Talk:Philosophy of science/Archive 5

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constructive empiricism[edit]

Hi, i'm looking forward to insert a short text referring to constructive empiricism, if nobody has any objection, and wondering where to put it. It looks similar to instrumentalism (described in the paragraph "Scientifice realism") or constructivism (next paragraph) for their critics of the scientific realism. Chrisdel 15:13, 7 March 2007 (UTC)


I propose to add the following line to the end of the constructivism section:

"The constructivist view of the philosophy of science is popular among certain philosophers and others outside of the field of science, but is strongly rejected by the overwhelming majority of practicing scientists."

For which I cite the following references:

Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997

Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, Picador; 1st Picador USA Pbk. Ed edition, 1999

The Sokal Hoax: The Sham That Shook the Academy, University of Nebraska Press, 2000

A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science, Oxford University Press, 2000

Intellectual Impostures, Economist Books, 2003

If you read these books you will see that the authors make strong arguments against the criticisms levied against science by postmodernist, structuralist, and constructivist thinking. This addition reflects a strong current of thought in the scientific community which rejects any notion of scientific knowledge being merely 'constructed' as opposed to being objectively true. Not to include this information is to fail to tell the whole story to the reader. It is a lie by omission. Also, this sentence is far better documented than the rest of the section and I can see no reason to reject it while keeping the rest.

Thank you for your suggestions. (It would be great if you could sign your comments--using 4 tildes makes it easy--to make it easier to discuss with you here.) I would like to work on your contribution to make it more accurate and helpful to readers. I am imagining that your point here--and please correct me if I'm wrong--is that you think of objectivity as under assault by certain elements outside of science, and you would like to undermine that assault by putting space between it and the scientific consensus. Is that fair? If so, let me introduce myself as a big fan of scientific objectivity. That said, let me express a few reasons I'm hesitant to go along with adding the sentence you've offered to this article.
First, this article is largely about a field--the philosophy of science--and you will find very few philosophers of science who take the view that `scientific knowledge is merely constructed and not true.' It is hard to think of ANY well-known philosophers of science who endorse that view. You will indeed find examples of thinkers outside of philosophy of science who adopt this view--some of whom would indeed call themselves postmodernists. But so since that's the case, what's not helpful is to leadingly, vaguely say that "certain philosophers" have this view which all scientists disagree with. You're picking out the wrong target. If you want to pick out the right target, you might name some people. But a number of the people you come up with won't warrant much discussion in an article on this field--philosophy of science. By the way, you do know that the Sokal hoax was not directed at philosophers or philosophy of science, right? `Social Text' is not a philosophy journal.
Second, the sentence you offer is structured around a stark set of alternatives--that science is constructed or objectively true. The biggest fan of objectivity has to recognize that not all science is objectively true, right? A lot of science, historically speaking, has been false. Darwin was wrong when he adopted Lamarckism; there is no phlogiston; ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny. Right? But then how do we end up believing in scientific theories which turn out not to be true? Well, the process of science is in part a process of building theories and hypotheses through speculation backed up by testing and the scientific method. But that process--the process of modeling and theorizing and proving--is trivially a process of building... one might even say `constructing.' Often scientists construct theories which turn out not to be true. Any good scientist will tell you that. And often scientists construct theories which turn out to be objectively true. (The earth does circle the sun!) One interesting question in the philosophy of science is why you sometimes get the one and sometimes get the other. The answer to that question is going to be in part about how they are built--how they are developed. Now in light of this, the phrasing in the sentence you've offered is overly polarizing. It's just not the case that science is only one or the other of those alternatives, and any good philosopher of science will agree with that. So will any good scientist. Your sentence threatens to put a lurking menace of `certain philosophers' on the side, and scientists on the other. And that opposition, encouraged by some of the books you've cited, I don't think is an accurate reflection of the current state of the field in the 21st century. Once can *simultaneously* be a friend of objectivity and recognize ways in which our non-scientific beliefs and values affect the way we represent the world. See, for example, the defender of objectivity and philosopher of science Helen Longino. Rooting out these influences or biases may or may not be a good project for scientists. But either way, an important discussion in philosophy of science concerns the role and influence of such factors, and it is unhelpful to imply that `certain philosophers' having this discussion might be enemies of objectivity, or of scientists' consensus. Perhaps we can develop your sentence in a different way?
In any case, on this very issue, especially since none of the titles you've mentioned above are by philosophers of science (except Koertge's), I'd love to refer you to an excellent book review (of Levitt's book) by philosopher of science John Dupré, in The Sciences, the magazine of the New York Academy of Sciences, which lays out some of the issues you've raised very nicely. Send me a message and I'll send it to you, since I think you would be interested. Best, CHE 06:12, 21 February 2007 (UTC)

