A Brief and Incomplete History of the Philosophy of Science Essay

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A Brief and Incomplete History of the Philosophy of Science Based largely on John Losee (1993) A Historical Introduction to the Philosophy of Science. Oxford: Oxford UP. Plato (427 - 347 BCE) • Plato’s epistemology denigrated scientific knowledge (knowledge of natural and material regularities)—such knowledge was not of the true reality, but merely of “shadows in the cave” • Most important for Plato was knowledge of the Forms, the abstract entities which define the moral and metaphysical structure of the universe • Knowledge of the Forms was to be gained not via observation and inference, but through pure reason and philosophical discourse Aristotle (384-322 BCE) Inductive-Deductive Model: General Principles (1) Induction Deduction (2) Observed Phenomena From observations one proceeds by inductive inference (1) to General Principles which explain the observations in virtue of the fact that those same observations can be deduced (2) from the principles Aristotle’s I-D Model • Induction: enumeration, direct intuition • Deduction: categorical logic • Aristotle required that the General Principles be at least as evident as the observations— ultimately, they should be self-evident or necessary truths – The motivation here is to avoid arriving at claims which describe only accidental regularities – Rather GPs should be self-evident necessary truths reflecting the essences of objects and relations in nature • This is related to the issue of the nature of laws – The problem is that it is hard to see how we can get to necessary truths via induction • This can be seen as an outcropping of the problem of induction Aristotle’s Four Causes • Material Cause: substance which undergoes a process • Formal Cause: general conditions required for, and pattern or form of, process • Efficient Cause: immediate conditions which precipitate

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