What is Philosophy of science: Definition and 27 Discussions

Philosophy of science is a branch of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions of this study concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. This discipline overlaps with metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, for example, when it explores the relationship between science and truth. Philosophy of science focuses on metaphysical, epistemic and semantic aspects of science. Ethical issues such as bioethics and scientific misconduct are often considered ethics or science studies rather than philosophy of science.
There is no consensus among philosophers about many of the central problems concerned with the philosophy of science, including whether science can reveal the truth about unobservable things and whether scientific reasoning can be justified at all. In addition to these general questions about science as a whole, philosophers of science consider problems that apply to particular sciences (such as biology or physics). Some philosophers of science also use contemporary results in science to reach conclusions about philosophy itself.
While philosophical thought pertaining to science dates back at least to the time of Aristotle, general philosophy of science emerged as a distinct discipline only in the 20th century in the wake of the logical positivist movement, which aimed to formulate criteria for ensuring all philosophical statements' meaningfulness and objectively assessing them. Charles Sanders Peirce and Karl Popper moved on from positivism to establish a modern set of standards for scientific methodology. Thomas Kuhn's 1962 book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions was also formative, challenging the view of scientific progress as steady, cumulative acquisition of knowledge based on a fixed method of systematic experimentation and instead arguing that any progress is relative to a "paradigm", the set of questions, concepts, and practices that define a scientific discipline in a particular historical period.Subsequently, the coherentist approach to science, in which a theory is validated if it makes sense of observations as part of a coherent whole, became prominent due to W.V. Quine and others. Some thinkers such as Stephen Jay Gould seek to ground science in axiomatic assumptions, such as the uniformity of nature. A vocal minority of philosophers, and Paul Feyerabend in particular, argue that there is no such thing as the "scientific method", so all approaches to science should be allowed, including explicitly supernatural ones. Another approach to thinking about science involves studying how knowledge is created from a sociological perspective, an approach represented by scholars like David Bloor and Barry Barnes. Finally, a tradition in continental philosophy approaches science from the perspective of a rigorous analysis of human experience.
Philosophies of the particular sciences range from questions about the nature of time raised by Einstein's general relativity, to the implications of economics for public policy. A central theme is whether the terms of one scientific theory can be intra- or intertheoretically reduced to the terms of another. That is, can chemistry be reduced to physics, or can sociology be reduced to individual psychology? The general questions of philosophy of science also arise with greater specificity in some particular sciences. For instance, the question of the validity of scientific reasoning is seen in a different guise in the foundations of statistics. The question of what counts as science and what should be excluded arises as a life-or-death matter in the philosophy of medicine. Additionally, the philosophies of biology, of psychology, and of the social sciences explore whether the scientific studies of human nature can achieve objectivity or are inevitably shaped by values and by social relations.

View More On Wikipedia.org
  1. M

    Does the Universe have a finite number of fundamentals to uncover?

    Fire, Gravity, Electromagnetism, Atoms, DNA, Steam power, Nuclear, Quarks. All of these things have one thing in common. They are fundamental aspects of the universe that humans have uncovered and given names. However, all of these great discoveries occured quite some time ago and as a science...
  2. S

    Does Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter support the Multiverse hypothesis?

    In this video () physicist Brian Greene interviews Nobel laureate Saul Perlmutter about several topics in cosmology. At minute 1:12:22 Greene asks Perlmutter about whether he considers that the world is described by mathematics or the world *is* mathematics. Perlmutter seems to answer that he...
  3. S

    What does Alain Connes think of Tegmark's hypothesis?

    The mathematician and mathematical physicist Alain Connes has expressed in many occasions that he is a Platonism and he thinks that mathematics itself does exist in the same level (or even in a "stronger" level) as physical reality. This is very similar to Max Tegmark's hypothesis of the...
  4. onomatomanic

    [Philosophy of science] Bias inherent in the Scientific Method itself?

    A very "meta" idea crossed my mind today, and I'd like some feedback. Apologies in advance in case the half-formedness of said idea results in a meandering post. The specific connection I made was that the creation-versus-evolution "debate" could be characterized, at its most basic, as the...
  5. P

    Methodology / Philosophy of Science

    Summary:: When experimenting to improve a theory, account for the fact that your experimental equipment is made using the very same theory which you are trying to improve. 1.) It would take many decades (~ 80 years?) to design and make equipment entirely using a proposed new theory which has...
  6. sergiokapone

    A Quantum superposition: Is a problem of space-time worldview?

    One of the paradoxical principles in Quantum Physics is the principle of quantum superposition, since in quantum theory we are not really talking about the superposition of waves or oscillations, but about the superposition of states. A classic example demonstrating the phenomenon of quantum...
  7. M

    Potential functions for separation and isochronic gauges

    Most potentials in physics are expressed as a radius or another geometric norm/gauge. I am looking to understand the significance of the choice of potential functions for force/pressure separation in harmonic analysis before this creates a topology. To my understanding this is the decision of...
  8. shushi

    Philosophy of Science: Discussing Maths, Physics, Mind, & AI

    Is this the proper thread to discuss the philosophy of science/physics (metaphysics/ontology/epistemology)? How about the philosophy of mathematics and logic? As a side note that I'm not sure if this information really relates to the connection between science maths and philosophy, but in my...
  9. Sophrosyne

    Scientific law vs. theory, Newton vs. Einstein

    My son is taking a chemistry class in high school, and he was telling me this morning that their teacher had taught them there was some kind of fundamental distinction between scientific laws and theories. He said the teacher had told them that laws are just fundamental regularities observed in...
  10. Zed Redstone

    I Philosophy of Science and Symmetry Question

    (i am new and posted this in a Discussion area, it probably belongs here as I noticed marcus posts here. moderators, please delete the other message. my apologies) I am working on a contest question: In a causally connected universe how can one break symmetry if one assumes symmetry at one...
  11. Shing Ernst

    What does it mean when we say something exists in physics?