Thank you for your reply. You certainly raise many good points. First, though, I would like to say that I am not trying to 'prove' or 'disprove' constructivism. Nor am I attempting to create some sort of dichotomy between objectivity and constructivst epistemology. I am sure, from certain perspectives, constructivism offers many insights. With that said, it is also true that constructivism is in direct opposition to realism in many ways. It is not contentious to observe that realism is the most wide spread epistemological view in the scientific community. It is also not contentious to conclude that constructivst epistemology - or any epistemology critical of realism - would be viewed as controversial by scientists adhering to realism. The various books that I have listed were to show that this is, in fact, the case.
You state that some of the books I listed make arguments against postmodernism instead of directly criticizing contructivism. This is certainly a valid point. It is not my intention to equate constructivism with postmodernism. Whatever else the books I listed may be, they are also a defense of realism and of science from a realists point of view. As such I believe they show that the realists who dominate the scientific community do not accept nonrealist epistemologies - be they constructivist or otherwise - with respect to scientific knowledge and are greatly critical of them. I would like this position to be reflected in the constructivism section.
You are also quite correct that none of the books I cited were authored by philosophers. They were all authored by scientists or written with considerable input from scientists. This fact goes along with the point that I want to make - that *scientists* are very critical of nonrealist viewpoints of science.
I am open to suggestions as to how best to convey this in the article. 07:27, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
Hi, in this debate it is important to make the difference between postmodernists and constructivists. You can find the main proponents for constructivism in the article Constructivist epistemology and particularly Jean Piaget, Edgar Morin, french scientist Jean-Louis Le Moigne who were attacked by the very realist French Academy of Science (it is described by Ernst von Glasersfeld in "Le Moigne's Defense of Constructivism" and its thought is also explained here "A Principal Exposition of Jean-Louis Le Moigne’s Systemic Theory") and french professor of Physics, specialist on Quantum Mechanics Mioara Mugur-Schächter (see two articles in english here). In few words, constructivism proposes inter-subjectivity instead of objectivity and viability instead of truth. May i ask why looking for an objective truth ? Isn't that a metaphysical quest ? The constructivist point a view is more pragmatic as Vico said "the truth is to have made it". Constructivists only suggest new definitions for knowledge and truth (so a new epistemology) so that "sciences of the artificial" (as cybernetics, automatics or decision theory, see Herbert Simon), management & engineering sciences can justify their teaching and have a space in the academy as "real sciences". Chrisdel 21:18, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm not sure how this might help for the article, but I found your commentary interesting. Really, I typed a long-winded comment before my browser jammed and I had to quit and loose everything I wrote. Nonetheless, I do think that the distinction between postmodernism and constructivism is important though there are clearly simillarities between them. I also think it is important to note the difference between constructivist theories in the tradition of Piaget's individualism and the more social subjective forms in the tradition of Vygotsky; themes extensively debated by the two seminal figures in constructivism (see Tryphon and Voneche, The Social Genesis of Thought, 1996). American psychologies remain individualistic while European psychologies are more socially intersubjective. There are pros and cons to each. In relation to the philosophy of science, some additonal reading I previously discussed before my browser frozen include:
