seed for the Age of Enlightenment, during which it (along with the works of Galileo and Robert Boyle) became the inspiration for the application of the singular concept of Natural Law to every physical and social field of the day.

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Ernst Mach

Ernst Mach (February 18, 1838 – February 19, 1916) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher and is the namesake for the "Mach number" (aka Mach speed) and the optical illusion known as Mach bands. He was born in Chrlice (now part of Brno), Czech Republic. There he studied mathematics, physics and philosophy, and received a doctorate in physics in 1860.

Mach developed a philosophy of science which was influential in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mach held that scientific laws are summaries of experimental events, constructed for the purpose of human comprehension of complex data. Thus scientific laws have more to do with the mind than with reality as it exists apart from the mind.

Mach had a direct influence on the Vienna Circle philosophers and the school of logical positivism in general. Albert Einstein called him the "forerunner of [the] Theory of relativity".

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Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (February 22, 1788 – September 21, 1860) was a German philosopher, often considered a pessimist. He is most famous for his work The World as Will and Representation. Schopenhauer formulated a double-aspect theory to our understanding of reality, that of the world existing simultaneously but separately as will and representation.

Schopenhauer's starting point was Kant's division of the universe into phenomenon and noumenon, claiming that the noumenon was the same as that in us which we call will. It is the inner content and the driving force of the world. For Schopenhauer, human will had ontological primacy over the intellect; in other words, desire is understood to be prior to thought, and, in a parallel sense, will is said to be prior to being. While his philosophy appeared mystical to some, his methodology was resolutely empirical, rather than speculative or transcendental.

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Feel free to add top or high importance science philosophers to the above list. Other philosophy of science-related biographies may be nominated here.

  1. ^ name=http://www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/immanuel-kant
  2. ^ name=http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/kant/critique-pure-reason6x9.pdf
  3. ^ name=http://www2.hn.psu.edu/faculty/jmanis/kant/critique-pure-reason6x9.pdf