    I am getting more and more confused when people say or ask if something exists? (Say force, virtual particles, or even spin) Such as, "is wavefunction real?" "Are virtual particles real?" "Are force real?" Are those types of questions usually ill-defined or not well-posed? Or they are just...
  12. Y

    What is Theoretical Physics and How Can It Be Discussed Without Math?

    Physics is one of my most favorite topics, particularly Theoretical Physics. I have no formal education in Physics but I read quite a bit Physics material and also some Physics books. I have B.Sc. in Materials Science and Engineering. I like to discuss advanced physics ideas logically and...
  13. A. Neumaier

    B Is classical mechanics philosophically sound?

    They are subjective even in the classical, nonrelativistic mechanics of a pendulum, since the notions appear when you try to relate the theory to a real pendulum. In classical, nonrelativistic mechanics, the interpretation of the words ''observation'', ''experiment'' and ''measurement'' needed...
  14. hackhard

    Why were momemtum, kinetic energy and work introduced?

    why were quantities like momentum, force , potential energy, kinetic energy,work ,etc needed to be introduced in physics? and why were they defined the way they are defined?. would it not be possible to explain nature without defining these quantities or by using alternate physical quantities ?
  15. DrYassine

    Relationship between "Coriolis Effect" and "Gold Ratio"?

    A common claim that hurricanes and cyclones have geometrical proportions that resemble a logarithmic golden spiral. Knowing that cyclones and hurricanes rotate because of the well-known Coriolis Effect, is it possible that the Golden Ratio is just a natural manifestation of the Coriolis effect?
  16. D

    What is the Impact of Laughter on Learning?

    I was born and raised in Czechoslovakia (currently the Czech Republic) where I completed my Masters degree in Physics and Philosophy. I recently completed my PhD in science education and I am looking for "my place" in academia. In my dissertation I focused on a problem of students' understanding...
  17. J

    Why do changing magnetic fields produce electric fields?

    Zahid Iftikhar asked why charges get separated in a changing magnetic field over in the EE forum. I pointed him to Maxwell's equations and also pointed out we took them to be observational and axiomatic. Yet it occurred to me there might be an reason in quantum probability. So is there a...
  18. xaratustra

    Are There Ever Multiple Theories That Fully Explain the Same Phenomenon?

    Was just thinking, is it ever possible that the same phenomenon can be fully explained by two theories that are not subset of each other? :rolleyes:
  19. WineRedPsy

    Cosmology or Theoretical Physics?

    I don't really have to look into this just yet but it bothers me. I quite like cosmology and stuff like such. Universal topology and relativity and sum of histories and stuff. Fun! I really would like to study any theoretical physics though, it just strikes my fancy particularly. I figure I'd...
  20. K

    Need some help in understanding the philosophy of science

    First of all I am a scientist, or a chemist to be more precise. I am changing career to become a chemistry teacher and my course requires me to write an essay on the nature of science and teaching science etc.. I'm having a hard time understanding these 3 philosophers view on what science is...
  21. J

    What are the three types of objects described by science?

    Science describes three types of object. The first two are those that can be hidden - material objects, and those that are necessarilly hidden - quantum objects. Thus, we have an independent source supporting Popper's* view that science is the domain of the empirically falsifiable, as hidden...
  22. O

    Philosophy of Science in Steampunk

    hi everyone-- for the philosophy of science course, I am planning to write a paper, and wanted to hear opinions about my topic. I am not a philosophy student (math&physics), and haven't taken that much of philosophy courses, so I can't go real deep about any subject, but I want to apply what...
  23. B

    Wheres best for Philosophy of science in the UK

    I am part way through a BSc in natural sciences with open university,its going well and I am enjoying the course (in my second year) I had for a long time wanted to carry straight on with physics into an MSc or PHD,but over the last year I've become increasingly interested with the philosophy...
  24. menniandscience

    Philosophy of Science: Do I Need to Study Science?

    hey, my question is, do you know how many philosophers of science actually studied science? is it important to study science or can i get a long with philosophy and learn from the internet, for example, physics? i prefer not study physics because the math involved and most principles i can read...
  25. P

    Role of Instrumentation / Philosophy of Science

    I'm trying to explain something to someone, but I can't find the right words; I hope some of you can help me. Observations are limited by the instruments available to a scientist. For example, before invention of the microscope, observation of microscopic objects was impossible. In the...
  26. I

    Establishing a basic vocabulary of the philosophy of science

    Making a basic vocabulary of the philosophy of science Hi, I just posted this on another board I'm at that often has debates where issues of science sometimes come up, along with the standard annoying arguments like "it's just a theory". This is an attempt by me to clear things up. So, this is...
  27. quantumdude

    Philosophy of Science: Discussion & Lecture Notes

    I found some detailed lecture notes on this subject here: http://www.soc.iastate.edu/sapp/phil_sci_lecture00.html I am interested in discussing the role of philosophy in science with you all.