  • Kitchener, Piaget's Theory of Knowledge, 1986.
  • Vollmer, "Kant and Evolutionary Epistemology," and Tennant, "Evolutionary Epistemology," in Weingartner & Czermak, Epistemology and Philosophy of science, 1993.
I also might be able to find some specific articles on the difference between American individualism in psychology and European intersubjectivity if you like. Just thought you would find these readings interesting. --Kenneth M Burke 01:55, 8 June 2007 (UTC)
I am not here to debate the utility of constructivism or the definition of 'objective truth'. I am saying that the scientific community embraces realism and rejects nonrealist epistemologies - including constructivism. I have given several sources to back this up and given the strong realist tendencies among scientists I'm sure that even a cursory familiarity with the scientific community as a whole would render these redundant and unnecessary. Scientists overwhelmingly embrace realism - not constructivism - when it comes to scientific knowledge. I want the section on constructivism to make mention of this fact. 23:43, 21 February 2007 (UTC)
To respond to just one point for the moment... Do any of the works you've mentioned cite empirical evidence for this claim that most scientists are realists? I would be very interested in that evidence. Many scientists are realists. Many other scientists, I believe, are constructive empiricists (like Bas van Fraassen is), or instrumentalists, rather than realists. That is, they require science to be `empirically adequate' to observations, but not to make claims about the existence of unobservable entities, like most versions of realism do. Chemists, especially, might be comfortable with fully-fledged scientific theories with very strong predictive power, while remaining agnostic about the actual existence of the entities postulated by the models. Anyway, can you cite specifically? CHE 05:22, 22 February 2007 (UTC)
When you ask if the references I cite provide empirical evidence that most scientists are realists, what exactly do you mean? If you mean something such as survey results that show “X percentage of scientists sampled endorse realism” then of course not. You must have known the answer to that question before even asking it. Realism is strongly ingrained in scientific thought and in scientific institutions. No one who has worked in, or even had much exposure to, the sciences can deny this without resorting to intellectual dishonesty. If you’re simply looking for a reference that says, “Realism is the dominant philosophy of science” then take a look at the article on Scientific realism where, under the history section, you will find the quote:
“Realism became the dominant philosophy of science after positivism. Bas van Fraassen developed constructive empiricism as an alternative to realism. Responses to van Fraassen have sharpened realist positions and lead to some revisions of scientific realism.”
It makes mention of the van Fraassen whom you speak of, but says nothing of his constructive empiricism displacing realism among scientists. Are you asserting that the members of the scientific community, as a whole, are not realist? I should think that claim would require much more documentation than my uncontroversial statement.
You might as well ask what empirical evidence exists that mathematicians believe in numbers, or that writers believe in words. I doubt that you could find studies or surveys to support either of those claims. That does not keep statements that doubt either claim from being ridiculous.
Modern science is, and has been, a realist enterprise. This is reflected in the structure and conduct of its methods, its institutions, and its practitioners – the scientists. This is not a controversial claim. If you deny this just say so now. 07:36, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

In the interests of preventing a cycle of never ending discussion and debate I would like to propose that the following sentence be added to the constructivism section as a replacement for the sentence I originally recommended:

The constructivist view of the philosophy of science is not widely accepted among scientists and has been criticized by realists in both the scientific and philosophical communities. (see also: Science wars)

For which I cite the following references:

Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997

Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, Picador; 1st Picador USA Pbk. Ed edition, 1999

A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science, Oxford University Press, 2000

Intellectual Impostures, Economist Books, 2003

The last reference provides a more philosophical treatment of the subject and should be less likely to be viewed as politically charged by adherents to constructivism. It defends realism against a wide variety of philosophical challenges including constructivism.

I removed the reference to the Sokal Hoax as a compromise even though I still think the points made there could be argued to apply to constructivism as well - especially radical constructivism.

I think that the changes to the language of my statement and the addition of the new reference should diffuse most of the criticisms that were levied against the original statement (that it was too polarizing, wasn't focused tightly enough on constructivism, etc.) If you have any problems with the statement as I've presented it please show specifically in your comments how you would state the point I am trying to make. 00:54, 23 February 2007 (UTC)

not ok for the 4 references that lead to think that the "against" side is more powerful. So i suggest, instead of adding the same number of references for the other side, to open a "critics" paragraph in the Constructivist epistemology article. In this article on philo of science it's better to let people know that there is a debate, up to them to follow the links for a further read. If i may add something : i do think, with Jean-Louis Le Moigne, that most of the scientists don't know anything about epistemology and only care about their field, specialized as they are. So it is easier for them to say that they follow the "mainstream" and i wonder what is the interest to report on the opinion of people who have not read more than 1 or 2 books on philo of science. I think it's better to report only on the opinion of philosophers, so in your sentence if it's possible to delete "is not widely accepted among scientists". Chrisdel 10:52, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
I'm sorry if you feel that citing references critical of constructivism makes it look less 'powerful' than realism - but that's really just your opinion. I think it's more honest to leave the references in and let the readers decide for themselves what to think. I'm not going to argue with you about the qualifications of scientists as philosophers because such is wholly irrelevant to the point that I've been trying to make from the beginning. I want the constructivism section to make specific mention of the fact that constructivist epistemology isn't simply uncritically accepted by scientists, but is rather opposed by many in the scientific (and other) communities. I've documented that this is, in fact, the case.
As to your suggestion that this article should only reflect the opinions of philosophers, I simply cannot agree. This article is about the philosophy of *science*. To say that scientists have nothing of importance to say on the subject is, to me, quite ludicrous. You may not like what the scientists are saying, but that doesn't mean that their opinions can simply be dismissed.
I believe the article will be more objective if it lets readers know that a large contingent of the scientific community is quite critical of constructivism than it would be without such a statement. To withhold such information from the reader creates the false perception that constructivist epistemology is uncontroversial within the scientific community, which is clearly not the case. To permit the article to create such a misrepresentation by forbidding the presentation of well documented dissenting views is dishonest. It is a lie by omission as I said in my original post.
I don't think censoring the real, documented information that I have provided concerning the criticisms that realists in the scientific and philosophical communities have of constructivism is in keeping with the spirit of providing readers with unbiased information free from any particular point of view. Let's provide the readers with the raw information and let them make up their own minds. There's nothing wrong with letting people draw their own conclusions, is there? After all, Wikipedia strives to be an encyclopedia, not a philosophical pulpit. 12:43, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
Maybe my point was not clear enough, i'm not saying that i don't accept your references, but that an equal & neutral treatment, such as the one required in wikipedia, needs the same number of references from constructivists who explain why they are not realist, otherwise it'll be "a lie by omission". I was suggesting (with : "In this article on philo of science it's better to let people know that there is a debate, up to them to follow the links for a further read") to move the details (the references) of the debate in the Constructivist epistemology article, but if you prefer to let it here it doesn't matter for me, as long as you accept that me or anyone else provide some constructivists references to balance with yours and keep neutrality. Chrisdel 13:18, 23 February 2007 (UTC)
I believe we have reached an agreement. I fully accept that you, or anyone else, may add additional references to the article that support constructivism. I wholly endorse that. In fact, I would be disappointed if you didn't. It's not my aim to discredit constructivism in whole or in part, but merely to show that constructivist epistemology is not widely accepted among members of the scientific community. I'm really just looking to include a one sentence statement that makes that point. That's all I want.
I understand why you might think it would be a good idea for me to move this discussion to the Constructivist epistemology article. If it were my intention to launch some sort of campaign of criticism against constructivism as a whole then I would do exactly as you suggest. However, as I've said, I am only interested in highlighting the controversy with respect to the acceptance of constructivism among scientists and the scientific community. Thus, I believe that this is the most appropriate place for my statement.
So then, are we in agreement over the language of my statement? I'll restate it here for clarity:

The constructivist view of the philosophy of science is not widely accepted among scientists and has been criticized by realists in both the scientific and philosophical communities. (see also: Science wars)

For support of which I cite the following references:
Higher Superstition: The Academic Left and Its Quarrels with Science, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997
Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, Picador; 1st Picador USA Pbk. Ed edition, 1999
A House Built on Sand: Exposing Postmodernist Myths About Science, Oxford University Press, 2000
Intellectual Impostures, Economist Books, 2003
If we are in agreement, and if no one objects in the interim, then I propose to make the change on or after midnight 24 February 2007 (UTC). Sound good? 14:19, 23 February 2007 (UTC)

I've made the change. 00:05, 24 February 2007 (UTC)
All right (sorry for the delay i was not connected on this week end). See you soon for some additional references (after a short time to select the more interesting). Chrisdel 15:45, 26 February 2007 (UTC)

Cause and effect: Jump of logic.[edit]

Cause and effect: Jump of logic.

There is a joke about a behavioral scientest who concludes that a frog who was trained to leap on command, who had his legs temporarily amputated, could not hear, because it would not jump.

The joke reveals 'the jump of logic' that is contained within all conclusions; the logic may simply be false.

--Son of Maryann Rosso and Arthur Natale Squitti 23:48, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Then there is the issue of truth which in most all cases are half-truths, which are deceptive lies. (I realize that this is my original research but someone, somewhere, sometime, should address this dark side to truth, that I suggest is the original sin; truth can lie.

--Son of Maryann Rosso and Arthur Natale Squitti 23:50, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Yes, well put. But philosophy in general is guilty of this "Jump of logic", especially when it comes to "metaphysics" and the "philosophy of science". The concept of "truth" that is so often referred to by philosophers is nothing more than a presumption of reality. What is most alarming is that most philosophers do not recognize that their "truth" simply reflects their own presumptions about reality. That when they speak of "truth" what they mean is reality. In actual science it is certainly more important that a claim of "truth" be supported by experiment on reality than by the insistence that it is "truth" by some philosopher who would not even qualify as an arm chair reality explorer. Popper comes to mind. I would expect such silly philosophical games to be tiring to scientists since they are more interested in actually exploring and trying to figure out what reality is, rather than presuming what it is, calling it "truth" and then trying to shoehorn everything into that presumption.

Gkochanowsky 03:56, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

Gkochanowsky, you do know that Popper was one of the definitive critics of proving things true, right? If you want an example of someone who sits around insisting on things being true, you're looking in just the wrong direction. CHE 06:07, 22 February 2007 (UTC)

Add Deleuze?[edit]

Thinking about my comment yesterday that there's plenty of PoS in Deleuze, I'd suggest in fact adding what he has to say about the status of theories in science. The best source is "What Is Philosophy?" (co-author Guattari). Leaving the present structure of the article, it should be an additional few sentences at the end of the continental section: although it would also imply a rewrite of the first sentence, because Deleuze certainly doesn't deal with PoS froma world-historical perspective (that sentence needs to be qualified anyway). I can draft something, but I want to see first if there's any hostility to the idea. KD Jan 17 07

Why isn't Popper given credit for theory-dependence[edit]

Although I like to think of myself as being reasonably clued-in on the philosophy of science, I'm guilty of knowing Popper's work only via secondary sources. The little I do know of Popper's philosophy has made me wonder more than once why Kuhn often gets a good mention regarding theory-dependence and Popper does not.

To my mind, Popper's thoughts on theory-dependence are not only more radical than Kuhn's, they were also published more than twenty years earlier (assuming he voiced them in 'Logic of Scientific Discovery'). I'm no Popper fan, but it strikes me as a bit dashed unfair that he doesn't get credit for this idea.

As I say, it's not the first time I've seen this happen, so I had to do a quick internet search to make sure I hadn't dreamed up the whole theory-dependence side of Popper. Here's one corroborating paragraph I found, I imagine there are more (see

Popper recognises that observations are themselves theory dependent and that methodologically it is always possible to refuse to accept the validity of an observation. For Popper theories are not matched against observations as if the world could be known a priori irrespective of any theories people have about the world. Rather theories are matched against each other. Moreover it is always possible to insulate a theory from criticism by surrounding it with ad hoc hypotheses which have the effect of invalidating any observation that is not consistent with the theory.

Not having the material for citation, I'm probably not the one to make the correction, so I hope my grumblings will encourage someone else to. --Chris 20:20, 21 January 2007 (UTC)

I agree. In Logic of Scientific Discovery (1959) Popper wrote that all observation is observation in the light of theories (footnotes p. 59 and p. 107) and later in his Objective Knowledge (1972) he wrote that observation is always "theory impregnated" (p. 345-347). I invite interested readers to visit my web site, which is my book titled History of Twentieth-Century Philosophy of Science - with free downloads for public use. You will find my discussion of Popper in BOOK V.( 04:21, 21 April 2007 (UTC)Thomas J. Hickey)

Phenomenology in (the philosophy of?) science[edit]

There's a short article titled Phenomenology (science) in need of improvement/rewriting. Its content seems to fall more under philosophy of science than under science itself. It has been proposed for a merger into Particle physics phenomenology, although the latter has nothing to do with philosophy (and uses the term phenomenology in a very different way). I don't know anything about philosophy of science and hoped to find some experts here to contribute to the discussion. Thanks! HEL 13:21, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

The philosophy of science[edit]

I see my edit that inserted "the" in front of "philosophy of science" has been reverted (diff), apparently having been discussed and rejected before. In that case, why is "the philosophy of science" used throughout the article, except for the three instances in the opening paragraph? Ben Ram 16:21, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

Consistency is always an issue on the multi-edited WP, and sometimes the the will indeed sound and flow better. But cf. Philosophy of physics, Philosophy of mathematics, Philosophy of the very least, it is standard to not have the the in either the article's title or at the first sentence. JJL 12:50, 24 April 2007 (UTC)

Start Class[edit]

It appears that a lot of hard references have been used in this article. But there hardly any in-line citations. And the article is still start class. It appears that no one has bothered or has been able to add a decent amount of footnotes. Maybe, because no one cares. That's sad.Kmarinas86 02:24, 22 May 2007 (UTC)


What is this article about excaltly? the scientific theories, like 4.5 billion years ago... and stuff like that?

No--it's about a branch of academic philosophy which has developed over the last few hundred years, trying to say what scientific knowledge is and how science works to produce it. CHE 02:32, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

never say 'especially both' or 'especially all'[edit]

Chrisrus 05:29, 14 June 2007 (UTC)

I don’t like this first sentence:

“Philosophy of science is the study of assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, especially in the natural sciences and social sciences. “

My beef is with the word “especially”. Aren’t all sciences either natural or social? I can’t think of a science that isn’t either one or the other or a combination. Unless he can name a science that is neither natural nor social, shouldn’t the word “especially” go?

If that’s agreed, then he’ll probably want to delete the preposition as well, leaving us with:

“Philosophy of science is the study of assumptions, foundations, and implications of science, the natural sciences and social sciences. “

Looking this over and comparing it to the original, I notice that it’s become more of an appositive than an adverbial phrase now, with perhaps an unintended change in meaning.

At this point, as an English teacher and not an expert in this field, I’d like to ask the author his intention. A glance below doesn’t lead me to believe that he is announcing the organization of the essay.

Is he stating that the definition of the term “philosophy of science” has within it, as an integral part, the fact that science is thusly divided? If so, my edit would stand.

But why not just delete it? “Philosophy of science is the study of assumptions, foundations, and implications of science.” Sounds great to me!

Then he would still have the problem of exactly where and how and to what extent he should develop the the natural/social idea, an interesting concept that I’d like to see delved into more fully.

Chrisrus 05:29, 14 June 2007 (UTC)Christopher Russell

Agreed. I made the change. --ChrisSteinbach 11:36, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

Limitations of science[edit]

With all due respect to the anonymous writer, the Limitations of science addition to the article may be viewed as addressing a pathology, not a description of a limitation of science. The pathology is in the misuse of science – possibly fed by ideas such as science leading to truth. Of course, one is free to think that science can lead to truth, but that freedom shouldn’t provide a ground for asserting a limitation in science. Dependent on other views coming forward, or not, I may add an alternative view to the section in question. Iterator12n Talk 23:05, 15 July 2007 (UTC)

That was me (sorry, forgot to login.) This section was meant to be a starting point for a few very important concepts that, in my view, are missing from this article in its current form. Perhaps the proper topic would be the types of answers science can provide. There is mention of intersubjectivity etc. in the last paragraph of the "Indeterminacy of theory under empirical testing" section, but this is both a little bit too buried for such an important topic, and also not very clear. In other words, I am seeking to explain, to a lay person, what kinds of things science is well and poorly adapted to talk about, i.e. how "complete" it might be in an epistemological sense. I realize that this is a complex and controversial topic, which is why I have for the moment restricted myself to discussing the most obvious limitation, that of experimental objectivity. I also felt it important to briefly interpret the consequences of this limitation, in the last paragraph on worldview etc.
Unfortunately it's not obvious to me where this discussion should go in the structure of the current article, which is IMHO fairly poorly laid out at the moment (judging by the "start class" tag on the whole article, others would seem to agree.) --Jonathanstray 12:55, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
I agree with the purpose of the discussion. You’re also right re. the structure of the present article. For the time being, I’ll stand aside and see how the article develops. Iterator12n Talk 19:16, 16 July 2007 (UTC)
I also see the section as highly problematic, not to say false. Experiment is very much possible in economics, in social sciences and in other such fields. But experiment in and of itself isn't really necessary. Even empiricism doesn't proscribe that you do something akin to lab experiments. Archaeology can draw conclusions from existing finds and from these make predictions as to what might be found in future. As it stands, the section only promotes the carelessness with which issues of methodology are addressed in some of the disciplines cited. And given that consciousness is an ongoing issue of research in neurobiology, it is quite weird to claim that science could not provide answers there... Scientific method has its limits, yes. But they are not those described in this section. "Experimental objectivity" actually can be handled quite easily: It doesn't exist. Any experiment by default influences the possible outcomes. -- 08:14, 8 August 2007 (UTC)


I would like to maintain a sort of wish list here. Please feel free to add to it. Things I think should be mentioned in this article are.

  1. Realism
  2. Demarcation
  3. Explanation
  4. Prediction
  5. Confirmation
  6. Progress
  7. Inductive logics
  8. The problem of induction (new and old)
  9. Underdetermination
  10. Philosophy of biology/physics/economics/chemistry
  11. Reductionism
  12. Simplicity

Maybe I'll add them as I have time. --best, kevin [kzollman][talk] 05:00, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

13. Complexity
14. Emergence

Iterator12n Talk 16:01, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Philosophy of Science by scientists[edit]

The balance needs to be redressed here. Arguably philosophers as such have struggled to keep up with mathematics and its closely related scientific disciplines in the 20th century and it has been left to likes of Penrose to redress this - while Popper etc argued about scientific method. Meanwhile the degree to which mathematics was closing in on the boundaries of knowledge got ignored. I believe this is being redressed by current philosophers.

All of this not suitable for asserting in the article though - but a plea to get the balance right !

Johnrcrellin 08:52, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

The balance between what and what, exactly? CHE 16:20, 2 December 2007 (UTC)
I don't this fact warrants a whole section. I have added a sentence to the lead. --best, kevin [kzollman][talk] 03:36, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

The balance I am talking about is the (controversial and unacknowledged by philosophers) assertion of myself and many other scientists that philosophy rather lost track with scientific developments - leaving it to scientists to fill the gap in the 20th C. I know this is being redressed now. But all the stuff about scientific method written by non-scientist philosophers was getting a bit far removed from the reality - and that gets a huge section. Really science is all about Coherentism -with Falsifiability and Induction being tools useful in some areas of research and not others. Mathematics can make great strides without them and increasingly fundamental science is being driven by the mathematics. Penrose and others do need a mention and reference in this article. Johnrcrellin 08:36, 3 December 2007 (UTC)

I agree with your diagnosis of philosophy of science as practiced in the early to mid 20th century. However, wikipedia is not the place to redress those failures. Wikipedia's job is to document the state of the discipline over the last century (or so). If the discipline has been focusing on certain things, that should be reflected in the article. I would very much welcome you adding the criticism to the article so long as it is accompanied by cite and doesn't violate our prohibition against original research. As an aside, many philosophers have acknowledged this failure and are working to make p.o.s. "closer to the ground". --best, kevin [kzollman][talk] 05:40, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Glad we agree - and I quite see the point about what is appropriate for the actual article. At least I have Penrose in now and will try to add as you suggest when and if I get time to gen up enough ! Johnrcrellin 08:12, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

Mixed-up Sentence[edit]

Heads up please: Notice the last sentences in the section called "Demarcation":

Many opponents of intelligent design claim that it does not meet the criteria of science and should thus not be treated on equal footing as evolution. Those who defend evolution either defend the view as meeting the criterion of science or challenge the coherence of this distinction.

This seems to contrast "opponents of intelligent design" and "Those who defend evolution", whereas in the context these are essentially the same. The ones who "challenge the coherence of this distinction" (see passage) would be "those who defend intelligent design" or possibly "those who challenge evolution".

I don't want to touch it in case I am missing something. --Sukkoth 17:51, 12 December 2007 (UTC)

You're right, Sukkoth; notice the citation to the Discovery Institute source. Challenging the coherence of the distinction is not something one finds philosophers of science doing in defenses of evolution or criticisms of ID. Best to delete that final phrase. CHE (talk) 21:10, 12 December 2007 (UTC)
Sorry, I said "evolution" when I meant to say "intelligent design". It has been fixed. --best, kevin [kzollman][talk] 22:11, 22 December 2007 (UTC)

Lack of balance[edit]

I find it interesting that an article that is supposed to be about the philosophy of science makes virtually no mention of Logical Positivism or Scientific Realism - except so as to essentially dismiss them. This leaves the reader with the impression that these schools of thought are dead or have been discarded when, in truth, this is far from the case. Given the powerful historical - and continuing - influences of these philosophical positions on the philosophy of science, I cannot understand why this article doesn't provide these areas with more coverage. The failure of this article to do so presents the reader with an unbalanced - even biased - view of the subject of the philosophy of science. Indeed, some parts of this article almost read like like a critique of (even an attack on) science instead of a discussion of the philosophy of science. I would like to request that an effort be made to address the above issues with this article.

Welcome to wikipedia and thank you for your comments. As you are no doubt aware, wikipedia is open to modification by anyone. If you feel the article is biased or otherwise deficient you are welcome to fix it yourself. I must say I don't share your view regarding scientific realism. The article has a section on this issue and I don't see how that section dismisses the problem as a non-issue since it uses the present tense to describe it. Logical positivism has some mentions as well, particularly in the demarcation and explanation sections. Once I get around to writing it, they will be mentioned in the section on confirmation as well. --best, kevin [kzollman][talk] 00:45, 25 December 2007 (UTC)
The section on scientific realism contains a one sentence summary of the position at the start. The rest of that part of the article reads almost like a refutation of scientific realism written by an antirealist. If you can't see a problem with bias there then there is really nothing more for us to talk about. The same thing goes for logical positivism, which is given only brief mention in ways that seem to frame it for attack. The overall tone of the article creates the impression that these positions have been superseded and that science is (or should be) moving away from them and toward a position grounded in coherentism. This is a contentious portrayal to say the least. I cannot be the only person to walk away from this article with the impression that a certain ideological point of view is being promoted. As it stands now, parts of this article almost make it worthy of an NPOV tag.
Further, the article presents a very one sided treatment of many problems in the philosophy of science. As an example, I would mention the articles discussion of induction. The article crafts a narrative in that section sympathetic to inductive skepticism yet fails to make any mention of Stove's counter to that position. Even Hume admitted to the necessity of the use of induction in daily life, yet no mention is made of this fact either. The reader is left with the impression that the use of induction is regarded as inherently unreliable - when this is not the case with all philosophies or philosophers. Another example of uneven treatment can be found in the articles discussion of foundationalism. Care is taken to draw attention to criticisms of foundationalism whilst simultaneously offering coherentism as an alternative that is presented as being free of the formers problems. However, no mention is made of any criticisms of coherentism (isolation objection). This one sidedness gives the impression that coherentism is a more robust approach than foundationalism, which is - at the least - a very controversial portrayal.
I am, of course, aware that anyone can edit wikipedia. However, this article is in the midst of a major rewrite at present. As you are the chief author of this rewrite, I defer to you to correct the issues that exist with this article. Should these issues identified above not be rectified, then it is my fear that this article will not grow to be an evenhanded overview of the philosophy of science, but will rather remain simply a slanted interpretation of the philosophy of science viewed through an ideologically colored lens. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 08:50, 25 December 2007 (UTC)